Billed as the “First Annual Shootout,” the Pinellas County Republican Party and Executive Committee hosted local and state politicians as well as outdoors enthusiasts at the Tampa Bay Sporting Clays in Land O’ Lakes, days before Florida lawmakers return for its 60-day session.
Organized by Matt Lettelleir, Director of Party Development for the PCRP and its Executive Committee, the event was the organization’s first official fundraiser for 2016.
Lettelleir said the event’s purpose was multidimensional as an opportunity to raise money, initiate camaraderie and to celebrate Second Amendment rights. Participants then gathered for a barbecue and awards ceremony.
Nine teams, including three corporate, included the pairing of Commissioner of Agriculture and keynote speaker Adam Putnam, PCRPEC Chair Nick DiCeglie, former PCRPEC Chairman and Governor’s Appointee Committeeman Jay Beyrouti and Rep. Larry Ahern (HD 66).
Putnam, who said he received his marksmanship direction from his dad, Dudley, said he has been shooting clays since he was old enough to hold a gun.
Hitting 44 of 50 clays on the property’s Green Course, Putnam scored the highest individual score among noncorporate team members.
ICS corporate team member Justin Helms shot 47 of his 50 clays for a team total of 158, second to corporate team winner Docks and Decks who finished with a score of 167.
Taking first-place in the noncorporate category was the team of Bob Hatfield, Pinellas County Property Appraiser candidate Mike Twitty, Tom Whitman and Mel Sams, for a combined score of 126. Hatfield serves as a staffer for U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis.
Joining Putnam at the barbecue and addressing participants for a few moments was Sen. Jeff Brandes (Dist. 22), returning from services for his grandmother, who died earlier in the week.
“We intend to give you good strong leadership, consistency and lower taxes,” Brandes said. “Our No. 1 role is to make sure we’re representing you well in Tallahassee.”
Putnam called the event a great breakaway on a Friday and an opportunity to celebrate individual freedoms.
“All of you are doing something to make us better instead of just complaining,” Putnam said, “This is what the PRC represents.”
Putnam urged party members to “continue to talk about how to shape our future by shaping the next election.” The Commissioner called the 2016 presidential election “the most consequential in our lifetime.”
Putnam stressed that the Republican Party is embracing the entrepreneurial spirit of young people, something vital to the economic success of Florida.
“We are the third most populous state in the nation and the one most impacted by the recession,” Putnam said. “The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine wrote our obituary a couple of years ago and now we lead the nation in job creation and entrepreneurship is growing.”
As for the 2016 presidential Election, Putnam said that while many of the candidates are “running around talking about what they’ve done in their state, none of them can hold a candle to what we’ve done here in Florida.”