Gruters intervenes in Hillsborough Republican party leadership dispute

He says he plans to appoint new members to the county’s Republican Executive Committee, which could bring about a change in local party leadership.
Jim Waurishuk, chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party. [Times (2016)]
Jim Waurishuk, chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party. [Times (2016)]
Published Oct. 29, 2022|Updated Oct. 29, 2022

In a reversal of the Hillsborough County Republican Party’s vote to thwart a move against its chairman, state GOP Chairman Joe Gruters says he will appoint scores of new members to the party’s governing executive committee.

The move could, in effect, reverse a vote by the party’s executive committee two weeks ago to reject some 160 proposed new members.

Many of those proposed members were former party activists who have left the organization or had been recruited by dissidents unhappy with the leadership of the controversial party chairman, Jim Waurishuk.

Waurishuk, a hard-line Trump supporter, has become known for inflammatory rhetoric in social media posts and for excoriating moderates as “RINOs.”

No one has challenged him as chairman because, opponents say, membership on the committee, which consists of all the party’s precinct representatives, has shrunk to a core of his supporters.

Gruters said at the time of the vote that he preferred a “big tent” approach — admitting the new members to build the party — but would defer to local control.

However, he told Waurishuk in letter this week that he intends to appoint up to about 160 of the proposed new members within 60 days.

It’s unclear whether the new members can join in time for the party’s leadership elections in December.

Waurishuk didn’t respond to phone, text and email requests for comment.