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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

What Jim Greer and John Thrasher have in common

19

January

It's the establishment vs. the grass roots. The Tallahassee insider vs. the woman of the people. Or so the battle between Sharon Day and Sen. John Thrasher for Republican Party of Florida chair is being framed in this letter from Bob Starr, chairman of the Charlotte County Republican Executive Committee.

Read between the lines, Starr's letter shows that RPOF has a civil war still brewing amid the fallout of Chairman Jim Greer's rocky tenure.

January 17, 2010
 
Dear Executive Committee Members: 
 
On February 2010 we will have the opportunity to elect a new Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Although the candidate elected will only serve for less than a year this election will define the direction of our party for years to come and will determine if we strengthen our committee from within or continue to have our chairman hand selected by a few.

 I remember entering a hotel in Orlando about three years ago when I was handed a copy of the Orlando newspaper. The headlines were “Governor Crist choice for Chairman of the Republican Party Jim Greer”. My comment was who is Jim Greer?  In the ensuring election Greer won with 7 votes. We all know how the Tallahassee candidate worked out that time. An observation I made at Chairman Greer’s first election meeting was that all the seats in the Governors Appointment, House and Senate seats were full. If you were observant at the meeting this weekend you would have noticed that less than 15% of those seats were full and the majority of those seats were filled with officials who needed to make a report. That has been the trend for the last 3 years. I am sure the seats will again be full on the day of the February election and I can assure you they will not be full until the next election. To me, this is an indication of the commitment of some of the House, Senate and other appointees to the Republican Party of Florida.  Senator John Thrasher is yet again, the hand picked candidate.  This time the selection was not made by the Governor, but our elected leaders in the House and Senate.
 
As I listened to Chairman Greer’s resignation on the conference call, sitting at my computer, Chairman Greer had not even finished when I received an email, titled “House Majority Leader Adam Hasner endorses Senator John Thrasher” My immediate response was who is John Thrasher?  Does that sound reminiscent of my question of three years ago in Orlando?  This plan was hatched by the power brokers in Tallahassee. Was there any consideration given to the 201, State Committeemen and Committeewomen and Chairman?  I know I was not asked my opinion were you?
 

Some of you will remember the changes made to fs. Statute 103 Giving the Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida the power to remove any Republican from Chairman to members of local clubs for any reason perceived by the Chairman who acted in a manner detrimental to the interest of the party . This change was made without any input from the RPOF Board or members of the committee and passed by the Senate and the House. Some of you will also remember the attempt to add additional votes for Chairman of the party by statute to the House, Senate, and Governor to control the process. We were able to lobby and this was not passed.  In that same legislation, the Governor was also given additional appointees after Jim Greer’s first very close election.
 
With these issues and all of the other controversial issues alleged during Chairman Greer’s term do we want the Tallahassee machine in control of our party once again?  Shouldn’t we have the opportunity to select Chairman from our own membership without interference from our elected officials?
 
Senator Thrasher is a well respected man with years of experience in holding public office. I had the opportunity to meet and speak to him in Orlando for the first time. However, no matter how nice or respected a man he is he was just elected in a special election, will be running for re-election in the same 2010 election cycle that he wants to lead our committee as Chairman, he will be required to spend a considerable amount of time in Tallahassee during session doing the people’s business, he is Chairman of the Ethics Committee and sits on numerous committees in the Senate.  Additionally, it is my understanding that he will be prohibited from raising money during his senate service and that someone else will be tasked with not only raising the money during that time, but also someone else that is not elected by our committee will be running the day to day operations of our committee.
 
With the Democrats already stating they will be watching his every move and various editorial boards stating he must choose what he wants to do lead the Republican Party as Chairman or serve your constituents who elected you as a Senator representing both Republicans and Democrats, but you cannot do both.
 
It is my opinion that the election of John Thrasher as RPOF Chairman would continue the controversy and bad press that we have dealt with during our last Chairman’s term.  Can we as a party grow our ranks, win elections or even get our message heard if the press is going to once again question our Chairman’s every move and the constant reminder that he is duly elected to represent all the people in his district.
 
In my 10 years of service as Vice Chairman and Chairman of Charlotte County I do not remember any other period where the Governor and Legislature tried to control the election and operation of the party as has occurred over the last three years.
 
I am proudly supporting Sharon Day for Chairman. I have known Sharon for the last 10 years. She is a true Reagan Republican. I have watched her organize and execute grass roots activities and create the only statewide organized campaign effort during the 2008 Presidential election with the very successful Florida Women for McCain. 

Sharon has been an inspiration to new and old committee members always with a quick smile and always the first to reach out to everyone.  She has been Broward’s State Committeewoman for 14 years, our National Committeewoman for 7 years and was elected as the Secretary of the RNC. She has traveled the state speaking at Republican Clubs, REC meetings and Lincoln Day Dinners all at her own personal expense.
 
Sharon did not immediately run for the office of Chairman, but rather she was approached by us, her fellow members, to consider leading our committee through these troubled times.  Instead of announcing her candidacy even before Chairman Greer had resigned she began to make the phone calls to each of us, her fellow committee members, to seek their council and our vision as to the direction and destiny of our committee. Sharon is available to roll up her sleeves and go to work immediately.  She will not be constrained for three months by the responsibilities of the legislation session or be hampered by laws that will not allow her to raise money.  Most importantly, she knows our committees, already has long term relationships with the committee members, has lead a statewide grass-roots organization and has the experience to succeed. Simply stated, Sharon is one of us.  Do we really have time in this important election cycle for our newly elected Chairman to learn how our committee operates, to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each of our counties and even learn our names?  The 2010 elections are too important for Florida and our Country.  At this time, we simply do not have time for the learning curve of a chairman that begins at ground zero.
 
I have heard over and over we have to raise money can Sharon do it?  In my opinion our party did not have a fund raising problem we had a spending problem! The Chairman of the Party has fund raising responsibility, but that is a responsibility that is also shared by our Finance Chair and with our major donors. The gentlemen who are major party fundraisers in their letter to Chairman Greer objected to the fiscal irresponsibility of the party. With fiscal responsibility restored by Sharon Day, I am confident that they will again step up to help finance the campaigns of qualified Republicans and have, in fact, already reached out to Sharon to insure their support in her role as Chairman and have committed that the funds will be there for the party.  We must remember our donors give to the party to insure our election successes.
 
This is our election to win or lose. We must all attend the meeting on February 20. Every vote will count. The seats in the front of the room will be filled and those votes will be counted.
 
The choice is between a gentleman who was just appointed to the RPOF Committee last week by Senator Atwater or a woman who understands grass roots, local, state and federal campaigns, sits on the Board of the Republican National Committee thus having input into Republican National strategies and has spent all of her adult life working for our Republican Party with out compensation, but with true conviction and passion for our beliefs and our party.
 
The choice for our next Chairman is simple when you weigh the differences with these two candidates.  The choice is Sharon Day!
 
Very truly yours,
Bob Starr, Chairman
Charlotte County Republican Executive Committee

-- Marc Caputo

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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:15pm]

    

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