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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will headline local GOP Lincoln Day Dinner

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will headline the Lincoln Day Dinner this year. The Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee announced the high-profile conservative as its keynote speaker for the group’s biggest annual fundraiser on Thursday.

Haley most recently made news when she endorsed U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for president over former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

“I am excited to have Nikki Haley as our keynote speaker,” said PCREC chair Nick DiCeglie. “There is no bigger rising star in the Republican Party than the Governor and we are honored to have her join us.”

In a press release announcing Haley’s participation, the committee referred to her as “the future of the Republican Party.”

While Rubio hasn’t officially given Haley his nod for a VP pick, he did say she would be on everyone’s “short list” as a potential running mate in the 2016 presidential election.

Having a potential Vice Presidential candidate headlining a local party fundraiser is in and of itself a huge win for Pinellas Republicans looking to not only bolster GOP support in national elections, but locally as well.

Haley represents for the party a face it needs in an era of growing diversity and shrinking support from women and minorities.

At 44, Haley is the youngest Governor in the nation and the first Indian-American to hold the high office in South Carolina. And above that she has risen to fame by leading her state through a series of unfortunate events.

When nine African-American residents were killed in their church by a young white supremacist, she courageously spoke out against raising the Confederate Flag in a state where it stood as a symbol of pride. She successfully had the flag removed from the State House grounds.

She also led her state through heavy flooding and the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.

She was also tapped by the GOP to deliver the party response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, further catapulting her to fame within the party.

The Lincoln Day Dinner is March 12th at the Hilton Carillon. The group expects in excess of 500 attendees including party donors, elected officials and grassroots activists from all over the Tampa Bay area.

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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