Anthony Sabatini can force the Florida GOP to schedule a meeting, but he can’t make anyone show up.
The Republican Party of Florida held a special meeting in Sarasota on Friday morning. That took place after Sabatini, Lake County Republican Party Chair, led a petition demanding a special meeting to decry Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel.
Because the petition had 30 signatures from members of the state Republican Executive Committee, state Chair Joe Gruters called the meeting. But out of 256 REC members, only 71 showed up for the event.
The meeting lasted only long enough to conduct a roll call and determine no quorum was present. It would have taken 129 members attending in order to take any action.
“It was an epic failure,” Gruters said.
Sabatini wanted a meeting to take place ahead of Jan. 27 elections next week on who leads the RNC. McDaniel is seeking re-election as RNC Chair, and faces a serious challenge from California lawyer Harmeet Dhillon. MyPillow founder Mike Lindell is also running.
Of course, any resolution against McDaniel would be nonbinding. Only three members of the Florida GOP have a vote in the RNC elections. Those include Gruters as state Chair, and he supports McDaniel’s re-election.
“Party politics is a team sport,” Gruters said. “Every time I asked Ronna for anything at the RNC, she always delivered, and she will continue to do well when she wins the race next week.”
Florida National Committeeman Peter Feaman supports Dhillon, and Florida National Committeewoman Kathleen King backs McDaniel.
But all three voting members are autonomous to vote their own way in the RNC election, and any resolution passed by the state party would have no binding effect.
Gruters notably is running for RNC Treasurer.
The Hollow 2A, a Venice-based group affiliated with former Gen. Michael Flynn and members of the Proud Boys, held a rally opposing McDaniel’s candidacy outside the meeting space.
Sabatini spoke at the event, as did Collier County State Committeeman Alfie Oakes.
Bay County Republican Party Chair Tho Bishop shared images on Twitter from the rally and quotes from the speakers.
“We’re tired of the Romneys,” Oakes said, referencing that McDaniel is niece to Utah Senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “We’re tired of the (Senate Minority Leader Mitch) McConnells. We’re tired of a weak Republican Party.”
Sabatini suggested state party leaders have their loyalty in the wrong place.
“Like Gov. (Ron) DeSantis, like President (Donald) Trump, it’s time to go on offense,” he said.
The event had greater attendance than the meeting itself, but many attendees were not voting members of the state REC. Sally Nista, a local Republican activist affiliated with the Proud Boys, could be seen waving a poster supporting Gruters’ opponent for RNC Treasurer, K.C. Crosbie. Another person raised a placard calling for Gruters specifically to rescind his endorsement of McDaniel.
Sabatini in advance pressured state REC members to attend, but to no avail.
“71 members of the Republican Party of Florida met today to vote NO-CONFIDENCE on Ronna McDaniel,” he tweeted. “Although some in party leadership worked hard to suppress turnout and avoid a quorum, the group still met to vote. Vote Result: a supermajority of the 71 voted to fire Ronna!”
Gruters said he feels sorry for those who did show. While he’s been accused of scheduling the meeting on Friday at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds, he said previous quarterly meetings for the party were held in Sarasota at the same time of week and had strong attendance.
But he said members should reflect on what warrants a meeting with such a narrow call.
“I never fought it, I never questioned the validity of the special meeting,” he said. “But we haven’t had a special meeting in a long time. I think this will have people do some self-reflection prior to doing another special meeting.”