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Polk GOP Commissioner warns Republican incumbents may face strong challenges

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by
Polk County Commissioner George Lindsey

Republican Legislators could find themselves challenged for election next year … by Republican candidates, Polk County Commissioner George Lindsey, a Lakeland Republican, confirmed Wednesday.

In an interview before his address to the Polk Tiger Bay members, Lindsey said what he described as legislators’ attacks on home rule and local government, has many even in the Republican Party talking about trying to remove incumbents in the 2018 elections.

“The chatter (across the state) is voluminous,” Lindsey said. “I don’t know if it will turn into action, elections are many months away, but there is a lot of chatter about legislators who have basically eroded local control.”

Lindsey, himself, would not say if he will run against one of two Polk County legislators being criticized by local governments for their votes to cut funding to counties and to change school funding in many counties. He lives in the districts of state Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Colleen Burton, both Republicans from Lakeland.

“I would have to resign from my commission term which doesn’t end until 2020 to run next year. But you never say never,” he said with a laugh.

Lindsey told Tiger Bay members that he believed that Polk County would eventually make it through the financial crisis caused by Republican legislators and lawmakers agreed to help 29 “fiscally restrained” counties, largely small or rural counties with very low tax bases.

“But there is no lifeline for the cities, so small towns like Lake Hamilton, Dundee or Polk City will not have that help,” he said.

The normally mild spoken Lindsey has had heavy words for the Republican delegation from Polk County, with the exception of freshman Rep. Sam Killebrew who stood up for his east county district, he said.

“I want the delegation from Polk County to go to Tallahassee to represent Polk County, not to represent for Tallahassee,” he said.

“There is a point at which fiscal conservatism, which I firmly believe in, becomes fiscal conservative malpractice,” Lindsey said. “I have been that would-be candidates have been called by Legislative leaders or incumbent supporters saying, ‘If you get in this race I will bury you.’”

And he accused one former Polk County Commissioner, now-Rep. Neil Combee, a Lakeland Republican, of forgetting his roots and his principles.

“Rep. Combee said the county commissioners were just a bunch of crybabies. During his years on the commission the millage rate was increased five times,” he said.

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Former Ledger of Lakeland columnist Bill Rufty is Central Florida political correspondent for SaintPetersBlog and Florida Politics. Rufty had been with the Ledger from 1985-2015, where, as political editor, he covered a wide range of beats, including local and state politics, the Lakeland City Commission, and the Florida Legislature. Ledger editor Lenore Devore said about Rufty’s 30-year career: “[He is] a man full of knowledge, a polling expert and a war history buff … who has a steel trap in his brain, remembering details most of us have long since forgotten.”

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