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Florida Republicans Gearing Up for 2014, Going on the Attack With New Staff

July 17, 2013 - 6:00pm

The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) is gearing up for a new campaign season and attacking Democratic candidates as public attention turns to the 2014 elections.

Lenny Curry, the chairman of the RPOF, met with the media on Thursday for a mostly off-the-record event to introduce his new team and offer some insights on the coming elections.

The RPOFs new team includes executive director Juston Johnson who was the national field director for the Republican National Committee (RNC) back in 2012 and served as campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. New communications director Matt Moon also has experience on Johnsons team and with the RNC. The RPOFs news team also includes Tim Saler, who has experience with the Mississippi and Wisconsin Republican parties and the RNC, in the role of deputy executive director for political strategy and Andrew Abdel-Malik, who worked with the RNC and on numerous campaigns across the country, as director of digital strategy.

With Gov. Rick Scott gearing up for a second term, Curry said the 2014 election cycle gives the Republican incumbent a chance to highlight his record without the distraction of a presidential election. The RPOF chairman insisted Scotts economic record will help turn around his lackluster poll numbers. A lot of jobs are being created and a lot of people are moving back to Florida, Curry said.

Curry dismissed concerns that proposed constitutional amendment initiatives -- including proposals repealing an amendment defining marriage as only between a man a woman, allowing medicinal marijuana use, and repealing Stand Your Ground laws -- will booster Democratic turnout in November 2014.

Floridians care about jobs and education, Curry insisted, noting 800,000 jobs were lost in Florida during the Charlie Crist era. Crist, who served as governor as a Republican, joined the Democrats in late 2012 and is expected to run for his new partys gubernatorial nomination.

The RPOF shows no signs of slowing down its attacks on Crist. On Thursday afternoon, the RPOF unveiled the relaunching of a website which was created by the Florida Democratic Party in 2008 to attack Crist who was then being considered by John McCains campaign for the vice presidential spot on the Republican ticket. The Empty Chair Charlie website is the latest round in the RPOFs This Day in Crist-ory series of attacks hitting the former governor for his previous positions and stances.

"Those who plan on voting in the Democratic primary next year deserve to be reminded of how the Florida Democratic Party felt about the man who is now courting them for their nomination in next year's gubernatorial race," said Curry on Thursday. "As a lifelong Democrat, a simple question for Allison Tant would be whether or not she agrees with FDP's attack that Crist was 'supposed to be working for Florida, but it's clear as day that Charlie is only working for himself.

Crist is not the only Florida Democrat drawing fire from the RPOF. With Gwen Graham, the daughter of former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham, running for the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., Curry turned his focus to attack her on Thursday. Curry attacked Graham for serving on the campaign staffs of presidential hopefuls John Kerry and Howard Dean. Curry also jabbed Graham for refusing to say if she would vote for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for speaker of the House.

Gwen Graham has been avoiding questions about Nancy Pelosi in an attempt to fashion herself as a reasonable candidate, said Curry. But her political career includes the presidential campaigns of two radical liberals: Howard Dean, who has advocated for a complete government takeover of health care, and John Kerry, who once said that national security decisions should be dependent on gaining permission from other nations. Voters in Florida's Panhandle should judge Gwen Graham by her deeds, not her words."

Reach Kevin Derby at or at 904-521-3722

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