Remember the unity rally?
It was meant to bring county Republicans together, to heal feelings hurt by last year's nasty primary elections. As described by Republican Executive Committee chairwoman Ana Trinque, you could almost picture party members draping their arms around one another and pledging to let bygones be bygones.
Apparently, it didn't work.
This Saturday, the REC will hold another big event, the annual Lincoln Day Dinner. It's a $50-per-plate affair that features Marco Rubio, former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and hero of tax-slashing Republicans.
But one prominent party member, Brooksville Realtor Gary Schraut, didn't receive his invitation.
Worse still, the REC turned down his offer to pay $250 for a full-page ad on the back cover of the dinner's program, as he has every year for a decade.
"I've been blacklisted,'' he said.
In a March 5 e-mail, REC member Mary Lou Wright told Schraut his money wasn't welcome because he had supported a Democrat in last year's general election: "It is unfortunate that your interests in this instance were at odds with your purported Republicanism.''
This kind of affront cuts deep in a way that is hard for many of us to imagine. It's like reading a 19th century novel and wondering why a misplaced calling card can lead, in the course of a few pages, to gentlemen slapping one another with white gloves and ordering their seconds to arrange a duel.
Democrats do it, too. A few years ago, you may remember, the DEC chairman was accusing another member of karate-chopping his wife's wrist.
So, these goings-on are common in local parties. They have little bearing on our daily lives. If you chose to ignore them, I not only wouldn't blame you, I'd applaud your good sense.
Except that in this case, the local division seems to reflect a national Republican split. There are moderates (or converted moderates) who have denounced the party's pandering to the Christian right and myopic insistence on tax cuts.
Then there are hardliners who think the party's main problem is that it strayed too far to the left.
"We had the ideal moderate candidate (in John McCain) and we got nowhere,'' said Wright, who places herself in the second camp both locally and nationally.
She wouldn't discuss the details of Schraut's supposed heresy, and two other party leaders mentioned in her e-mail — Trinque and Tom Hogan Sr. — didn't return phone calls requesting interviews.
So I can only guess, as Schraut did, that this goes back to last year's election of County Commissioner Jim Adkins, whom Trinque seemed to support even in the primary.
Adkins has so far made his mark with suggestions such as a proposed moratorium on impact fees that would return the county to its overreliance on home building and, by the way, undermine community-building that could attract long-term investment.
Schraut said he didn't support Adkins' rival, Democrat Chris Kingsley. He just made the reasonable decision not to oppose him because, as I saw it, Kingsley voted in favor of just about every development that came down the pike.
And what could be more Republican than that?