Are Ron Paul Republicans Welcome in the Republican Party of Florida?

Jim Greer, Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), has been rolling up the welcome mat for Ron Paul supporters. RPOF has been working overtime to exclude and purge Paulistas from the party. Many county Republican Executive Committees (REC) are breaking and changing rules to specifically target Ron Paul grassroots. In telephone conference calls and board meetings the RPOF openly talks about the Ron Paul problem. According to the party line, this is necessary so that Florida would not become another “Nevada”, where the Paulistas embarrassed the entrenched hierarchy. This seems to be a sham. RPOF's rules are tougher than most states. Another “Nevada” is impossible in Florida. First of all, in Nevada Paul beat McCain so it is only expected that he should receive the majority of delegates there. In Florida Paul received 3% of the vote. Florida was winner take all, with delegates being bound for 3 votes. Secondly, the delegate selection process was completely controlled by party insiders who were chosen up to 2 years prior to Ron Paul even being in the race. During the selection process only party insiders and elected officials were chosen as delegates, because they would only vote for themselves. Out of 225 delegates and alternates, there were only 6 Ron Paul supporters selected. RPOF runs a pretty tight ship and there was absolutely no chance of Ron Paul supporters sending a majority of delegates to the Republican National Convention (RNC). So what is the real reason behind the purging of grassroots from the Party?

Let me give you some background and then you decide.

1) Jim Greer, Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF).

Charlie Crist was elected Governor in 2006 and wanted to control the Republican Party. Jim Greer was handpicked by the Governor to lead RPOF. In order to become State Chairman you must first be elected as County Chairman, State Committeeman, or State Committeewoman of your County Republican Executive Committee. There was only one problem. Mr. Greer did not hold a Republican Party position. But the solution was simple. Governor Crist asked a long time Republican to step down from his elected party position so that Mr. Greer could legally run as State Chairman.

Greer challenged the incumbent Chairman, Carole Jean Jordan and won because of Governor Crist’s endorsement. Carole Jean Jordan had been a long time activist within the party, a National Committeewoman, and a 2 term Chairman. She was generally well liked within the party and always had a heart for the grassroots. She grew the party.

Many local party officials were upset and demoralized that Mr. Greer was elected as Chairman with no party experience. He did not come up from the ranks of the party. His only claim to fame was that the Governor handpicked him for the position.

2) The Legislature.

After Charlie Crist was elected governor, the political insiders started looking toward the next election cycle. They were concerned about consolidating power and using that power to influence the Presidential election. Florida was very rarely a player because the Presidential Preference Primary was held in March, after the nominee had already been determined. In order to thrust Florida into the spotlight, the Legislature passed a bill authorizing a January 29th election, even though the bill violated Republican Party rules. Now Florida was on the political map.

Nobody worried about any party sanctions because Senator Mel Martinez was head of the RNC and would not let anything happen to the Florida delegation. The primary was a win for everyone. Jim Greer, the RPOF, and the Governor would get to play Presidential politics, no Republican repercussions, and it would cause a lot of problems for the Democrats. In St. Paul all Republican delegates will be seated.

Florida has a tough resign to run law. If you are going to run for office, you have to resign any office you are currently holding. This bill gutted the resign to run statutes. The new law created an exception which only applied to a few people. If you are a state elected official, you do not have to resign your seat in order to run for a federal office. Now it was possible for Charlie Crist to run for Vice-President and not have to resign the governorship.

Another little known provision in the bill gave Chairman Jim Greer unprecedented powers to clamp down on dissent within the party. The new statutes read as follows:

(1) The chair of the state executive committee is empowered to remove or suspend from an office within the chair's political party any officer, state committeeman, state committeewoman, county committeeman, county committeewoman, precinct committeeman, precinct committeewoman, or other member of a state executive committee, county executive committee, political party club, or other organization using the political party name as provided in s. 103.081 for a violation of the oath of office taken by such individual or for engaging in other activities described in this section.

(2) Such violation may include engaging in activities that have or could have injured the name or status of the political party or interfered with the activities of the political party. The chair has sole discretion to determine if a violation occurred.

The emphasis is mine. The chair has sole discretion. This doesn't sound very Republican, does it? This new statute further demoralized some local Republican officials. If you did not support the party line you could be thrown out of the party. This posed a problem, especially with Bush Fatigue setting in. If you supported long held conservative viewpoints, you could be at odds with a liberal Republican message from Washington. Many people became afraid to speak out against the party and its management, except within their own inner circle of friends. The Republican Party was beginning to close its doors.

Jim Greer has started to endorse liberal Republican insiders prior to any primary. This creates an issue, because you can be deemed as interfering with the activities of the Republican Party if you want to support another Republican candidate. These new policies have effectively locked the doors of the “big tent” and have further added to some demoralization within the RPOF.

3) The Rise of Ron Paul Republicans

As the Legislature was changing the statutes, Ron Paul's star was rising. As his campaign for liberty spread, more and more people started to support freedom. People were organizing on the internet and meetup groups were springing up. At a Ron Paul Meetup you could usually see teenagers, single parents, middle aged, senior citizens, blue collar, white collar, minorities, etc. It was amazing that a simple message of liberty could resonate with such a diverse group of people. Many had never been involved in politics before, but there was something about the Ron Paul message that was motivating. As the groups grew they became informally connected throughout the state and started to share experiences and information. Many groups were starting to set up sign wavings, phone banks, door to door canvassing, and political booths. They were writing news articles, blogs, creating videos, and writing music. In some areas the meetups were joining their local RECs and Republican Clubs. In fact, several of the most dedicated groups were generating more grassroots political activity and had a network larger than their local REC. When Ron Paul visited Florida he routinely drew crowds in much larger numbers than any of his competitors. It was not unusual to see hundreds of Ron Paul supporters for every 3 or 4 supporters for the other candidates.

There were many events and debates held by the RPOF to showcase Republican presidential candidates, but Jim Greer was discriminating. Giuliani, Thompson, McCain, and Romney all received preferential treatment at official events while the remaining candidates were excluded. Nobody likes to be excluded, so the Ron Paul Republicans became more determined. In some counties they started participating in local RECs and clubs to the alarm of the establishment. Some County Chairmen went into executive session to prevent supporters from attending meetings. Others changed the meeting dates or simply cancelled at the last minute. And yet, another hired law enforcement officers to escort Ron Paul Republicans from their meetings. As a result of party preferences toward candidates, the RPOF has indirectly contributed to Ron Paul Republicans’ growth by creating a “we against them” attitude that is still prevalent today. There are many establishment party regulars who are closet supporters because of RPOF’s actions. The only crime that the Ron Paul Republicans were guilty of is knocking on the locked door of the Republican “big tent”.

4) The Key to the Locked Door

In Florida, once every four years the entire Republican Executive Committee of every Florida County is reconstituted. 2008 happens to be the year. This means that the 4 year term of every member of every Republican Executive Committee in every county expires on November 30, 2008. Florida Statutes allows for 1 precinct committee man and 1 precinct committee woman per 1000 registered voters. Some counties have hundreds of precinct committeeman and committeewoman positions, many of which have been vacant for years. These positions are not advertised to the Republican voters because party insiders want to remain in control by discouraging participation. Ron Paul Republicans through their networking realized they could fight back using Florida Statutes and reconstitute their local REC. As they researched the rules to know what they legally needed to do, Jim Greer and the RPOF were meeting with attorneys to change these rules in order to discriminate against anyone who was not approved by party insiders.

Statutorily in order to run for Precinct Committeeman or woman, District Committeeman or woman, or State Committeeman or woman you have to fill out one form with the Supervisor of Elections office in the county in which you reside. Precinct Committeemen or women are elected from their own individual precinct. District Committeemen and women are elected from their district. The vast majority of counties in Florida use the precinct system of election. There are only a few of the most populous counties that use the district system. State Committeemen and women are elected countywide and become the local REC’s representatives to the RPOF. After you complete your qualifying form, your name would be placed upon the ballot within your own precinct with the election being held concurrent with the Republican Primary. The majority of candidates are elected unopposed.

5) Changing Locks

Knowing this, Jim Greer decided that the RPOF should have a say in determining who was granted ballot access. New rules were put into place. If you wanted to run for State Committeeman or woman you now had to pay a $25 filing fee, sign an RPOF loyalty oath prior to your election, and had to be a current member of your local REC. RPOF could also dictate to the Division of Elections who they should place on the ballot. If you wanted to run for Precinct Committeeman or woman, you had to file a loyalty oath with your current REC chairman. The REC Chairman could also dictate to the county Supervisor of Elections who to put on the ballot. These rules effectively blocked any new Republican from running for a party position without the party’s blessing. The rules were solidified with a conference call to all the County Chairmen around May 20th explaining what needed to be done for qualification. Richard Coates, interim legal counsel for RPOF, attended to answer any questions. The RPOF hierarchy had moved forward to close party elections.

Within the RPOF there is a group who did not like what Jim Greer had been doing to stifle debate, exclude volunteers, and now closing the door to the election process. The new rules were leaked to the Republicans who tried to work behind the scenes to ensure fair and open party elections. After some discussion on June 3rd the Division of Elections notified 67 Supervisors of Elections clarifying and striking down the new rules in a memorandum that stated:

1) The State Committeeman and Committeewoman will qualify with Supervisor of Elections office.

2) The District and Precinct Committeeman and Committeewoman will qualify with the Supervisor of Elections office.

3) Filing officers do not have to verify that candidates for committeeman or committeewoman have a party oath on file with the Republican Party.

It was further clarified by the Division of Elections that the fulfillment of this RPOF request would be outside the jurisdictional scope of the filing officer’s responsibilities and that the filing officer has no obligation to look beyond what is required by law. All Republicans could now be assured of open and free party elections or so they thought. Like a villain in a B movie rising from the dead, RPOF came back with a new interpretation of the rules. Currently the official party position is in agreement with the Division of Elections in the fact that any Republican can follow the process and get ballot placement and ultimately be elected to any party position. Now RPOF says that even though you might be elected, they have the right to keep you from serving unless you comply with RPOF’s qualifying rules as well. Jim Greer issued the following clarification to party insiders June 13th.

To: RPOF State Committee Members
From: James A. Greer, Chairman
Subject: Election and Party Oath Procedures
Date: June 12, 2008

“As each of you is aware, there has been much discussion regarding when, and with whom the party loyalty oath should be filed and the process for filing for election as Precinct, District, and State Committeeperson.

In addition, there has recently been new information provided by the Division of Elections along with other relevant facts which requires me to clarify the process and ensure that the integrity and organizational structure of our local RECs are maintained in accordance with our party’s constitution and rules.

Therefore, after additional consultation with our party’s General Counsel and after personally reviewing our party’s rules and regulations, I have concluded the following:

1) Based on our party’s governing documents, including Rules 5, 8, 9 and 11, the party, in its sole discretion, has the authority to govern its membership and all internal matters. This includes determining eligibility and qualification requirements for all party offices.

2) Republican Party of Florida Rule 9 states that the newly approved party loyalty oath that was adopted at the February 2008 Annual meeting must be signed and filed with the local REC County Chairman. As a result, anyone running for State, District or Precinct Committeeperson must file the party loyalty oath no later than noon on Friday, June 20, 2008 in order to be considered properly qualified under party rules to seek or hold such office.

3) County Chairs shall have thirty days upon receipt to forward copies of such oath to the State Party.

4) In addition to the Party Loyalty oath and pursuant to Florida Statutes 99.021 and 99.061, anyone running for party office must also file between noon on Monday, June 16, 2008, and noon on Friday, June 20, 2008, the necessary Oath of Candidate qualification form with the local Supervisor of Elections. Depending on the office sought the forms are DS-DE 24C (Precinct), DS-DE24D (District) and DS-DE24E (State).

5) Local County REC Chairs shall monitor and advise the State Party of any persons who have filed to run for a party office with the local Supervisor of Elections but have failed to file a properly execute the party loyalty oath with the local County Chair.

6) Basically, the Supervisor of Elections conducts party office elections as a “vendor” to the party and has no jurisdiction relating to a person’s qualification to hold party office as it relates to the Party Loyalty Oath. As a result, any person filing the necessary paperwork to comply with Florida Statutes 99.012 and 99.061 may be placed on the ballot by the Supervisor of Elections. However, placement on the ballot alone or subsequent election does not constitute qualification for party office under the Rules of the Republican Party.

7. It is solely within the party’s discretion and authority to determine whether a person has met The Republican Party of Florida’s requirements to hold party office. Therefore, any person who fails to provide the county REC Chairman a properly executed party loyalty oath by noon on Friday, June 20, 2008 shall be ineligible to hold party office resulting from elections conducted on August 26, 2008.

8. Together Republican Party of Florida Rule 11 and Florida Statue 103.091 provide that State Committeemen and State Committeewomen are members of their local Republican executive committee and must maintain a status as a “member in good standing.” This rule does not apply to persons seeking election to such an office, but is a requirement for persons holding such office.

9. The Party will provide assistance to all State Committee Members to ensure appropriate filings are made for election and re-election.

This memorandum dated this Wednesday, June 11, 2008 shall supersede all previous communications relating to this matter and shall be final. As Chairman, it is my fiduciary responsibility to ensure that our party remains strong, unified and that our procedures are met.

Finally, I shall ask the Executive Board to affirm this decision and consider adopting this procedure at our next regularly scheduled meeting in August. However until such time, this procedure shall have full force and effect and all requirements set forth will be enforced.”

Jim Greer, Chairman RPOF

6) The Future of the Republican Party of Florida

Republicans everywhere should stand up, take notice, and look toward the future. The decline of the RPOF has been happening long before Ron Paul even thought of running for President. Party officials have continued to place a greater emphasis on personal control than growing the party. You are seeing more and more Republicans starting to lose elections. This is a result of stifled debate, internal controls, and negative party growth. In order to win elections you have to build grassroots organizations within the party structure, talk about the issues, be open to all viewpoints, and first and foremost be willing to grow. This is precisely what the Ron Paul Republicans can bring to the RPOF. They have had a phenomenal amount of success building grassroots organizations and networking on a statewide scale. It was astounding to see such a diversity of people who realized that freedom and liberty are just too important to ever be taken for granted. They all believe in Constitutional government and the Republican principles of lowering taxes, cutting spending, and restoring personal responsibility for all Americans. Isn’t that what we as Republicans should be all about? Do we have to go through a disastrous election cycle before we see the light? Or will we see an explosion of grassroots growth and revitalization in our party? Only time will tell.

7) It's Up To You!

If you wish to run for a party position all you need to do is fill out your qualifying paperwork, have it notarized, and file with your local Supervisor of Elections office between Noon on Monday, June 16th and Noon on Friday, June 20th. You also have to fill out a party loyalty oath and provide it to your local REC Chairman by Noon of Friday, June 20th.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author/contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nolan Chart or its ownership

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