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Nancy Smith

Is It Because She's a Girl?

December 3, 2014 - 6:00pm

What does Leslie Dougher have to do to keep her job? Somebody please tell me, I really want to know.

Apparently, after all these years, I still don't understand how the game is played.

Why does the chair of the Republican Party of Florida, who only helped her party to one of the nation's biggest avalanches in last month's national GOP blizzard, have to claw her way through a brutal, insider election to stay out of the unemployment line?

Let's think: Did she commit some crime we're not aware of? Is she a double agent? Lazy? Was she egomaniacal, mean-spirited or deluded? Maybe she has a chemical dependency? An evil twin who pinches her key and sneaks into party headquarters, stealing secrets in the dead of night? Tell me.

You see, what I don't understand is, Leslie Dougher not only presided over the midterms triumph, she won the confidence and endorsement of Gov. Rick Scott -- a governor who overcame spectacular odds to remain leader of the Florida Republican Party.

Repeating: leader of the Florida Republican Party.

Scott wants Dougher and went out of his way to say so.

In a Nov. 14 letter to RPOF executive committee members, he said, "Leslie has a real understanding of the important role the grassroots plays in winning elections because thats where she came from, and that is evidenced by the incredible turnout operation that made more voter contacts than any other Republican campaign in Florida history.

"Not only did our entire Cabinet get re-elected and we retained every seat in the state Senate and the state House," he wrote, "but we picked up an additional six competitive seats in the House."

Call me naive, but I read Scott's letter as a muffled growl subtly telling challengers, "Back off!"

But they aren't. More to the point, neither are their supporters.

What I want to know is, how come the RPOF rolled over for Charlie Crist when he wanted Jim Greer, a nobody from nowhere ... but they're going to deny this sitting governor his choice for chair -- a woman who proved herself in battle?

Wait a minute. That's it! I think I've got it.

It's because she's a girl, isn't it?

In Tallahassee, sex discrimination is practiced on the highest level. It isn't necessarily conscious. It just is. That could actually be why a posse of middle-aged white guys are lining up to take Dougher out in a January election.

In case you haven't noticed, you're not supposed to give the sheriff's badge to a girl, not in this cow town.

Not that I have anything against the testosterone trio, Eric Miller, Blaise Ingoglia, and Kurt Kelly. Each, I'm told, has his strengths. But I can't help but wonder if Leslie Dougher were Les Dougher, would quite so many members be lining up behind three battlefield unknowns the governor hasn't blessed?

Crist, as recently as five years ago, was the most popular politician in Florida by a mile. Today he is a two-time losing party switcher with no political future. A lot of money and people -- not just Dougher -- went into making that happen. But the fact remains, it happened on her watch and the results were out-of-sight phenomenal.

In 2010, Scott became Florida governor as a relative unknown with 48.9 percent of the vote, beating Democrat Alex Sink by 60,000 votes. This time he captured just 48.2 percent of the vote, beating Democrat Charlie Crist by 70,000 votes. Republicans were more motivated, with a slight uptick in statewide turnout translating to more raw votes for Scott (2.85 million votes this time, 2.6 million in 2010). Statewide turnout was 50.3 percent in 2014, 49 percent in 2010.

Dougher, remember, succeeded Lenny Curry, who resigned in May after two and a half years to concentrate on his campaign for mayor of Jacksonville.

She flew under most people's radar. Nobody, not even Sunshine State News, put Dougher on their "election winners" list -- and we all should have.

The governor of Florida, heavyweight champion of the Florida GOP for the next four years, doesn't seem bothered by Dougher's gender. I hope my instincts are wrong here and other Republicans aren't either. Because Dougher's success and Scott's wishes deserve some consideration.

But, just in case, Leslie, think you could ... oh, I don't know ... rustle up a sex change between now and the new year?

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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