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'Government Gone Wild' leader Blaise Ingoglia to lead Hernando County Republicans

Home builder, motivational pitchman, professional poker player and "Government Gone Wild" producer Blaise Ingoglia now holds another title: Hernando County GOP chairman.

Top party leaders nominated Ingoglia and the Republican Executive Committee elected him during a closed meeting Thursday evening.

Ingoglia said he would do "whatever is asked of me from our elected officials, committee members and local Republicans. The priorities will be fundraising and making sure our Republican candidates get elected and/or re-elected," he wrote to the St. Petersburg Times in an e-mail response to questions.

The 38-year-old Spring Hill resident, who joined the executive committee in January, ran unopposed and replaced outgoing chairwoman Ana Trinque, a business partner and friend, who unexpectedly resigned in March. Ingoglia received 42 of 45 votes, he said.

"He's a very committed person and I think he sincerely has the ideals of the Republican Party in his soul," said Nick Dininni, president of the Timber Pines GOP Club and member of the nomination committee.

But his selection featured the controversy and division that have shadowed his quick rise.

Shortly after his election, Susan Wahl, the party's secretary, abruptly resigned and left the meeting. Party officials present did not want to discuss the matter, saying it happened in a private session. Wahl, whose name was soon removed from the party's Web site, could not be reached for comment at work or home on Friday.

Ingoglia, the president of Hartland Homes, entered the scene a year and a half ago as an outspoken critic of what he saw as wasteful government spending in county budgets in seminars he labeled "Government Gone Wild."

He also opposed the election of three incumbent county commissioners in 2008, including Republican Jeff Stabins.

Vocal political opponents criticized him for distorting the numbers he used to note government spending. Dissenters also came from within the Republican Party.

In September, Ingoglia served as master of ceremonies at a party Unity Rally, which drew strong objections from Stabins and U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville.

Weeks before the rally, Ingoglia drew heated derision from a prominent black Republican after he joked at a party event on primary night that if Barack Obama were elected president, his image would be printed on food stamps, not paper money.

Ingoglia brushed aside the criticism, saying he meant his joke as a harmless comment about Obama's tax plan.

In the 2008 campaign, Ingoglia spent more than $25,000 to fuel an independent group that attacked two Democratic county commissioners, both of whom lost.

Going forward, Ingoglia said he would focus on using technology to enhance GOP outreach efforts, recruit young voters and better educate others.

"I am a firm believer that the vast majority of Americans agree with Republican and conservative values, and when people vote Democratic, they are actually voting against their and their family's best interest. I will help in this education process," he wrote in an e-mail.

Gail Samples, a GOP state committeewoman, said Ingoglia is a "very charismatic person."

"He hasn't been in the party long but … he has time to understand the party and understand the rules," she said, noting the next election is two years away.

In the meantime, Ingoglia must confront some division in the party among more moderate Republicans, such as Anna Liisa Covell, a local activist and blogger who criticized his selection.

"I think just with this far right wing attitude that they are pushing people like me, a longtime supporter of the party, aside," she said in an interview.

Ingoglia said he intends to "offer an olive branch and promise to listen to all sides. If these so-called disenfranchised Republicans choose not to accept, they cannot say we didn't try."

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

'Government Gone Wild' leader Blaise Ingoglia to lead Hernando County Republicans 04/17/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 17, 2009 8:14pm]

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