The Bill McCollum Party
Around the State
We're two weeks into the BIG change in the Republian Party of Florida -- the election of Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, as chairman of the RPOF. So, how is the state’s GOP boss doing?
Attorney General Bill McCollum is doing quite well, thank you.
It was McCollum who decided the party could no longer afford to keep party chairman Jim Greer, following media revelations that party funds may have been mishandled. And, it was McCollum who enlisted the help of Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, when it came time to ease a reluctant and combative Greer out the door.
Party stalwarts like Indian River Tax Collector Carole Jean Jordan, a former chairwoman of the RPOF, called McCollum's action "a very bold decision that took leadership" by a party leader "already held in high esteem."
With Crist locked in a close primary battle with former House Speaker Marco Rubio, McCollum is increasingly seen as, and acting as, the defacto leader of Republican Florida. He also is the frontrunner in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
“As Charlie’s ship sails,” said a prominent Republican and Crist backer, who asked to remain anonymous. “McCollum’s is coming into the RPOF port.”
It's natural for the RPOF and elected GOP leaders to rally around the frontrunner for the party’s gubernatorial nomination.
“With Gov. Crist involved in a federal race,” he said, “the Republican establishment is glued to the idea that McCollum is going to be governor and that makes him the de facto leader of the party.”
An early backer of Thrasher’s bid to become RPOF chairman, McCollum has become increasingly prominent in party affairs.
“Bill McCollum has played a significant role in shaping the direction of the RPOF,” said Doug Adkins, the party’s chairman of the Fourth Congressional District.
Recent press activity at the RPOF mirrors McCollum‘s new status.
This week the RPOF distributed articles and releases highlighting McCollum’s record on gun rights and attacking state CFO Alex Sink, the favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nod.
The two incoming leaders of the Legislature have also played a prominent role supporting McCollum in leading the newest incarnation of the RPOF.
Last summer, when their concerns about the RPOF’s fundraising and expenses reached the limit, Haridopolos and Cannon went to McCollum for help in finding a way to set the party back on track.
McCollum, Haridopolos and Cannon created the “Victory 2010” fund -- former House Speaker Allan Bense serves as chairman -- to create an alternative for worried donors and supporters.
When the attorney general received a copy of a secret fundraising contract between Greer and RPOF Executive Director Delmar Johnson, McCollum brought in Haridopolos and Cannon to inform them of the provisions. McCollum, Haridopolos and Cannon then went to Republican headquarters to confront Greer and Johnson who both resigned shortly after.
Like McCollum, Haridopolos and Cannon supported Thrasher to be the new chairman of the RPOF over RPOF National Committeewoman Susan Day.
When Thrasher came out to meet the press after winning the RPOF chairmanship, he was accompanied by McCollum and Haridopolos. Cannon passed up the emergency party meeting to attend a different party -- his wedding anniversary.
One of Thrasher’s hires to the RPOF also has ties to McCollum's circle. Shortly after taking over, Thrasher named Ronnie Whitaker, a veteran GOP activist with experience in state parties and on Capital Hill, as executive director of the RPOF. Whitaker also worked for Bense and the “Victory 2010” fund.
Party politics being what they are, Thrasher has been chairman of the party only two weeks and already the race to succeed him is heating up. That's probably fine with Thrasher, who's role is widely seen to be that of the "fixer" who can right the party's course quickly and repair damage before the November elections.
New RPOF Vice Chairwoman Debbie Cox-Roush, Alachua County Chairman Stafford Jones and House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach have been mentioned as possible candidates to run for the RROF chairmanship in January or February 2011. If McCollum, or his primary rival Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, are elected, the new governor will have a large say in naming the new party chair. A party insider handicapping the race gives Hasner the edge.