The decision by the Republican Party of Florida's executive committee last week to oppose the retention of three Florida Supreme Court justices in November was done without the approval of Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, the Republican leaders said Monday.
"I was not consulted about that decision and there is no reason why they would consult me,'' said Gaetz, R-Niceville, who is designated to be the next president of the Senate in November. "I'm focused on Senate races and we're locked in some tight ones."
Gaetz would not say whether he personally supported or opposed the justices but he told the Herald/Times that the millions raised to elect Republicans to his chamber will not be used to back any attempt to oust Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.
"I will ensure that no funds that have been raised for the Republican Senate Majority will be diverted to other races,'' he said.
Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, was traveling and issued this statement:
"I was not consulted about the decisions made by the Republican Executive Committee and therefore cannot comment on the matter."
Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, is engaged in one of the hard-fought Senate races Gaetz referred to and is pitted against Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, because of redistricting. She said she wasn't worried about watching the GOP spend its resources on the merit retention fight but didn't object to the decision to get involved.
"I don't have an opinion about it,'' she said. "Merit retention is there for a reason. If they don't support he idea of merit retention then get rid of it and do what we do with the U.S. Supreme Court."
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who is another member of Senate leadership, said he also supports the decision by the RPOF and equated the justices to candidates for public office.
"Their names are going in front of the voters just like my name,'' Negron said. "I support the right of any citizen or group of citizens to support or oppose any candidate running for public office."
Unlike elected officials, however, Supreme Court justices and members of the courts of appeal have their applications screened by a panel of legal experts, then are nominated by the governor, and then their names are placed on the ballot for retention every six years to determine if they remain competent to stay on the job.