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Black GOP leader fights the power

Gov. Charlie Crist has earned rave reviews from some black leaders, but the rabble-rousing leader of the Florida Federation of Black Republicans is at odds with his handpicked party chief.

Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer and Deon Long of Winter Park are slated to hash things out in a meeting in Orlando tomorrow.

The conflict blew out into the open at a reception co-sponsored by the party and the federation at last weekend's convention in Orlando, where a Greer staffer tried to pry the microphone away from an expletive-shouting Long.

The incident was a metaphor for their broader struggle over control of minority outreach. Greer has hired a full-time employee to focus on black voters, and the party is organizing a Nov. 16 gathering of black Republicans in Orlando headlined by former Pittsburgh Steeler and gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann.

But Long said Greer is interfering with the federation's volunteer efforts. "They try to divide and conquer us if one group of Negroes isn't doing what you want them to do,'' he said.

Greer said Leon should quit tussling with the state party and get behind its efforts.

"Since he became chairman, there's been a turbulent relationship,'' he said. "We have a right to ensure that groups that we charter are on the same page.''