Freshman state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia has been busy juggling two balls in the air, as also the newly elected Republican Party of Florida chair.
Now, the star of the “Government Gone Wild” videos is indirectly accused of trying to add a third – Florida House speaker – in what could be referred to as a political “Coup Gone Wild.”
The Hernando County Republican faces serious accusations this morning from one prominent state Republican — Orange County GOP Chairman Lew Oliver — who alleges an intimidation campaign to force new House members, including several from his Central Florida region, into breaking their commitment to support Eric Eisnaugle for speaker of the Florida House in 2021-22.
Ingoglia has denied the accusations.
It began with an email obtained by FloridaPolitics.com from former RPOF Chair Leslie Dougher, whom Ingoglia defeated in January after a contentious battle:
“It has recently come to the attention of some of the members of the state committee of a challenge by you to supplant Eric Eisnaugle as speaker in waiting.
“I write to you hoping that you will continue the great work you’ve begun in bringing our states’ 29 electoral votes into the Republican column in November and use the leadership of the Party to focus all Republicans in Florida to that goal.
“I know as well as most that the rumor mill in Tallahassee can work overtime and I urge you to continue to create the best Republican Party you can in such an important year.”
Concurrently, Oliver wrote to several state GOP leaders a long, passionate email obtained by FloridaPolitics.com, where he based his list of accusations on several “first hand” accounts.
“I am somewhat dismayed to learn that there are some House members who are apparently engaged in convoluted ethical gymnastics designed to justify reneging on written (unconditional) commitments of support for a future speaker of the House,” Oliver writes.
Likening it to Florida’s version of the political thriller House of Cards, Oliver questioned the honor of Ingoglia and his camp.
Oliver also wondered how anyone “wearing two hats” – as both a legislator and party chair — could function effectively, even under the best of circumstances, especially when GOP unity is essential to the objective of putting Florida in the Republican column in 2016.
“When an RPOF chairman may be actively engaged in, or even used as an involuntary pawn in (I will assume the latter), an effort to undermine or even potentially remove or defeat another House member who was elected and supported by other members of the RPOF family,” he wrote, “the myth of the RPOF as a ‘safe harbor’ or ‘neutral ground’ is smashed into little pieces.”
It is the textbook definition of “conflict of interest,” he said.
Oliver’s biggest gripe, however, is the implied threat to three Central Florida Republicans – in “rented seats,” as they were told – that losing in 2016 would be “an acceptable price to pay” to unseat Eisnaugle.
“This ought to make every one of us absolutely furious,” Oliver warns to the other state party leaders. “Today, three seats we worked like hell to win in Orange County are at risk … tomorrow maybe a seat or two in YOUR county.”
The bottom line for Oliver is that these implicit and explicit threats of an interparty battle could mean as much as $10 million spent on internal fights alone, as Republicans face the “most important election year in 16 years.”
It could provide a message that cripples donor efforts, as well as GOP efforts in the presidential race.
Shifting gears to a somewhat conciliatory tone, Oliver continues:
“I’m very, very upset about this. It is dirty, dishonorable business. It involves betrayals of trust and potential violations of RPOF campaign promises, as well as potential oath violations.
I do not know from personal, firsthand experience that Blaise is deliberately involved in any of this. He may be an innocent pawn. I hope so and I think so, and I owe him the benefit of the doubt. Though I didn’t vote for him, I have every reason to believe that he is working hard, means well, has good ideas, etc. He has also been helpful in Orange County since his election, and he is of course infectiously likable.”
Oliver then asks for a personal pledge that Ingoglia is not involved in this “disgraceful” episode and a commitment he is not actively trying to defeat Eisnaugle.
He also wants Ingoglia to urge others not to get involved or use his budget, power or position as RPOF chair to influence this race.
“And for those in the RPOF who voted for Blaise on the basis of that pledge,” Oliver concludes, “it ought to be equally easy to hold him to that pledge and put a stop to this game NOW.”
For his part, Ingoglia told Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday that he has not put his name forward as a replacement for Eisnaugle.
“That is – I don’t know where they got their information from. I have no comment. I really don’t’ know where they got their information from,” Ingoglia said.