Kathleen King steps down as chair of Manatee GOP

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She will retain her position as National Committeewomen for Florida on the RNC.

Kathleen King has left her position as chair of the Manatee County Republican Party. But she still serves as the Florida’s GOP National Committeewoman and will remain on the executive committees of the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Florida.

The move comes months after King survived a challenge to her leadership, fending off a run for chair by Lakewood Ranch Republican Club chair Steve Vernon. That battle was settled in December.

Yet tensions have remained. King resigned her post and so did Vice Chair Ken Piper. That leaves Secretary Sandy Piper leading on an interim basis but a special meeting will be called to pick permanent leadership, according to Manatee County State Committeewoman Cindy Spray.

King ultimately spent 15 years leading the county party, making her the longest serving county chair in Florida until her departure this week.

“People don’t realize how difficult party politics is and she deserves a lot of credit for her time in charge and the wins and successes Manatee County Republicans had over the time she’s been chair,” said Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

Gruters, before ascending to his statewide post, served for years as chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota County. Manatee and Sarasota fall in the same judicial circuit and share a number of other political jurisdictions, most notably Florida’s 16th Congressional District. That meant King and Gruters often worked together to ensure Republicans won local political offices.

“If you have a strong chairman doing the legwork, the campaign doesn’t have to do it,” Gruters said. “It pays off through voter registration and turnout at elections. She has done an amazing job.

“Candidates all up and down the ballot will be sad she’s moving on.”

Sources in Buchanan’s orbit also credited King with much of the success the GOP has enjoyed in Manatee during the last two decades.

“Name me another chairman across the state who worked harder or cared more,” said Max Goodman, a political strategist who has worked with King for over a decade. “Kathy was the indelible glue that helped solidify victory after victory for Republican candidates throughout Manatee County for the past 15 years. You don’t fill those kind of shoes overnight.”

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What happens after King remains to be seen.

Vernon confirmed he will “absolutely” be mounting another run. Spray also said she has been approached about running but wants to see how the race develops.

“I have mixed feelings about the whole thing,” she said. “Have I been approached? Yes. Have I said yes or no? No, I have not.”

King did not return calls or emails for comment.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]



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