Joe Henderson: Rift between Hillsborough Republicans had to happen

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A group of rational local GOP leaders broke away because they were tired of crazy talk.

The growing fissure in the Hillsborough County Republican Party is the inevitable result of its current leadership selling lies as truth and conspiracy as fact.

As local GOP consultant Anthony Pedicini told Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics, “The inmates took over the asylum, and people left. There was nothing there for anyone to do.”

Indeed, under Hillsborough GOP Chair Jim Waurishuk, the organization has moved steadily to the far-out-right edge of the flat earth.

Next stop: lunatic fringe.

Hillsborough County has trended blue for the last several years. That’s particularly true in East Hillsborough, which not all that long ago was solid red. That’s not a coincidence because most people on both sides of the political spectrum don’t buy wacko fantasies about stolen elections and vaccines that plant microchips in your head.

They appear to see Republicans like Waurishuk as detached from reality. Maybe they voted Republican when that party stood on conservative principles of limited government and fiscal restraint, but no more. Howling at the moon is not leadership.

Democrats hold a 5-2 edge on the County Commission after Republicans controlled that chamber for many years. And even though the Mayor’s race is nonpartisan in Tampa, Democrat Jane Castor easily dispatched conspiracy-spouting David Straz in the city’s most recent mayoral election. Straz was free of political affiliation, but he was a known Republican donor and he voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

The county’s shift to the left, paired with the party establishment’s shift to the way right of right is why a group of respected local Republicans broke away to form the Hillsborough Leadership Council. It has some heavy hitters.

Rep. Jackie Toledo has earned a reputation as a solid, focused lawmaker in Tallahassee. She wants Waurishuk gone, and so does Hung Mai, one of the group’s co-founders and a longtime GOP donor.

State Committeewoman April Schiff and Nancy Watkins, a powerhouse figure in statewide GOP finance, also are on board.

They see the damage this spate of comic book politics has done to a party they care deeply about.

Schiff filed a grievance with state Republican leadership, which has yet to take action.

Schiff noted the local Republican Party has one job: “Get local Republicans elected. They have failed at that.”

This could be one reason why. Waurishuk invited one of the faces of GOP insanity, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, to speak at the Hillsborough Lincoln Day Dinner. That seemed over the top.

Waurishuk also spread the lie that mysterious forces stole the presidential election. That never happened, but why let logic interfere with B.S. crazy talk?

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, he posted an incredibly inflammatory lie.

Every American better wake up. If we loose (sic) this country you will loose (sic) your life. If you’re a Republican, Conservative, Democrat Trump supporter, etc. — you will be murdered,” he wrote. “You will be dragged from your burning home and be beat to death. This is a fact. This what they stand for.”

Republicans did loose — er, lose — in 2020. There are no reports of people dragged from their burning homes and beat — uh, beaten — to death.

This trend toward lunacy is not a recent phenomenon, though.

La Gaceta reported in 2019 that Waurishuk wrote on his Facebook page, “Democrats leaders do pray…eagerly desiring the opportunity and advocating for more violence, devastation & destruction of mass shootings! Why? For the sole purpose of Fundraising! As a number of them have done…”

Stuff like this is why the only choice is a clean break and to rebuild on positions that make sense to rational humans. Good on them for trying.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Ron Ogden

    November 10, 2021 at 8:06 pm

    So, Joe, just when did YOU invest anything of yourself in Republican politics? How many streets have YOU walked, how many doors have YOU knocked, you many calls have YOU made? How many meetings have YOU attended, and how many times have YOU interviewed the people you are writing about? How many people have YOU consoled as they wept because they believe Donald Trump–and therefore they, themselves, and their America, were cheated by the Adam Schiffs of the world out of their just due. How many paraplegics in wheelchairs have YOU pushed across rutted fields so they could fulfill their dream of being close to the candidate himself? How much of anything real in politics have YOU ever actually done?

    • tom palmer

      November 10, 2021 at 9:57 pm

      As an older and wiser person once told me. It is not the time you put in, but what you put in the time.

    • Joe Henderson

      November 11, 2021 at 6:24 am

      As usual Ron, you make no sense. But it’s your First Amendment right to do that, so go right ahead and howl at the moon. Peace, out.

      • Ron Ogden

        November 11, 2021 at 9:04 am

        Well then let me explain it to you all over again. I challenge your standing to discuss anything having to do with the Republican Party. You do not understand the motivation of the people who serve in it, you have not engaged it, you have not SOUGHT to understand them and, frankly, I doubt you would ever TRY to understand them. You self-conceit won’t permit it. You envision yourself as occupying a higher circle and you disdain to soil your hem. Peace? Peace, hell! You and your ilk are the opponents of democracy, you reject the idea of government “of, by and for” the people because these are just the same people you disdain with such olympian narcissism. When you are willing to deal with someone who believes in Donald Trump as a moral and intellectual equal, then maybe there will be peace. Not until.

  • ScienceBLVR

    November 10, 2021 at 8:24 pm

    Ron, you are asking the wrong questions! I was raised by two middle of the road Republicans. The party now..not an “R” not conservative. I’m not sure exactly what the party is now, but not anything resembleing normal. My poor true Conservative Mom has not voted for a Republican Presidential candidate for three cycles now. This bullshit turned her to the light of liberalism her children embrace. Ha! You’ve lost your way and we are taking back the country for science, truth, and the American way….

    • Ron Ogden

      November 11, 2021 at 6:01 am

      “. . .we are taking back the country for science, truth, and the American way…”
      Like all innate liberals, ScienceBLVR, you suffer from a Superman complex. There was nothing scientific about Superman–it was all just a fantasy world for preteens. Trouble is, a lot of you carried it with you for your entire lives and you are trying to make America live it today. Pity.

  • Charles

    November 11, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    How about somebody washes out Jackassery Joe Hendersons mouth. This man is a filthy sewer rat. He can take some good information and insert his filth and yellow journalism. Time for the curmudgeon to retire and antagonize his family, likely they find him disgusting as well.

    • Ocean Joe

      November 11, 2021 at 2:23 pm

      Speaking of curmudgeons….

Comments are closed.


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