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Florida GOP bucks Rick Scott, chooses Rep. Blaise Ingoglia for chair


The Republican Party of Florida's grassroots bucked Gov. Rick Scott on Saturday by choosing to replace his hand-picked chairwoman with a leader of its own choosing, state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia.

In the end, many Republicans say, the decision to pass over sitting Chair Leslie Dougher was less about Scott and more about her campaign and Ingoglia's bid.

"Her campaign was top heavy and aggressive. They took it for granted. The grassroots didn't go for it," said one voter. "This was not a rejection of Scott. He’s very popular here. It was a rejection of a top-down approach. "

Still, Scott put his neck out there. He publicly spoke in Dougher's favor. And he lost his figurative head of the party. That never happens. It didn't with Gov. Charlie Crist when he was a Republican. It didn't when Jeb Bush was governor. And it didn't happen in Scott's first term.

Hours after the vote, the Florida GOP's executive director, Juston Johnson, resigned. Some Republicans said they wanted to stay and cheer the resignation. In a further sign of how stinging the defeat was, the RPOF's Twitter handle, @FloridaGOP, didn't tweet out an obligatory congratulations to Ingoglia, its new chair. 

Ingoglia's win is also a sign that the Republican-controlled Legislature won't be easily controlled by Scott.

The backdrop of the vote: widespread, but anonymous, criticism of the way RPOF under Scott has been stocked with people who sometimes seem more loyal to him than to the party.

During last year's election, Republicans loyal to the three GOP Cabinet members groused about what many said was a disrespectful attitude toward state CFO Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Last week, Scott's administration estranged relations with them further when news surfaced that his office may have lied in pressuring the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to resign. Commissioner Gerald Bailey (a Bush-era appointee) is well liked and many Republicans and Capitol insiders say the shoddy treatment of the longtime public servant was in poor taste. So the Cabinet members were put on defense over a political power play that they thought was offensive. None of the Cabinet members attended the vote.

Bottom line: Some Republicans have just had it with Scott World. 

Ingoglia didn't make that part of his campaign, however. Had he done so, he likely would have lost. He has long spoken highly of the governor. Still, he faulted the party for the way it presents itself.

“We don’t have a messaging problem, we have a marketing problem,” Ingoglia told the 224 Republican Party voters at RPOF's annual Orlando meeting, according to the Naples Daily News.

Ingoglia is a salesman. He knows how to make a pitch. A few years ago, he started up his "Government Gone Wild" YouTube series that has been viewed by millions (see below).

Ingoglia won on the second round of voting, beating Dougher with 132 total votes. To get there, he secured the votes of those who supported Marion County state committeeman Kurt Kelly and Martin County state committeeman Eric Miller. Miller, after losing in the first round urged his and Kelly's voters to pick Ingoglia. Obviously they did.

Postscript: I need to eat crow. I believed what the vote-counters backing Dougher told me -- that she had it locked. And I said so on Twitter. Oops. Meantime, The Shark Tank blog's Javier Manjarres insisted in a phone call with me that Ingoglia had a good shot of winning. I should've listened.

So Ingoglia's win tells reporters like me and the Scott-backed GOP establishment the same thing: Don't underestimate him.