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RPOF adopts new ballot rule for Presidential Primary

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The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) on Friday approved a plan for candidates running in the state’s presidential preference primary that doesn’t require them to pay homage to the party faithful.

The state’s GOP executive committee voted 35-1 to adopt a rule that gives candidates options to get on the ballot, instead of making them show up to November’s Sunshine Summit in Orlando.

The lone “no” vote was not immediately identified.

Now, candidates may also task volunteers to get at least 125 signatures in each of the 27 congressional districts, pay $25,000 as a qualifying fee – or they can attend the summit.

“Passing this new rule by an overwhelming majority shows that the Republican Party remains committed to the task at hand, delivering our 29 electoral votes to the Republican nominee,” said state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, RPOF chair, in a statement.

Added Sharon Day, Republican National Committee co-chair, RPOF national committeewoman and executive board member: “Florida is one of the most important and diverse states in deciding the White House.”

“That is why it was important that we establish a fair, common-sense rule that provides candidates with the proper guidance to qualify for our primary,” she said. “This historic vote will increase the incentive for candidates to engage and motivate the grassroots for 2016.”

Joe Gruters, Sarasota GOP chair and RPOF vice chair, said “our grassroots become even more relevant during this key primary election.”

“Florida voters will pave the way to the White House in 2016, and with the new rule approved, candidates now have clear guidelines in order to qualify for our primary,” Gruters said in the statement.

There was, however, no vote on a suggestion by former RPOF Chair Leslie Dougher to institute a straw poll at the summit.

Dougher, Clay County Republican chair, had said a straw poll would energize the base and motivate candidates.

“The Republican presidential candidates need to know where Florida’s Republican grassroots activists stand,” she said in a statement. “A straw poll at the Sunshine Summit will provide this snapshot.”

Dougher was Gov. Rick Scott‘s hand-picked choice for the position, but was defeated as state party chair after the 2014 election. The party is now headed by Ingoglia, a state representative from Spring Hill.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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