Epilogue: Randy Fine explains to colleagues why he dropped out of Speaker’s race

Florida House Committee Meetings

Rep. Randy Fine has officially dropped out of the Speaker’s race, telling his colleagues he would rather be a “member of a unified team than the leader of a fractured one.”

In a lengthy email to his classmates Friday night, the Brevard County Republican explained why initially got into the Speaker’s race and why — with just two weeks until the June 30 vote — he was dropping that bid.

“A large part of the reason I decided to run is that in my 20+ year business career, I’ve always operated inclusive, collaborative, empowered teams, and it was something I wanted to see in the Florida House. I didn’t want to be the ruler, and I didn’t want to be ruled. I spent a lot of time running under the old rules, and in fact, spent significant amounts of my own money helping many of you, and raised $100,000 of additional money that went to your campaigns directly. Make no mistake – I wanted to be Speaker, but even more importantly, if I was going to spend the next eight years doing this, I wanted to be part of a great team,” he wrote in email, obtained by FloridaPolitics.com.

“But my thought process started to change a few months ago, and in fact, I know the actual date – April 12th. On that day, just halfway into our first session, I saw what I thought was great camaraderie and class spirit rent by an effort that ended up dividing the class in two. Our group has not been the same since, and we all know it. We can’t even seem to keep our emails to ourselves.”

The race, which had been largely been happening behind the scenes, shot into the limelight in April, after state Rep. Alex Miller sent a text message to Rep. Joe Gruters that essential said the race was narrowing to a choice between Rep. Ralph Massullo and Rep. James Grant.

Gruters altered Rep. Paul Renner, who then then called a meeting, which was attended by about 15 members of the 27-member freshman GOP class, to address his colleagues about his interest in the Speaker’s race. Supporters of Renner believed Miller’s text might have violated new GOP rules, which prohibit soliciting support for a leadership contender.

Grant and Renner are considered the leading contenders for the Speaker’s race. Reps. Byron Donalds and Erin Grall have also announced their candidacy.

Fine said as the June 30 vote approaches, he became “increasingly concerned that the absence of clear rules to establish a winner that all of us could buy into — which I would note that we still do not have — we would become a fractured class, with a protracted Speaker’s Race, where no one, at least for some time, could get a majority.”

“I’m not interested in being part of that,” he wrote. “I’d rather be a member of a unified team than the leader of a fractured one.”

Fine said there were personal considerations to his decision as well. He said he misses his family, and the time away has “taken a real toll on our family.”

“My oldest is nine, but will be 16 at the end of our eight years. How much of those precious years do I want to miss? Those of you who know me know that my life revolves around the twin suns (or sons) of Jacob and David,” he wrote. “And I’m definitely not interested in spending time away from them to participate in a class fratricide.”

Fine also wrote that the family’s home was destroyed in October by Hurricane Matthew and the ensuing weather. While they had hoped it could be repaired quickly, Fine said it appears the house will need to be torn down, redesigned and entirely rebuilt.

“I believe God has a plan for each of us, and to a large degree, I believe His decision to put us through this dislocation was a message,” he wrote. “So I have decided to step away from it. I’m not going to call for us not to have a secret ballot, or attempt to call the question, or anything of the kind. I also believe that if it is over – if we want any shot of returning to an April 11th world – we should pull together. We should put Team over self.”

Fine did not disclose in his email who he planned to support in the Speaker’s race, saying he didn’t “want there to be any hint that I’m trying to influence anyone else to do anything they think is best.” On Friday, FloridaPolitics.com reported Fine is likely to support Renner for Speaker.

“I know there is a lot to process, but as we look to get together in a few weeks, I hope it can be in the spirit of unification,” wrote Fine.

Peter Schorsch

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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