Steve Vernon, president of the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club, won election Monday night as Manatee County’s GOP chair.
He succeeds Kathleen King, who stepped down as county chair last month after 15 years on the job; King remains Florida’s national committeewoman on the Republican National Committee.
King’s departure as county chair prompted a special vote of the REC, held Monday evening.
Vernon notably challenged King in December for the county chair position but fell short. More recently, he campaigned heavily against the ultimately renewed extension of a school property tax supporting the Manatee County School District.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be elected chairman of the Republican Executive Committee and to lead the Republican Party in Manatee County especially into the important upcoming 2022 election year,” Vernon told Florida Politics.
“The GOP in Manatee will continue to uphold the core principles of limited constitutional government, free enterprise, and fiscal restraint & responsibility. For years, we have been a strong conservative Republican County and we plan to get even stronger by electing even more Republicans.”
In the build-up to this chair race, Vernon faced no significant opposition. He shored up endorsements from all of the lawmakers representing Manatee County in the Legislature, as well as former Senate President Bill Galvano, he said.
“Congratulations Steve Vernon on your election as Chair of the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee,” tweeted Rep. Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican. “Our local party is in great hands!”
Vernon has run for the Florida Legislature before. He ran for a then-open seat in House District 73 in 2016, but lost to Joe Gruters by just 385 votes. Of note, Gruters has gone on to win a seat in the state Senate and to become Republican Party of Florida state chair.
Gruters was a close ally to King, and has also championed limits on dark money largely based on his experiences in that 2016 run with anonymous negative mailers.