Delmar Johnson: Exhibit A in Fla GOP mess
A giant beachball of a man, Delmar WoodrowJohnson III is boisterous, always gushing with enthusiasm, and treats everybody as a best buddy. It makes perfect sense that such a friendly, outsized personality would be elected president of the student government association at Florida State University. Or that he would cheerfully don a goofy duck costume to mock Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride in 2002. Or that a few years later Johnson would charm Crist and get hired as one of Crist's first gubernatorial campaign staffers.
It made a lot less sense in January 2009 when state party chairman Jim Greer promoted Johnson, 30, to be executive director of the Florida Republican Party. And it was downright outrageous for party leaders to learn that Greer and Johnson entered into a secret contract that brought Johnson's overall pay from the cash-strapped party to more than $400,000.
Today, fairly or not, Johnson is Exhibit A for how a state Republican party once widely seen as the strongest in the country could turn into a nearly insolvent mass of dysfunction punctuated by excess spending and misplaced values.
"When he was working in Gov. Bush's operation he was a young man with a bright future. I think he's gone astray,'' said Kathleen Shanahan, Bush's former chief of staff who knew Johnson as an enthusiastic junior staffer in his legislative affairs office. "This is where the leadership of the party led a whole group of young people astray with a complete disregard for the value of every donor's hard-earned dollar."