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Rumble in the Jumble: Marking Territory, Flagler Republicans Just Can’t Get Along

| August 30, 2012

Flagler County Republicans have not been getting along.

You’d think, considering their age, their august careers, their recent political victories, the greater voter registrations they’re tallying, the vastness of a campaign headquarters they don’t have to pay for—it’s a hand-out from a candidate in St. Johns County and the Florida Republican Club—and the national attention they’ve been getting since last week thanks to their party’s convention in Tampa, that Flagler County Republicans would have learned to behave with each other by now. Somehow, they haven’t.

The latest incident, no less bizarre than a series of internecine quarrels that have noised up local Republican ranks all year, took place at their headquarters in the Staples shopping center on Old Kings Road in Palm Coast—what used to be that old Italian restaurant. It was Saturday morning. John Ruffalo, a member of the local pressure group called the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies, and a 70-year-old man, used force against a 72-year-old woman, and a fellow Republican, because he did not want her coming into the headquarters.

“You are not welcome here, and do not come in,” Ruffalo told Patricia Sullivan, who happens to be married to David Sullivan, who happens to be the chairman of the Republican Executive Committee.

The Reagan group and the executive committee have been at each other’s throats since spring, when members of the Ronald Reagan group sued the REC in Flagler County Circuit Court because the REC would not let Reagan members (many of whom are also affiliated with the Flagler County Tea Party Group) in. The case went to court but was settled out of court only a few weeks ago, with the REC essentially relenting and letting the Ronald Reagan members into the executive committee.

The fight was the culmination of mutually sour and often venomous feelings on both sides, with REC members representing established Flagler Republicans (think Jon Netts and Frank Meeker of the Palm Coast City Council, Sheriff Don Fleming, and Gail Wadsworth, the clerk of court who manages to play every Republican side there is) and the Reagan club pushing insurgent Republicans such as Debbie Laury and Dennis McDonald (candidates for the school board and county commission, respectively, who lost), Charlie Ericksen, who defeated establishment Republican Alan Peterson for a county commission seat, and, of course, Hutson. The Reagan group is so disdainful of the old guard that there’s talk of it endorsing Abby Romaine, the independent and relatively liberal candidate for a county commission seat, against Meeker.

Republican headquarters at the Staples shopping center. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

That internal brawl was only a first salvo. Anne-Marie Shaffer, another Ronald Reagan member, sued John Pollinger, a Republican running for sheriff, to try to keep him off the ballot, because she did not consider him a “pure” Republican (he’d been a registered Democrat his entire career in New Jersey). That case, which she lost but appealed, is now moot since both Shaffer’s candidate—Ray Stevens—and Pollinger lost to Fleming (who is facing Democrat Jim Manfre in a rematch). There’s also talk that Stevens will be endorsing Manfre, not Fleming, in another sign of the bitterness coursing through Republican jumbles.

So the scene, which local Republicans are calling their “victory headquarters,” was primed for  an electrical storm.

Both Sullivans have a key to the Republican headquarters in the Staples strip mall, which, until the primaries, was paid for by the Travis Hutson campaign, according to Dave Sullivan; Hutson is the Republican candidate for the newly formed Florida House District 24 seat, principally covering Flagler County. He’s running against Milissa Holland, the Flagler County Commissioner. Since the primary, Sullivan said, the headquarters have been paid for by Hutson and the Florida Republican Party. The Ronald Reagan club isn’t paying for it at all, Sullivan said.

But there was Ruffalo, blocking Patricia Sullivan’s way.

“Patricia,” according to the police report the Sullivans filed later that day, “stated she unlocked the door and put one foot in, and that’s when John Ruffalo forcibly pushed her arm back and said ‘you are not welcome here and do not come in.’ Patricia then stated John continued to block the door and said, ‘this is the Ronald Reagan headquarters and you are not coming in.

It took Dave Sullivan’s arrival, and his telling Ruffalo that members of the Flagler County Executive Committee had a right to the building, to be let in, though once inside Ruffalo continued arguing, according to the report. There were two witnesses.

In an interview today, Sullivan said he filed a report because “any red-blooded American” would come to the defense of his wife when she’s being assaulted, and that he wanted a record of the incident, as Ruffalo never apologized. Sullivan wanted the report in the record in case another such incident were to take place. But he considered the matter “closed.”

Ruffalo did not return calls to his cell and home.

The day after the incident, a sheriff’s deputy visited him at his Collinson Lane home. “John,” the deputy reported, “stated he did block the door to the Republican Headquarters and denied Patricia Sullivan access because she is a member of the Flagler County Republican Executive Committee. John Stated Bob Hamby told him the Flagler County Executive Committee is not allowed in the building. John also stated he never put his hands on Patricia and she pushed him several times while trying to get in the building.”

That’s not how Allison Rimer, a 58-year-old resident of Pebble Stone Lane and one of the two witnesses, described it to the cop, saying it was Ruffalo who pushed Sullivan when she tried to get in the building. No one involved wanted to press charges. Hamby did not return a call to his home. And Sullivan, who conceded that Ronald Reagan volunteers had been manning the headquarters quite consistently (Shaffer was, in fact, at headquarters until closing time this afternoon, and Ronald Reagan volunteers have also been responsible for a surge in local Republican registrations) this afternoon said the focus is on winning elections.

Mitt Romney would be proud.

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22 Responses for “Rumble in the Jumble: Marking Territory, Flagler Republicans Just Can’t Get Along”

  1. Will says:

    The Adult Education department of Flagler Schools is proud to announce a “Manners and Etiquette for Grown-Ups” course to start next Wednesday. Picture IDs will be required hourly.

  2. Jack Howell says:

    The antics of John Ruffallo highlight the ugly side of being a Republican in Flagler County. He acts more like a school yard bully than a mature adult. What a shame for the Republicans.

  3. rb says:

    They may have fueds as familys do but they’re still family..

  4. DWFerg says:

    Unfortunate experience–Perhaps, the silver lining in all this power / authority struggle is this—-A teachable moment–It’s not about who are the true or ONLY leaders of the Republican party in Palm Coast or Flagler county—It seems the argument is more about the members and has transcended the cause and resolution of the major issues.. The candidates should intercede and referee these petty and geriatric / juvenile grievances. As a lifelong Republican, I am disenchanted to belong / contribute to any organization that puts its executive ranks and title above the purpose of the party—-Dissolve the ego and get on with getting Romney elected—NOW

    • Pihos says:

      You left out the most interesting piece of information…..Mr. Ruffola is built like Hulk Hogan…….muscles all over the place ! I have not seen him or Carol in years….they were always repectful when I did see them…but the mental picture of him pushing a 72 year old woman was kind of cartoonish….

  5. John Boy says:

    Typical Republican activity, “Eat Your Own”. Just another example of why Republicans cannot be allowed to win any contest, even electing one as the dog catcher would be a disaster. They would probably Bar-B- Que the dogs and sell it to eah other.

  6. tulip says:

    Some member candidates of this Rough, radical and power hungry group have just been newly elected, or re-elected into office.

    People who didn’t pay attention, or care, voted for these candidates who now may be “coached” and under the watchful eye of the RR club who got them into office and will see to it that the agenda of Flagler County will be to their benefit as much as possible.

    As to the “altercation” between Ruffalo and Mrs. Sullivan——shame on Ruffalo for shoving a woman who had every right to be there, Shame on Ruffalo for being a bully, and shame on the officers of the RR club who allow this type of behavior from a member.

    • Magnolia says:

      It was called a feud in the paper. How is a disagreement between two people from the same organization causing this much news and commotion? Rough, radical and power hungry? I was unaware that MoveOn.Org were in Palm Coast.

      No wonder we have no employment here in Flagler.

  7. kmedley says:

    These actions are more aligned with “Bungle in the Jungle”:

    “Just say a word and the boys will be right there:
    with claws at your back to send a chill through the night air.
    Is it so frightening to have me at your shoulder?
    Thunder and lightning couldn’t be bolder.
    I’ll write on your tombstone, “I thank you for dinner.”
    This game that we animals play is a winner.

    Jethro Tull

  8. Donna Heiss says:

    The following statements and comments are of my opinions, observations and dealings with the RRR, mainly John Ruffalo and Bob Hamby.

    This is not the only incident involving a disturbance at the headquarters location. There have been others. One involving me. Although there was no pushing or shoving on either side of the door, I was denied access. Let me explain. Mr.Hutson made it clear before “his” headquarters was even opened, that ALL republican candidates, their signs and literature were welcome there. I quickly learned the RRR had claimed the headquarters as their own. Signs and literature from “other” candidates that were not supported by the RRR were thrown away shortly after being delivered to headquarters. Mr. Hutson failed to keep control of “his” headquarters and the RRR quickly claimed it as their own, although it was Mr. Hutsons headquarters, he did nothing to make sure his original promise to all republican candidates was kept.

    I know all involved with this latest disturbance. Mrs. Sullivan is non confrontational with a gentle disposition and all around kind caring person who believes in doing the right thing. Mr Ruffalo and Mr. Hamby are quite abbrasive, hot tempered and not pleasant to be around. This again, is my opinion and observations.

    In the above article, it states Ms. Romaine as being the possible chosen one that the RRR will support. Ms. Romaine is an NPA. This does not bother me, however, the RRR makes it known they are STRONG supporters of party purity. REALLY? This is an excuse they use when there is a benefit to them.

    This latest incident does not surprise me. It does however reinforce my opinions and observations of just how controlling the RRR is.

    Again, the above statements and comments made by me are of my opinion, observations and dealings with the RRR.

  9. Robert Lewis says:

    Red Faced American? I applaud David for using delicate words. Had that man put his hands one wife, a police report would of been the least of the worries.

    Who the hell do these people think they are? Let’s go back to basic rules of being a gentleman:
    1) Never put your hand on a lady
    2) Never put your hand on another mans wife
    3) Treat others as you want them to treat you.

    • Clint says:

      “Who the hell do these people think they are? Let’s go back to basic rules of being a gentleman:”

      I use to be a gentleman decades ago. After the womens rights movement that changed everything.
      I tryed holding a door open for a female and I got insults and spit on for doing it. There’s more female TRASH walking around with tatooes and guns, swearing and spitting on the ground. I lost my “Gentleman ways” 10 years ago. I bet theirs another side to this story we have not heard.
      And if your so worried about being a gentleman, maybe its time your put some pants on instead of your wife wearing them.

  10. just a thought says:

    This has the making of a reality TV show. They all should be ashamed and embarrassed.

  11. JL says:

    Another reason I do not want the word Republican on my voter registration card anymore. The party is so out of touch with reality anymore. Both sides of this incident need to grow up. If I were running for any political party, I would not want either of these sides to be associated with me. This is why people get turned off by elections.

    Can we act like civilized adults and get along?

  12. JDA says:

    These people are ALL appauling! This kind of stuff is exactly why Flagler County was BLUE and all of the surrounding counties were RED! Throw them all out and start over with a united Republican commitee. If I were Mr. Hutson I would throw them out.

  13. Mary Q Public says:

    Thank you for bringing this out. I am wondering, why haven’t you reported anything on the struggles of the Democrats? For example, Milissa Holland has been fined $150 for violating state laws in her current campaign for not filing her July report on time. She’s been served 3 notices that she has ignored. Why? Is that just a prelude to the kind of state rep she would be?

    • Dorothea says:

      @Mary Q. Public

      All the notices were about the same three days late violation; one to Ms. Holland. one to her treasurer, and one acknowledgement No biggie, no pushing older woman around. The fine was paid.

  14. Gia says:

    They should stay home & play with their own pudding.

  15. tulip says:

    @ MARY Q PUBLIC Melissa was 3 days late in filing her treasurer’s report—big deal. She paid the fine. We have recently had candidates who were late in filing or paying something. Sometimes in a person’s busy life, time gets away from us and sometimes candidates are away and don’t receive the letter on time. She also has a campaign treasurer who might not have been paying close attention. I bet there is not one person that posts on this forum who hasn’t been late in a payment for something in their lifetime, and maybe even more than once. That does not make us bad people.

  16. concerned voter says:

    @ tulip…you are right…not bad people….just bad politicians and bad community leaders….regardless of political affiliation, if voters and supporters would really do their due diligence on all of the candidates before voting for them or endorsing them, Im sure both parties would be better united when supporting a candidate….I encourage all voters to look at the Form 6 reports, check public and court records, campaign reports, see whats being paid out of those campaign reports and for what, are there any violations, etc…, check registrations and cross reference to see if the addresses registered really match where candidates truly claim to reside and/or vote…You would be surprised how much info you can find through public searches and public records request… think its bad now, wait til all of the info starts coming out on candidates that were voted for in the primary and/or endorsed…..its only just begun….all voters should do their research on all of the candidates and make an informed decision…shouldnt vote for a candidate just because they like to party, are social, and/or appear to be a nice person, etc…what goes on behind the scenes when no one is looking is what truly makes up the character of a candidate, and public documents can reveal a candidates true character….the documents speak for themselves…..

    • Grade A+ says:

      Concerned Voter-
      Sounds like you do your homework and are an informed voter. You are right, it is too bad that people are supported and endorsed without really knowing anything about them.

      I hope those as yourself who do their homework, will help all of us to learn more about candidates before we go to the polls in November…sounds like maybe some candidates made it through the primary that wouldn’t have if the voters knew more abou them.

      We all have the same common goal, and if everyone would work together we would be much better off.

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