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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Fla GOP Chair: Party leader who joked about cancer "has become a distraction"



Florida Republican Chairman Lenny Curry told Buzz tonight that he spoke to Pinellas GOP state committeeman Dan Tucker that his recent Facebook comment about a fellow

Republican's cancer battle is "reprehensible" and that "he's become a distraction to the ability of the local party to do its job."

Curry said he did not directly urge Tucker to resign and noted the party has a grievance process for punishing elected party leaders.

Tucker, an activist with the Ron Paul libertarian wing of the GOP, was elected state committeeman last year. His most notable act since then was to respond to news

that Republican County Commissioner John Morroni had endorsed Democrat Darden Rice for a St. Petersburg City Council seat by commenting on Facebook:  "Doesn't he have cancer of the brain … hmmm?"

Morroni has battled cancer for years, and local party leaders are calling on Tucker to resign. He has refused.

Curry's comments came after a surprisingly quick and low key 2013 Statesman's Dinner, which attracted an estimated 700 people to Disney's Contemporary Resort. The lack

of firey red meat rhetoric was striking, with no mention of the budget showdown in Washington and barely a mention of Obama or Obamacare.

Curry declined to take a position on the maneuvering in Washington and government shut down, saying party members have differing views on the wisdom of how

congressional Republicans are handling the debate and that he's focused on winning state races in 2014.

The Florida Democratic party is "literally a laughing stock," he said, noting that state House Democrats recently ousted their incoming leader, Darryl Rouson and party

leaders have snubbed their only announced gubernatorial candidate, Nan Rich.

"They are on the verge of an arranged marriage with someone that has proven that he is unfit to govern: Charlie Crist," said Curry.

Gov. Rick Scott skipped the dinner to monitor Tropical Storm Karen from Tallahassee but spoke to the gathering through a live video feed, touting Florida's falling unemployment rate. It didn't help his case though, that former U.S. Labor Secretary Elain Chao noted that much of the reason for the unemployment rate dropping across the country is because of people giving up looking for work and dropping out of the workforce.

The next two significant battles between the state Republican and Democratic parties are being fought in Tampa Bay: An Oct. 15 special election to replace Republican former state Rep. Mike Fasano in a West Pasco district and the officially non-partisan St. Petersburg mayoral race on Nov. 15.

[Last modified: Friday, October 4, 2013 11:23pm]


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