BROOKSVILLE — For the first time in at least 55 years, a new Republican state committeeman will represent Hernando County.
Tom Hogan Sr., who has held the job since 1961 — seven years before Hernando elected its first Republican county commissioner — has announced he will step down in August.
Hogan also had strong words about who he wants to replace him — or, more to the point, who he does not want: state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill, who also serves as chairman of the local and state parties and who qualified to run for committeeman last week.
"Oh my goodness, yes, that's ridiculous,'' Hogan, 85, said of Ingoglia's many roles.
Of one person wearing so many hats, he said, "You don't wear any of them well, and that has really shown up dramatically.''
Hogan supports the other candidate for committeeman, Roy Martin, a longtime activist with the Republican club in the Wellington community.
Martin is "well qualified and well deserving," Hogan said.
Committeemen and committeewomen help decide the direction of the state party, vote on party officers and recruit candidates.
Ingoglia praised Hogan's service and said that his plan actually means he would hold less power.
The race for committeeman, which only shows up on Republican ballots when the position is contested, will be part of the August primary election.
Ingoglia said that if he wins, he will step down as chairman of the local Republican Executive Committee.
"The power resides in the chairman, and (this plan) allows someone else to run the party and continue to grow the party, and it allows me to be in a more supportive role," he said.
David Russell, a former Republican state representative and county commissioner who is seeking to return to the commission this year, said state party rules require the state chairman to serve as either a state committeeman or local party chairman.
"I don't see that as assuming any more responsibility," Russell said of Ingoglia's plan. "As a mater of fact, there's probably a little less."
But another longtime Republican, former County Commission candidate Anna Liisa Covell, said Ingoglia's move was "power and control run amok."
She also said that his multiple roles have weakened his ability to do his jobs well.
"I haven't seen much activity at all from the (Republican Party of Florida)," she said. "That should really be kicked into high gear by now at the state level."
Ingoglia has previously been criticized for the drop in funds raised by the state party. It took in about $13.2 million between Jan. 1, 2015, shortly before he was elected chairman, and the end of the first quarter of this year. That's slightly more than half the amount raised during a similar period before the 2012 presidential race.
That partly reflects the party's leaner budget, Ingoglia said. Fundraising has also been hampered by many factors, including the large number of Republican presidential candidates seeking contributions and the increasing role of political action committees.
"It's been a very difficult political atmosphere for raising money," he said.
As an indication of just how long Hogan has held the job — and how far the party has come since he took it on — Russell remembered the political scene when he moved to Hernando in 1982.
His father chastised him for registering as a Republican, he said, because most elections were still decided in the Democratic primary.
"He said I wouldn't have a voice," Russell said.
The recently deceased Murray Grubbs, a former county commissioner, was considered a Republican pioneer for switching parties that same year.
Hogan, by that time, had already served as committeeman for 21 years.
Spring Hill had not yet been developed, he said. Brooksville was virtually all Democratic. And most of the other Republicans in the county lived in Ridge Manor.
"We started out in the early '60s as a real minority party up here,'' Hogan said.
"Mr. Hogan has been a mainstay here in Hernando County. He has been a wealth of knowledge, a wealth of experience. He has been a tremendous asset to the Republican Party over the years,'' Ingoglia said.
"I thank him for everything he has done.''