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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ghosts of Ron Paul haunt Florida GOP

You may not have heard of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Northeast Florida. It's a small but determined group of Ron Paul supporters who say the St. Johns County Republican Party leadership refuses to let them join the party in what they say flies of state chairman Jim Greer's talk of an inclusive GOP. "We wanted to get involved," said Will Pitts, a Jacksonville real estate developer and Paul loyalist. "Is there just a certain flavor of Republican that is wanted these days? Are we becoming a party of exclusion?" 

In an e-mail response to complaints by Pitts and others, St. Johns GOP chairman Bob Veit said he blocked the Paul supporters because "their often stated intentions were to wrest control of the Republican Party apparatus for the purpose of turning it into a campaign committee for either a particular candidate or a narrow political philosophy (Liberty Caucus) that had limited appeal to Republican voters."

This has not escaped Jim Greer's attention. It also may shed light on the importance of the new, broader loyalty oath that all rank-and-file party precinct committee members must sign. The outdated oath essentially barred Republican activists from supporting a Democrat. The new oath (included in the 2007 law that moved up the presidential primary date) adds a clause that outlaws activity that the party chairman might view as "likely to injure the name of the Republican Party or interfere with the activities of the Republican Party."

Greer said he remains committed to the "big tent" theory where everyone's welcome, but that he's torn between backing county GOP chairs who are at odds with activists pushing narrow agendas. "The only thing that I can't take is somebody who wants to burn the house down," Greer said. "No one segment of the party controls the outcome any more."

Greer's attorney, GOP interim general counsel Richard Coates, recently sent a memo to Kristi Bronson in the state Division of Elections, noting the importance of the new loyalty oath: "Party rules require that the individual has a party loyalty oath on file with the state party office," Coates wrote.   

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:21am]

    

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