Leslie Dougher elected chair of Florida GOP

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Clay County GOP chair Leslie Dougher became the new interim head of the Republican Party of Florida, to serve through this fall’s election cycle. She won in a 106-69 vote on Saturday over Eric Miller of Martin County.

Party leaders met at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay to approve the choice of Dougher as leader of the party in a crucial election cycle where a unified effort is necessary to ensure the re-election of Gov. Rick Scott, writes Steve Bousquet of the Times.

Among those who supported Dougher was Scott, but a small number of activists left dissatisfied with the overly scripted feel of the event. St. Lucie County GOP Chairman Bill Paterson called it a “top-down” election ordained by insiders.

“It’s always been top-down instead of bottom-up,” said Manatee GOP Chair Peggy Simone, an outspoken critic of the Common Core. Simone had nominated Miller.

Dougher is a 50-year-old Middleburg real estate agent and California native, who has been a long-time GOP activist supported by state Republican leaders such as House Speaker Will Weatherford and Sen. John Thrasher.

Thrasher called for unity to capture Republican victories in November.

“She will be a good steward of the Republican Party,” he said while nominating Dougher.

Dougher succeeds Lenny Curry, who resigned after two-and-a-half years on the job to concentrate on his campaign for mayor of Jacksonville. She will be the fifth party chair in four years, notes Bousquet.

Curry replaced former Rep. Dave Bitner, who died after less than a year as chair. Bitner succeeded Thrasher, who served as interim chair in 2010 after the forced ouster of Jim Greer, who is currently in prison for stealing RPOF money. Former GOP Gov. Charlie Crist, now challenging Scott as Democrat, chose Greer.

Dougher said President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election “made me sick to my stomach” and does not want a repeat of that in the Florida governor’s race. “The best man did not win. I do not want to feel that way on Nov. 5,” she added.

She singled out the work of Pinellas County Republicans in U.S. Rep. David Jolly’s recent victory in the Florida 13th Congressional District special election, even as Democrat Alex Sink outspent them.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.