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Seeking Unity, Florida GOP Elects Leslie Dougher Party Chairman in Split Vote

| May 31, 2014

Lesluie Dougher is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty. (Facebook)

Lesluie Dougher is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty. (Facebook)

TAMPA–Florida Republicans on Saturday elected a new leader in a split vote that underscored the challenges Gov. Rick Scott faces from within his own party in his re-election effort.

With a 106-69 vote, GOP activists elected Clay County Realtor Leslie Dougher as chairwoman of the Republican Party of Florida to fill the remainder of the term of outgoing state party chief Lenny Curry.

The quarterly meeting of the state executive committee also provided an opportunity for Republicans to fire up their base and engage in a little Charlie Crist-bashing less than six months before the final ballots are cast in the governor’s race.

Dougher, 50, quickly became the heir-apparent to the leadership post after Curry announced his intention to step down early this month. The Coldwell Banker Realtor from Middleburg readily won the backing of leading Republicans, including state Sen. John Thrasher, a onetime RPOF chairman from St. Augustine who serves as Scott’s campaign chairman and who nominated Dougher Saturday morning.

“We are on the precipice, my friends in the Republican Party, of really making this state, as Gov. Scott loves to say, the best place to live, the best place to work and the best place to raise a family and do business,” Thrasher said. “But we can’t get there … if we let extraordinary issues … get in the way of that objective.”

But in a large white tent outside the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, Republicans appeared divided on which direction the party should go, with 40 percent of the 173 committee members throwing their support behind Eric Miller, a 47-year-old military veteran who also once challenged disgraced RPOF former chairman Jim Greer.

Lake County state committeewoman Patricia Sullivan of Mt. Dora nominated Miller, saying later that the choice “would have re-energized a lot of grass-roots activists disillusioned with some of the decisions the party has made,” pointing to controversial Common Core educational standards as an example.

Speaking with reporters after her election, Dougher discounted her margin of victory.

“It just means people have a differing view. Right now it’s all about party unity and bringing it together and supporting our governor and getting him re-elected,” said Dougher, who also holds the position of “chair of chairs,” and is chairwoman of the RPOF “county caucus.”

Scott also downplayed the dissent.

“Oh gosh. People are excited. They’re excited that Leslie Dougher will do a great job. They’re excited that we cut taxes $500 million. We’ve cut taxes 40 times. Excited about all the job openings, the dramatic change in our economy,” Scott told reporters after the meeting. “This is going to be a great election year for Republicans because we’re doing exactly what we talked about in 2010.”

Others were less enthusiastic about Scott’s evolution since taking office.

Scott campaigned on a tea party platform in his first bid for governor four years ago, pledging to bring an “Arizona-style” immigration law to the state and, in his first year in office, vetoing a record $615 million from the budget, which included $305 million of land-buying authority.

But, in an effort to reach out to Hispanic voters who could play a deciding role in November’s election, Scott this legislative session endorsed a measure that will allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities.

Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Bob White of Melbourne said he and his group were among Scott’s earliest supporters and “worked very hard” four years ago but are disappointed in his handling of Common Core and in the sheer size of the state budget.

“It’s not like we’re extremely disappointed. We’re just not satisfied,” said White, who is not a member of the executive committee.

But earlier in the morning, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam warned the party faithful that a Scott loss would allow “Hillary Clinton to have a beachhead in the governor’s mansion in Florida” and enable “John Morgan to control the Supreme Court.” Crist, a former Republican governor running this year as a Democrat, works for Orlando trial lawyer Morgan.

“Raise your hand if you attended a Lincoln Day dinner where Charlie Crist has claimed to be either a Ronald Reagan, Connie Mack or Jeb Bush Republican,” Putnam said. “Even respectable Democrats have to laugh at this guy. But he’s dangerous.”

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida

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3 Responses for “Seeking Unity, Florida GOP Elects Leslie Dougher Party Chairman in Split Vote”

  1. Dave says:

    Since I was at this RPOF meeting in Tampa I
    thought I would offer a comment. Two
    Points: First, the Republican Party here in Florida
    Is strongly united in our support for Governor
    Rick Scott not because of the Party but because
    He has and continues to do a fine job and statistics
    concerning the Florida economy point to this
    with the State Buget being balanced again,
    Debt reduced by over three billion dollars and
    A surplus of $500 Million in 2014 being returned
    To our citizens via tax cuts. Second, the
    Thing that really unites Florida Republicans is
    the fact that former Republican, Independent now
    Democrat Party candidate Charlie Criest will be Rick
    Scott’s opponent in the Election.
    So no need to worry about the Florida Republian
    Party, we have plenty of ideas and various
    concepts and positions on how to make a better
    future for all our citizens. We let our members
    freely express their ideas unlike Liberal
    Bastions like Rutgers University and other
    Colleges that refuse to let non Progressives
    Dave Sullivan

  2. A.S.F. says:

    I like a party that accuses the opposite party’s candidate of being “slippery” and less than forthcoming and then tries to underplay the divisions within their own ranks, as if everything is fine and dandy. Even the Florida Tea party has shown a degree of “slickness” by trying to dodge the disillusionment they have earned for themselves by simply changing their name and plastering Ronald Reagan’s face all over the new one. Look, Ma. I’m reborn…Only, not really.

    • Pogo says:

      Republican: see pardon of felon (and traitor, who sabotaged the Vietnam peace talks; launched secret from-congress invasions and sabotage of Laos, Cambodia, Chile, etc, did business with narco-warlords the world over and supported murdering right wing dictators any where) Nixon. But then he did let Red China off the hook. So there is that. It’s worked out so well…

      Or Reagan. Where’s the praise for his traitorous sabotage of the Iranian hostage talks; other secret from-congress dealings with Iran to sell them missiles that were capable of destroying airliners world wide (and then sends the profits from that federal crime to finance death squads and war in Central America; support for right wing dictators and their murderous death squads any where. Just forget Reagan’s cut and run from Beirut, 1983, after the sacrifice of hundreds of American lives. At least Nancy’s astrologer was there to keep things on track…

      GHWB? Google Newt Gingrich; Lee Atwater, Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, Frank Luntz (or just type soulless Republican creep.) And, ah yes – BFF of Saddam Hussein (until he wasn’t – Google Rumsfeld chills with Saddam.) At least big daddy knew better than to win the Iranian’s war with Iraq. Tragically, Dumbya ignored everyone but the Dick and the vampires and cannibals he pimps for…

      GW Bush? See Idiot. Also, Richard Bruce “the Dick” Cheney’s sock puppet. And/or American catastrophe; disaster, tragedy. See justifying crimes we executed others for. See forever war…

      Rick Scott. Rick Scott takes the 5th 75 times to get the truth – not. Who is Rick Scott’s Lt Gov? Depends on what day you ask. Who is Scott’s Chief-Of-Staff, and how many has he had? Why does the phrase “ethically challenged” apply to so much of Scott’s record? How many Floridians (including vets) have died needlessly because of Republirats stupid callous hostility to the Affordable Care Act. If you believe in a just God, and God’s judgement: be glad you’re not Rick Scott…

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