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RPOF gives presidential candidates option to avoid Sunshine Summit

Published Sep. 24, 2015

Amid criticism over a plan to block presidential candidates who don't attend a November "Sunshine Summit" in Orlando from the primary election, the Republican Party of Florida on Thursday released its proposed ballot rule, including two ways to avoid the summit cattle-call.

GOP candidates for the presidency will have three options to make Florida's March presidential preference primary under the rule, which the RPOF executive board is scheduled to approve on Friday.

Candidates can be invited to and attend the Sunshine Summit, a two-day event scheduled for Nov. 13-14. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is headlining a dinner at the event the night before. Alternatively, they can pay a $25,000 filing fee to RPOF or file a petition with signatures of 3,375 registered Republicans, including 125 from each congressional district.

It is important, the rule says, for "Republican presidential candidates to make a preliminary showing of substantial support in order to qualify for a place on the presidential preference primary ballot."

The first qualifying option -- the Sunshine Summit -- has been attacked by many in the party, including Jeb Bush, who has committed to attend the event.

"Governor Bush is opposed to the proposed rules change. He does not believe it is appropriate to limit Florida Republicans' choices in this competitive primary," spokeswoman Kristy Campbell told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday.

Other prominent Republicans have compared it to "blackmail."

RPOF has stood by the summit as a way to bring candidates to Florida, possibly to counter-balance campaigns putting less effort into Florida because of the major roles Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio are likely to play here.