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Orange Co. GOP leader: Blaise Ingoglia should resign as Florida GOP chairman

Another shot has fired in the contentious behind-the-scenes battle in the Florida GOP over the future House Speakership of Eric Eisnaugle.

Orange County RPOF Chairman Lew Oliver, in an email obtained Friday by FloridaPolitics.com, confirms that four House members’ districts vulnerable to Democrats in 2016 (three in Orange County), were given a “motive” to pair up with freshman Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the RPOF, in becoming Speaker in 2021-2022.

In the email, Oliver calls the Republican Party in Tallahassee “rudderless,” and once again warns of Ingoglia and his surrogates poaching votes in the Speaker’s race. In essence, Oliver says if this pressure can happen in Orange County, the prospect of “starving” Republican seats in 2016 can happen anywhere statewide.

Last week, first Oliver leveled similar charges of an intimidation campaign for supporting Ingoglia over Eisnaugle, the Orlando Republican, following a letter from former RPOF chair Leslie Dougher. Ingoglia defeated Dougher in January, setting off an increasing rift in the Party.

As reported in FloridaPolitics.com, Eisnaugle’s future Speakership might be on shaky ground.

Eisnaugle does enjoy the support of himself, Reps. Scott Plakon, Colleen Burton, Bob Cortes, Brad Drake, Fred Costello, Julio Gonzalez, Shawn Harrison, Mike Miller, Rene Plascenia, and Paul Renner. However, while Costello considers a run for Ron DeSantis’ congressional district if DeSantis decides to enter the U.S. Senate race for Marco Rubio’s seat, Cortes, Harrison, Miller, and Plascenia all face legitimate Democratic challenges. Since 2016 is a presidential cycle, the possibility increases that the Florida Democratic Party can get its act together just enough to win at least one of these seats.

Hey, it could happen.

Here is the text of Oliver’s latest email:

Dear RPOF Members:

Attached is a link to article that appeared today that more clearly connects several dots some of you have been asking about: 

http://www.saintpetersblog.com/archives/225930

I have confirmed the basics of the article with an individual who was present at the event described.

It connects 2 dots of note that I have expressed serious concern about:

1) It confirms that our chairman is in the middle of the controversy, and is clearly positioning himself to run for speaker, even though I am told that he directly assured many of you he was not.

2) It lays out in stark detail – as I have said – that 4 of Mr. Eisnaugle’s votes for speaker (3 in Orange County) are in vulnerable “battleground” districts that will be challenged by Democrats strongly in 2016, thereby providing the MOTIVE to pair up with the OPPORTUNITY for an RPOF Chairman, acting directly with RPOF funds, or indirectly using house campaign funds, to starve these seats. There is no more perverse incentive than this, nor any more serious and direct conflict of interest. It creates a MOTIVATION to LOSE Republican seats. The appearance and opportunity for impropriety would bad enough, but in this case, the threats were actually issued. Whether the chairman himself actively issued them or not (and I believe he did not), they were issued on his behalf and I believe it would be remarkable for him not to be well aware of them (since everyone else in both chambers is aware of them).

Those of you who have good relations with your members of EITHER HOUSE, or with the Governor, or with the Cabinet, or with your congressmen, should call them and ask their opinion about this situation. Now is that time. I believe most of them will tell you that they are AT LEAST a little uneasy about this, and many of have told me that they are VERY uneasy. We have a Presidency to win. Our Chairman has to be focused on that like a laser beam, not engaged in Machiavellian maneuvers that could lose valuable Hispanic seats and upset scores of elected officials as “collateral damage”.  2/3 of our state government (and a sizable chunk of the other 1/3) doesn’t trust him. I believe they will tell you he should go. This is too much.

Blaise Ingoglia is likable and hardworking, and he has done much for many of us, and for his own county and legislative constituents. He has worked his way up from the bottom. And he is certainly no Jim Greer who was handed his Chairmanship mainly through a connection to one man. That said, this whole thing is just DEAD WRONG and just about everyone sees it to one degree or another. We have seen ambitious people use the party and its resources for their own personal benefit before. We simply cannot afford it again.

Before yesterday’s events, I would have been satisfied with a pledge from the chairman not to run for Speaker. We are now past that point. Irreversible damage has been done. Large segments of our constituency in the public, our committee and among our allied elected officials have become disillusioned with a Party leadership that they no longer trust.  Members who voted for him with enthusiasm now tell me they wish they hadn’t. We desperately needed the support of the Senate and Governor, and now that is even LESS likely. Soon, the donors we have from other sources will begin to ask tough questions and withhold contributions.  We are largely broke, and the prospects for rescue are not bright.

Additionally, many in Tallahassee have told me that the Party is rudderless and doing little because it’s leader is absent while functioning as a member of the house (and campaigning in the Speaker’s race).

If our chairman wants to mount a campaign for Speaker of the House, I wish him luck, but we should not be paying him a 6-figure salary to subsidize that task, and we should not tolerate a chairman someone who is not UNCONDITIONALLY committed – without conflict – to protect every office our party is constituted to defend.  He ought to resign and pursue his other interests without dragging the party into a civil war among branches of government, elected officials and rank and file volunteers.   

Lew Oliver

Orange Chair

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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