State GOP Gets Set for Meeting, Clouds Loom Over Greer
With state Republican leaders gathering for a closed-door meeting this week – that could include a few calls for Chairman Jim Greer’s ouster -- a maverick county chairman weighed in Tuesday with a list of what he called GOP problems, and potential solutions.
Jason Steele, the victim of a Republican dirty tricks effort now dubbed Twittergate, E-mailed to state party officials ten problems he sees plaguing the party – along with a means to fix them.
“If I can become the poster boy for reform in this party, then that’s an honor I’d be happy to have,” Steele told the News Service of Florida.
According to Steele, the party’s paramount problem: There is no oversight of Chairman Jim Greer. He wants a committee established to hold the chairman accountable.
Steele also demands that endorsement of candidates in primary contests be allowed only if a state party committee recommends it.
Steele said the standard would ease bitterness flooding through the GOP, spawned by the Charlie Crist-Marco Rubio U.S. Senate race and another combative primary for governor between Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Attorney General Bill McCollum.
Although not a member of the panel, Steele is hoping some of the problems and solutions he lays out will emerge when the state party’s executive committee huddles Thursday in Lake County’s Howey-in-the-Hills – the leadership group’s second meeting in as many weeks aimed at reuniting the splintered party.
“We’re a party that should be ready to have a good cycle and we’re wasting valuable resources and time arguing about these things,” said Broward County Republican Chairman Chip DeMarco, who will be among the 48 executive committee members meeting in Central Florida.
DeMarco acknowledged that Thursday’s meeting will likely include more criticism of what some call Greer’s heavy-handed leadership. Such views colored a teleconference held last week by the executive committee that set the stage for this week’s gathering in relatively remote Howey-in-the-Hills.
“I certainly don’t expect (Greer) to offer his resignation, nor do I expect serious calls for it,” DeMarco said.
For his part, Gov. Crist, the beneficiary of Greer’s informal endorsement, gave the chairman similar support right back Tuesday.
“As to his status, I think he’s done a great job. I have tremendous confidence in Chairman Greer,” Crist said.
Asked whether the party should steer clear of endorsing candidates, Crist ducked: “I look forward to elections,” he said.
Another party favorite, McCollum, also wanted to stay out of the intra-party fight.
“I want the party to make its decisions,” McCollum said, adding, “by and large this has to be done by them, not me.”
McCollum said,“I’m raising money for the party because I’m running for governor and I want to become the nominee of the party and that money is going to go largely to elect myself and hopefully other Cabinet officers of my party.”
Steele, however, who called for Greer’s firing last week on the same day Republican leaders were gathering for their teleconference, said that without stricter limits on endorsements, Republican unity isn’t likely.
Greer earlier this month fired field director Tim Nungesser for posting a fake Twitter account aimed at discrediting Steele, who had been put on probation by the state party for “disloyalty” after criticizing Greer and other officials.
“What happened to me should not have happened, and I didn’t seek it out,” Steele said. “But the perception that the party is playing favorites has become the reality. And we can’t turn things around until we get serious about stopping the bleeding.”