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House GOP freshmen fail to adopt rules for Speaker’s race, putting leadership battle into chaos

in Peter by

Even after meeting dozens of times throughout the 2017 Legislative Session, the House GOP freshman caucus failed to adopt new rules on how to pick a leader.

A caucus to ratify rules — drafted by Reps. Ralph Massullo and Michael Grant — to guide the freshman class’s decision-making process met Friday during a break in the House. Only 23 members of the freshman class were present, and neither Rep. Jamie Grant nor Rep. Paul Renner, both in the running to be Speaker in 2022, were present at the meeting.

The rules had been debated at length by within the class. The most recent version of the rules called for an organizational meeting to be held on June 30 to select their leader. Under those rules, if more than two candidates are running, the lowest vote-getters would be eliminated from consideration.

The caucus needed 18 votes to ratify the rules, a tall order with only 23 of the 27 caucus members present. But ahead of the vote, Rep. Joe Gruters made a proposal for secret balloting on the rules. Secret balloting on rules and all future votes is in theoretically in place, but the rules were voted down.

A copy of new rules were provided to members, but were marked by Rep. Randy Fine so the caucus could know which member leaked the rules to the media, according to a House member who attended the meeting.

The failure to adopt new rules means the Speaker’s race is still governed by House Caucus rules, which means no June 30 conclave to pick a leader. It also means the “survivor” rule proposed under the Massullo-Grant rules aren’t in effect.

According to House Republican Conference Rules adopted last year, Speaker candidates can officially begin accepting pledges of support after June 30. Renner, Jamie Grant and Frank White are among those believed to be in the running for Speaker.

Prior to Friday, a non-Renner supporter said there was a 40 percent chance it was Grant or White, 30 percent it went to Renner and 30 percent chance it went to the field.

Now the tides appear to have shifted, with Renner given a 40 percent chance, followed by Grant or White at 30 percent, and the field with 30 percent.

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.

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