‘RPOF Chair Debate’ set for Friday as race for party leadership becoming a spirited contest

scott-dougher
Photo Credit Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat

The midterm elections may be over, but the race for leadership of the Republican Party of Florida is just heating up among a thickening field of candidates.

And despite some high-powered endorsements, the sitting chairman faces a battle in her bid to stay in command of the party.

The interest and anticipation make for a perfect setting for a debate scheduled later this week among announced candidates.

A week after winning a second term, Gov. Rick Scott threw his weight behind Leslie Dougher for re-election as state party chairman. But the governor’s backing did little to solidify Dougher as frontrunner. Instead, a stream of candidates is lining up to challenge Dougher, who is hoping to capitalize on Republicans’ successful showing in the midterm elections.

ericmillerIncluded in the list of challengers is Martin County’s Eric Miller, who lost to Dougher by a thinner-than-expected margin in the May election. That contest was held to replace Lenny Curry, who stepped down as party chairman to pursue a mayoral bid in Jacksonville.

Miller announced his run in an email early last week. He promises “responsible reform,” touting the slogan, “It’s our party, and your choice!”

State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, now serving as the party’s vice chairman, has also announced his candidacy, promising to make the party more of a “team effort.”

blaise-ingoglia“With the upcoming Presidential Election, we have many challenges ahead of us, and we must be ready,” he wrote in an email. “In order to regain the White House, we must win Florida, and it’s up to us, the grassroots, to deliver that win.

In an email sent Friday, another potential candidate, former state Rep. Kurt Kelly, spoke of the “opportunity to choose our leaders,” promising to make an announcement in a few days on “the future of our party.”

“As Republicans we do well to remember that all we have as a people is balanced in the hands of those who serve us,” Kelly wrote. “It must always be our goal to work tirelessly to elect those who serve with principles, values and virtue.”

With the slate of candidates still evolving and no shoo-in poised for certain victory, the upcoming “RPOF Chair Debate” promises to be a lively and informative affair, allowing announced candidates to make their pitch at the quarterly meeting Friday in Tampa. The event is expected to stir interest from other challengers to come forward in the next few days.

The debate may be broadcast online, but those details are still being worked out.

The chairman election will be held at the annual meeting in January.

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Tom Tillison

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