Grassroots Republican candidates who want to run in the primary for Florida’s Congressional District 18 say they are being told to stay out of the race by the new chairman of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County.
Calvin Turnquest, a former village councilman and vice-mayor of Tequesta, sent out this tweet on Thursday:
Democrat Patrick Murphy won the seat in 2012, beating Lt. Col Allen West in a close race — in a district that should have favored the Republican. Now, the GOP wants payback in 2014, and numerous candidates have either announced their intentions to run or are planning to shortly.
Turnquest is extremely popular among grass-roots conservatives, and when he spoke to Ira Sabin about his plans to run, he said the new GOP leader told him, “There will be a candidate in the race with better name recognition and the ability to self-fund. Don’t get in the race.”
Contacted Sunday, Sabin denied telling Turnquest not to enter the contest and characterized his statements to him as nothing more than “advice.”
“The NRCC told me it’s going to take $3 million to $4 million to win this race, and I wanted to make sure he knew what he was getting into,” Sabin told me.
When asked to identify the bigger-name candidates, Sabin said, “Carl Domino can self-fund, and Adam Hasner is making noises.”
Beverly Hires, a Republican attorney from Jupiter who served as an Election Day lawyer for the Romney campaign and was a tireless watchdog during the Allen West recount, said Sabin gave her the cold shoulder, too.
Hires said she contacted Sabin to tell him she was considering a run, and he referred her to Keith Sonderling, who heads up candidate recruitment for the local GOP party. That’s when this exchange ensued in a private Facebook message:
When I contacted Hires, she emailed me this statement:
“I reached out to Ira Sabin, Palm Beach Republican Party’s controversial new chairman, to tell him I was running for Congress. I was very disappointed to learn he was engaging in unfair tactics aimed at preventing grassroots candidates. I am not deterred. I am calling for an end of attempts to game the election.”
At first, when asked about any conversations he had had with Hires, Sabin denied talking to her about the race. When I reminded him of the above conversation, Sabin said he thought Hires should set her sights lower because of the fundraising requirements.
“I would never tell any Republican not to run for anything,” he said, adding that any feedback he shared with Hires was, as with his conversations with Turnquest, “only advice.”
Another prospective candidate in the Republican primary for Murphy’s seat is Alan Schlesinger, a new Florida resident and former state legislator from Connecticut who lost a 2006 race against former Democrat and now-independent U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman.
When asked about his meeting with Sabin, Schlesinger responded like a good Republican soldier, saying: “We had a meeting. I can’t say I understand where he’s coming from, but it was a private meeting, and I can’t talk about it.”
But Sabin had much more to say about the meeting than Schlesinger did.
“I told him I didn’t think he should run because he’s open to the carpetbagger issue. He still pays a property tax bill in Connecticut,” Sabin said. “The conversation with Schlesinger ended up being a typical adversarial conversation with an attorney. We had a 360-degree conversation that ended where it started. He doesn’t know anything about Martin or St. Lucie counties, but he said that didn’t matter.”
“I had two witnesses in the room when I met with Schlesinger,” Sabin added. “The Republican Party didn’t even back him against Lieberman.”
When told of Sabin’s remarks, Schlesinger said, “I’ve gotten a tremendous and positive response from every member of the Palm Beach County REC I’ve spoken to about my candidacy. I wish Ira the best in his effort to run the local party. Ira is entitled to his opinion.”
It should be noted that Schlesinger did win a number of races when he was in Connecticut, and he’s not a political novice.
Besides the slew of grass-roots Republicans wanting to enter the District 18 race, Sabin has a few other problems he has to deal with. Fundraising has been slow, and the party recently “rescheduled” its annual golf tournament, an important spring money maker.
Then there’s this: Sabin’s party has yet to ratify its constitution because attendance at Republican Executive Committee meetings has been so poor that a quorum couldn’t be reached. Sabin had to send an email out earlier this month demanding members attend the June meeting.
Dear REC Member:
The vote on the constitution was postponed due to lack of attendance at the February & April rec meetings. Rec members have a responsibility and are required to attend rec meetings. At the April rec meeting, there were only about half of the total membership in attendance at the meeting. When rec members do not attend rec meetings, the committee cannot conduct business. We ask that all rec members take seriously their responsibility to attend meetings. If the June meeting does not have 2/3rds of the entire committee in attendance, the meeting will be adjourned immediately.
I’ve written about Sabin’s missteps before in, GOP backstabber “Al Zucaro” joins board of Republican club, and “GOP boss: Don’t talk about Allen West voter fraud or other ‘oddball issues.’ ”
Sabin needs to figure out how to be an effective chairman fast, or 2014 is going to be an awfully long year for Republicans in Palm Beach County.