After Republicans beat back a Democratic wave last month and won a U.S. Senate seat, retained the governor’s office and 2 out of 3 cabinet races, it appears the Republican Party of Florida may soon elect a new chairman. While current chair Blaise Ingoglia hasn’t yet announced his future plans, Governor-elect Ron DeSantis is preparing as if there will be a vacancy.
DeSantis has interviewed three candidates to head the state Republican Party. Sources tell FLA News those three candidates are: Michael Barnett – Palm Beach County Republican Chairman, Jeremy Evans – Escambia County Republican State Committeeman, and Evan Power – Leon County Republican Chairman.
Power all but confirmed his interest in running for party chair last week, but declined to officially announce his candidacy until Ingoglia reveals his plans.
Others have interest in running too but Barnett, Evans and Power appears to be DeSantis’ finalists.
Another candidate, State Representative Byron Donalds planned to run for state party chair but was eliminated from contention Monday night when he failed to win a race for Collier County Republican Party Chairman.
Congressman Matt Gaetz, a close confident of the governor-elect, confirmed on social media DeSantis has interviewed candidates but Donalds wasn’t among them. DeSantis “met with multiple potential candidates for RPOF chair today. Byron, while a GREAT man, wasn’t among them,” said Gaetz.
RPOF rules require a candidate to be either a county chair or county state committeeman or committeewoman.
It’s the ultimate insider election and while Governor-elect DeSantis can support a candidate, there’s no guarantee the grassroots of the party will elect that candidate. In 2015, Governor Rick Scott’s candidate was defeated by Ingoglia. Shortly after that election, Scott stopped raising money for the state party. In expressing interest in who chairs the RPOF, DeSantis is indicating his plans to be involved in the state party. For the past two decades, Republican governors in Florida have served as the de facto head of the state party.
Whoever is elected RPOF chair will lead the GOP through the crucial 2020 elections when President Donald Trump faces reelection. Trump won Florida in 2016 but as the most recent election shows, it will be a tight battle in the Sunshine State.
Of course the race to be the next state Republican Party chair remains on hold until current Chairman Ingoglia announces his decision to step aside. That announcement will likely come this week, sources say. The election to name a new Republican Party chair will be held in January.