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Mitch Perry Report for 9.24.15 — Will the RPOF gamble on having a meaningful primary election?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

There’s no question that over the past two decades that Florida has become one of the biggest swing states in the nation, a status that can ultimately determine who our next president is.

It may not be the swing state (arguably you could call Ohio the ultimate swing state), but it’s crucially important, especially for the Republican Party.

Like political junkies everywhere not living in Iowa or New Hampshire (or in more recent years, Nevada and South Carolina), party officials grew weary that when the presidential primary election traditionally took place in Florida, the election was irrelevant, with the nominee already decided.

That’s what led to both the Republican and Democratic parties in Florida moving up their primaries to January in 2008, busting RNC & DNC rules. While it made Florida relevant that year for the GOP (with John McCain essentially clinching the nomination in the Sunshine State), the Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was meaningless .(Clinton trumped Obama, but didn’t win any delegates.) When they did the same in 2012, Florida Republicans had half their delegates to the convention stripped and were relegated to hotel rooms in Palm Harbor when the Republican National Convention was held in Tampa.

But the stakes are much higher, with RPOF Chair Blaise Ingoglia now poised to not include all of the presidential candidates on the March presidential primary ballot unless they play ball and commit to the party’s two-day fundraising summit in November.

(The above sentence has been changed from the original, where we wrote that Ingoglia was poised to remove the candidates from the ballot. Spokesperson Wadi Gaitan writes, “Similar to other states candidates do not simply appear on a ballot, there is a qualifying process with requirements to appear on the primary ballot. Since state statute or party rules have historically not addressed the requirements for Florida, the party is considering a rule to establish that process.”).

In an op-ed published in FloridaPolitics.com, Ingoglia writes that, unlike most other states, Florida is one of the few that does not have any qualifying criteria to appear on the ballot in statute or Republican Party rule. “Establishing this rule takes the power of selecting who appears on the ballot out of the hands of the party leadership and benefits each candidate by providing a forum to engage the grassroots of our great party,” he writes.

However, that’s not how some local Republican clubs around the state see it. It seems to them that the RPOF is playing the ultimate Party Boss.

“This is yet another glaring example of a heavy-handed top-down leadership style that ignores the wishes of the grassroots base of the party in favor of financial interests of party leadership in Tallahassee,” says a disgusted Bob White, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida.

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are the only candidates to declare so far. The RPOF executive committee votes on the matter tomorrow. Will they have the audacity to go through with the threat?

Blaise Ingoglia was a masterful poker player back in the day. Does he have the winning hand here? And does the party have the stones to commit to this?

We’ll know by tomorrow night

In other news…

Tampa activists gathered in front of City Hall yesterday to call on the City Council to keep them in mind when they discuss their version of a police civilian review board today.

Hillsborough County Commission Chair Sandy Murman unveiled proposals to keep lobbyists more accountable at the County Center, but is it really sufficient?

While speaking in front of fellow Democrats in Ybor City on Monday night, Alan Grayson said the Democratic Party was like a club — not like the Rotary Club, but more like a gang, like “the Crips or Bloods.” Black Florida Democrats supporting Grayson’s Democratic Senate opponent, Patrick Murphy, professed outrage. Other African-Americans contacted by FloridaPolitics.com weren’t offended.

Marco Rubio’s got the heat now — well, at least more than Jeb Bush in the latest Florida presidential poll (though both still trail Donald Trump).

What would happen if Pinellas County heavyweight Republicans (and foes) Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala opposed each other next year in a state Senate race? Check out those results here.

What about a Dwight Dudley vs. Darryl Rouson matchup for the SD Southern Pinellas County race?

The Progressive Caucus inside the Florida Democratic Party is the latest group to call on Debbie Wasserman Schultz to stop protecting Hillary Clinton and schedule more Democratic presidential debates.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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