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William March: Hillsborough GOP chairman says he won’t resign

Despite criticisms, Hillsborough County Republican Party Chairman Jim Waurishuk defends the party's work under his leadership.
Hillsborough County Republican Party Chairman Jim Waurishuk, seen here during a 2016 presidential debate watch party, said he will not resign following a bad year for the party in local elections. [ANDRES LEIVA | Times]
Published Nov. 28, 2018
Updated Nov. 28, 2018

Local Republican Party activists including high-level donor Hung Mai have asked local Hillsborough County Republican Party Chairman Jim Waurishuk to resign following a bad year for the party in local elections.

But Waurishuk said he's not going to do that, defending the party's work under his leadership from criticisms by Mai and others. And checks with local party insiders turned up no one planning to run against him in the upcoming party elections.

Mai, a prominent developer recently appointed to the Port Tampa Bay board, said he's one of several local Republicans who have communicated with Waurishuk and received no response.

He criticized the local party's fundraising, voter turnout efforts and work with local candidates and elected officials.

Jonny Torres and April Schiff, both previous candidates for the chairmanship, said they aren't going to run and don't know of anyone who is, although Torres said he "would like to see some new leadership. The organization's in severe need of rebuilding."

Republicans saw two Hillsborough state House seats, a state Senate seat and two county commission seats flip from red to blue Nov. 6. Mai called those losses "very damaging."

Waurishuk said he hasn't responded to Mai or the other critics in part because they aren't precinct representatives, the voting members of the local GOP governing body.

He said Mai "is sort of on the outside looking in" and doesn't know what work the party has done with candidates or to recruit new donors.
Meanwhile, even though Democrats had a good year in the elections, there are stirrings of a challenge to Ione Townsend for the local Democratic Party chairmanship.

Jeff Zampitella, Democratic vice chairman, said he's "going to leave open" whether he challenges Townsend in the December party elections.
He said the party's local election wins were due partly to President Donald Trump, "one of our greatest recruitment tools ever," and that given its advantage in voter registration numbers, the party should have done even better.

"It's frustrating to see races that could be won if we just had the turnout," he said.

Townsend said she welcomes an open election for party leadership, and, "If people don't think I've done a good job, they're welcome to run."
But she said she thinks, "We should be rejoicing in our success."

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