Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia can hold his title for a little longer -- on Saturday, Ingoglia sealed his fate as the party’s new chair, knocking out opponent Christian Ziegler in one of the nastiest chair races in party history.
Ingoglia took 152 votes to Ziegler’s 76 votes.
Ingoglia said the party’s work was not over. Republicans reached the summit of a mountain many said was impossible to scale in 2016.
“Every time the naysayers said we were going to fail, we succeeded against all odds,” he told the party faithful Saturday. “Against all expert predictions we delivered. Despite all [of the] naysayers and a lot of Republicans who were rooting for us to fail...we delivered.”
Ziegler ran on a platform pledging to be a full time chairman, dedicating his entire career to building the party goals and reuniting a party fractured by deep wounds left from Ingoglia’s takeover.
“It will be up to us to deliver [in future elections],” Ziegler told the crowd. “To do this, we must be fully united...and be unaffected by outside sources.”
Ziegler, a fervent Trump supporter, said he sees many similarities between himself and the President-elect, calling himself an “outsider” who simply wants to help the party succeed.
In the end, party members decided to stay the course with Ingoglia at the helm.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said the time to look ahead to future elections was already upon Republicans. The time was now, he said, to keep Ingoglia in his job.
“I’m so impressed with the grassroots work he’s done as chairman," Rubio said. "The president’s reelection effort needs to begin already. It’s hard to think about it in those terms...but reelection has already started and it needs to start with a strong RPOF.”
Ingoglia was widely rumored to be the favorite in the election but as the weeks went on the campaign for chairman turned ugly and some questioned how large his lead really was.
Grassroots members of the party began a massive campaign against Ingoglia, accusing him of playing favorites in the Florida Republican presidential primary election for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio over President-elect Donald Trump, who swept Florida and later the nation in an historic upset.
Emails flooded party members’ inboxes this week, urging them to make Saturday Ingoglia’s last day on the job.
The woman behind the emails, Broward Trump campaign chairwoman Dolly Rump, said Ingoglia and the RPOF were pro-Rubio, not pro-Trump -- so Ingoglia had to go.
“I’ve worked with these people [in the RPOF] in Broward,” she told Sunshine State News Saturday. “It was like pulling teeth to get offices. When it came time to the delegates who were Trump supporters, the only delegates that were selected who were Trump supporters were given token spots.”
Ingoglia’s feathers were ruffled and he even asked RPOF Vice Chair Joe Gruters to intervene on his behalf. Gruters came to Ingoglia’s defense, slamming the negative campaigning and saying Ingoglia was truly on Team Trump and help delivered a win to the party last year.
In spite of the bad publicity, Ingoglia was thankful to keep his job for another two years.
“I do truly believe this party is going to emerge stronger because of competition,” he said. “I think I will be a better chairman [because of it.]"
Unity, Ingoglia said, was the party’s overall goal -- and the time to come together, he said, is now.
“We cannot afford to lose a millisecond fighting amongst ourselves....it makes our jobs harder,” he said. “We have to remain focused...We are not our own enemies.”
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