Former Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, has won election as Lake County Republican Party Chair. He unseated a former ally, and is now eligible to run for state Chair.
“Honored to be voted in as the new Chairman of the Lake County Republican Party … — it’s time to make the State and National GOP a true party of the grassroots and the America-First movement,” Sabatini tweeted. “And that starts right here in Lake County.”
Sabatini defeated incumbent Walter Price for Chair of the county Republican Executive Committee. Price told Florida Politics he expects Sabatini to use the Chair post to run for state Chair. Sitting Republican Party of Florida Chair Joe Gruters is not seeking re-election, and elections for the state position were moved to February as Gruters runs for Treasurer of the Republican National Committee.
Two other candidates, Leon County GOP Chair Evan Power and Sarasota County State Committeeman Christian Ziegler, have already announced bids for GOP state Chair. Both have effectively been vying for the position for years and have long been active in the state party.
Sabatini served two terms in the Legislature but did not seek a third. During that time, he had a fractious relationship with members of his party, ultimately being assigned an office in the basement at the Capitol.
Instead of pursuing a third term, Sabatini ran for an open seat in Congress. But he lost to Republican Cory Mills in a GOP Primary in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. Sabatini has since launched a federal committee and raised money with promises to stop Kevin McCarthy from becoming Speaker of the House, a decision in which he has no voice having lost his bid for Congress.
He is one of several “America First” candidates to have won county party positions since the Midterm Elections wrapped. A slate of candidates backed by Collier County State Committeeman Alfie Oakes just took over the Republican Executive Committee there. Candidates backed by Oakes, Sabatini and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn also won all officer positions in Lee County.
America First candidates also won Chairmanships in Hillsborough County, Alachua County and other places. But they have tallied losses as well in places like Citrus and Sarasota counties.
The play by the right wing of the party includes many figures closely associated with former President Donald Trump. The run for multiple local positions has been viewed as an opening salvo for a coming Primary fight for the presidential nomination between Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
County Chairs are eligible and have a vote for state Chair of the party.