It's been a long, long time since Florida's Republican Party has been in the sorry shape it is today:
A GOP chairman, Jim Greer, booted out of the job amid accusations of financial mismanagement. Grass roots and elected officials divided on a successor. Revelations that its executive director, Delmar Johnson, had a secret side contract funneling to his company, Victory Strategies, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Legislative leaders hastily shifting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the party to their own political committees. Republican leaders nervously fending off questions about whether they should publicly release the credit card statement from their party-issued cards.
Ten questions we may or may not see answered in the coming weeks and months:
1. Was Delmar Johnson the only beneficiary of the $260,000 in fundraising fees earned by Victory Strategies, or did anyone else get a piece of that?
2. Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum knew of that secret contract a month ago, so why did it take so long for him to publicly denounce it?
3. Is the IRS going to take a look at some of the perks being funded by the state GOP?
4. Why did Charlie Crist insist until the very end that Greer should remain chairman amid so many allegations of improper spending, and why did legislative leaders ignore the allegations for so long?
5. Will leading candidates for GOP chairman, Sharon Day and John Thrasher, reach a deal so one of them drops out before Saturday's election?
6. Why are legislative leaders so aggressively fighting Day's candidacy?
7. Would major donors stop contributing to the Florida GOP if Thrasher is not chairman, as his supporters suggest?
8. Will Marco Rubio, developing a reputation for evasiveness, publicly back either Thrasher or Day?
9. Will other Florida GOP consulting contracts face greater scrutiny?
10. Why is it that no one who had a party credit card supports their statements being released and only people who didn't have them — Crist and gubernatorial candidate Paula Dockery, for instance — want them released?
Who replaces Greer?
More than 240 Republican Party officials are eligible to vote in Saturday's election, and on Friday they received an e-mail from Jeb Bush going to bat for his old pal Thrasher: "I know and have worked with both candidates for party chairman, and I consider Sharon Day a friend. She is a tireless worker and represents us well as secretary of the Republican National Committee. But at a time when we face multiple challenges, I am confident that John's leadership experience will ensure victories for our statewide, legislative, and county and municipal candidates this November," wrote the former governor.
Our sense is that Thrasher is the front-runner, but there's plenty of grass roots resentment about party elites seemingly forcing their will on everybody else. In a secret-ballot election like this, anything can happen.
McCollum has said he sees no reason for a criminal investigation into the state GOP scandals, but the Democrats running for his job, state Sens. Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber, say the Republican gubernatorial candidate is shirking his responsibilities.
"As Florida's chief law enforcement officer, it is incumbent on you to formally request an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the possible criminal activity and public corruption surrounding the RPOF's secret contracts and credit cards,'' they wrote in a joint letter. "To date you have neglected to call for any such investigation. We hope you will reconsider your duty in this matter where it is clear that Floridians deserve to know the truth."
Putnam on today
Check out U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow, Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, today on Political Connections on Bay News 9. It airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Adam C. Smith can be reached at email@example.com.