On the eve of Republican activists deciding who will lead the Florida GOP for the next two years, the two candidates battling for the helm were leaving nothing to chance on Friday night in Orlando.
Current Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia jumped from conference room to conference room at the Rosen Centre Hotel trying to shoot down what he called false rumors that he would use the party to help Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran if he decided to run for governor in 2018 in a field that could include current Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Never mind that neither Corcoran, a Pasco Republican, or Putnam, a Polk County Republican have declared to run. Still, Ingoglia said he felt compelled to address the rumors that he said are flying around in emails.
“I just want to set the record straight here,” Ingoglia, a Hernando County Republican, told a room full of county Republican Party chairs. “The Republican Party will remain neutral and I will remain neutral in the primary as I always do.”
Coming off a year in which Republicans dominated Democrats at the ballot box, you would think Ingoglia’s position would be secure. But Sarasota Republican Christian Ziegler has aggressively campaigned against Ingoglia, saying the party needs to be more unified going into 2018 when the governor’s race will be on the ballot. Since Ingoglia first one the position in 2015, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Senate have worked more independently from the RPOF. Ziegler said if he wins Saturday morning’s election, he’d work to bring all the different segments of the RPOF back together.
"It’s a shame" that the governor isn’t more involved with the party, Ziegler told the same group of Republican Party chairs a few minutes after Ingoglia addressed the same group.
Later, before another group of activists in another conference room crowd, Ziegler emphasized that the has a “great relationship with the governor” and talks to him regularly.
Scott has not publicly backed either candidate for the post.
On Saturday morning, both candidates will get one more chance to appeal to party activists before a final vote is taken for the position which pays $115,000 a year.
The state leader is picked by county party leaders from each of the 67 counties. Each county has the potential of 3 votes, plus the governor, the House Speaker and Senate President each have 10 voters. In addition, Republican members of Congress from Florida, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and the four elected cabinet members all get a vote.