This article updated (04/26/2015 1630hrs)
On Monday, the Broward Republican Executive Committee will once again face a potentially contentious election. The position “up for grabs” is that of the State Committeeman.
As the name implies, a state committeeman serves on the Executive Board and State committee of the Republican Party of Florida. Currently, the RPOF is very north Florida-centric, so the state committeeman position is important for Broward, and by extension, South Florida. In the last regular election for the position, Ryan Anderson defeated the incumbent, longtime BREC member Ed Kennedy. At the time, Anderson’s election was considered a coup, indicating a break from the “quid pro quo” advancement structure of political parties. His resignation requires that the Broward GOP now hold a special election to fill the position.
The State Committeeman position itself is no small responsibility. The turbulent political waters of state party politics can quickly swamp the inexperienced, or unprepared. The BREC committeepersons also must be ready to assist in fundraising and outreach for the BREC, furthering the network and coffers of the Executive Committee.
Five candidates have so far have announced their intent to take on the responsibilities of the position, and the 2016 presidential elections growing on the horizon, the BREC membership are faced with electing a candidate who can effectively represent Broward to the RPOF throueghout the crucial election season. In a conversation with the Daily Broward, Sharon Day, current State Committeewoman for the Broward GOP, voiced her confidence in upcoming election saying “I will be glad to serve with whom the committee selects.” Day also serves as the Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee, and her experience, as well as her advice should be a significant help to whichever candidate is elected.
The field of candidates has continued to grow, although initially it seemed that only one candidate would be needed. Former BREC Chairman Richard DeNapoli, who still owns a home in Broward County, had been approached at this year’s Lincoln Day by numerous Broward GOP members, encouraging him to run for the vacated seat. Judging by the warm reception DeNapoli received at the event, and given his experience with Florida politics, it’s likely he would have easily stepped into the position. DeNapoli instead declined to run, voicing his support instead for another candidate. The field of announced now stands at five.
Chad Lincoln was the first announced candidate, and possibly the most contentious. His announcement came via email within hours of Anderson’s resignation, before most BREC membership were aware of the change, and strangely was sent using the BREC’s own email system. Lincoln has a reputation for attacking political opponents, or candidates whom he doesn’t prefer. Notably, in March 2013, he attacked then Candidate-for-Chair now Vice-Chair Robert Sutton, falsely implying that the “Teacher of the Year” conducted improper political activities with his students. It’s also come to light that Lincoln has threatened other candidates in the State Committeeman race, warning that if they ran he would be forced to “go negative” on them. As a longtime Republican, Lincoln’s GOP bona fides cannot be questioned, but his volatility and threating style seem to make it unlikely that the majority of the BREC membership will cast a ballot for him.
Tom Terwilliger was the second candidate to announce. He has twice run as a candidate for the Pompano Beach City Commission. Both campaigns were unsuccessful, resulting in Terwilliger receiving less than 40% of the vote each time. Most recently, Terwilliger ran as potential Vice-Chairman on Levi Williams’ failed bid for the BREC Chairmanship. As a local political activist, Terwilliger has volunteered on voter registration efforts, and on past candidate’s campaigns. He has no prior experience with leadership roles within BREC or the RPOF.
Mike Rump was the third announced candidate. Rump has been the President of the Republican Business Network (RBN) for the past three years. He has been significantly involved in Coral Springs, and also assisted with Lincoln Day events. Recently, Rump held an event featuring Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Rump has claimed that his Lopez-Cantera event raised $20,000 (which seems to be an inflated amount), and that in the past he ran the “biggest event for the Governor’s reelection in the state.” This claim seems an exaggeration given several known events held in Orlando, Jacksonville, and Naples of significantly greater size. It should also be noted that paid membership of RBN has decreased from 100 to 40. While the RBN has showed great support for the BREC, that co-operation is a very recent occurrence. During the elections for chairman held this past year, the RBN under Rump’s leadership, allowed itself to be compromised by a significantly fractional influence. Though the schismatic influence has since been removed, and the RBN continues to mend itself, it may yet be too early in the process for Rump to add more to his plate. Beyond a doubt, Broward republicans benefit from Michael Rump’s participation and leadership, but perhaps the time for him to step into the State Committeeman role has not yet arrived.
Rico Petrocelli was the fourth candidate to announce his candidacy. He was elected without opposition as party Chair in December 2012, but quickly resigned. Petrocelli has served as Executive Director for the BREC since that time, with a focus primarily on fundraising for events. Recently he lost an election bid for a Plantation City Commission bid, coming in second in a field of five candidates. He came under attack during his campaign for financial difficulties in the form of a bankruptcy and foreclosure. The financial difficulties were apparently due to the combination of the sudden severe illness of his wife, and the loss of her income. Petrocelli has been in Broward politics for a number of years, and through his years of involvement has developed a significant network of contacts, including RPOF Chair Blaise Ingoglia who endorsed him in his recent Plantation City Commission Race. He has also been endorsed by Former BREC Chairman Richard DeNapoli, who has stated that Petrocelli “is the best man and most experienced candidate for the job.”
Jack Gillies was the fifth to announce as a candidate. Gillies is one of the co-founders of the Fort Lauderdale Tea Party, the longest running Tea Party group in Florida, and possibly the nation. Gillies has been a strong supporter of a more socially conservative stance for the Republican party, and during the most recent chairman elections supported Christine Butler for chairman, as did former BREC Chairman Richard DeNapoli. Gilles has not held any direct leadership roles within BREC or the RPOF. Gilles has consistently and very vocally advocated for a return to a more socially conservative stance for the Republican Party, occasionally causing conflict with those of more socially moderate belief system. This may hinder his ability to adequately represent Broward Republicans fully to the RPOF.
BREC elections in recent history have not been the simplest or cleanest of events, and have often resulted in a fractured county GOP. Given the comments and maneuvering in the past week, this election may prove to be one of the more “bare-knuckle” brawls seen amid Broward Republican Executive Committee members. Many who were interviewed for this article expressed both concern about “mudslinging” and hope for civility. Concerns were also expressed regarding the financial difficulties of Petrocelli, but it should be noted that all of the candidates above (with the exception of Terwilliger **UPDATE** and Massey [below]) have significant financial “skeletons” in their closets which are a matter of public record, readily accessible for viewing should the need arise. Given the current economic climate, such difficulties are common. It can only be hoped that the BREC membership will select the man best qualified to serve the Broward GOP based on positive qualifications rather than a race to the mud.
** UPDATE **(April 26, 2015 – 1630hrs)
Former BREC Attorney Al Massey seems to have also made the decision to run for the State Committeeman position. Massey has served as general counsel to the BREC board under the Truex Administration. He serves on the Executive Committee for the Tower Forum. He has also served as the chairman of the State Commission on Ethics, and was appointed to that commission by Charlie Crist in 2010. In 2012, Massey was hired by County Commissioner Chip LaMarca when LaMarca faced possible ethics concerns regarding a business venture with former candidate David Maymon. Massey was a host committee member for David Maymon in his failed campaign against State Representative George Moraitis. It is also notable that additional members of Maymon’s fundraising host committee included Chip LaMarca, Ed Pozzuli, Bob Levy, Vince Boccard, and Tom Powers. Massey has been labeled as “GOP Establishment”, and as an “insider”.
** UPDATE** (April 27, 2015 – 1430hrs)
Al Massey has decided to withdraw from the State Committeeman race, and has placed his support behind Rico Petrocelli. Massey reached out to BREC Chairman Christine Butler a short time ago with the news.
**RESULTS** (April 28, 2015 – 2010hrs)
1930 hrs – All nominations have been made, and the nomination period has been closed off – The nominees are Rico Petrocelli, Chad Lincoln, Tom Terwilliger, Mike Rump and Jack Gillies. All were approved and seconded, with only one protest being lodged by Former BREC Vice-Chairwoman Colleen Stolberg against Gillies for a perceived violation of the loyalty oath by not supporting a republican, Chip LaMarca. Loyalty oath violations must be brought up in the form of a grievance and noticed to the committee in advance, then requiring a vote of greater than 2/3 of the membership in order to remove someone from the BREC. Since this was an election meeting it was not the appropriate venue. According to the RPOF, any registered Republican in Broward can run for state committeeman even if they have been removed from the BREC. Gillies meets the requirements by being a male registered republican in Broward county. Perhaps Stolberg meant this is an attack on Gillies bona fides, rather than an actual attempt to remove Gillies from the BREC. Chairwoman Christine Butler quickly addressed the protest by Stolberg and moved the process along stating that she had reviewed each of the candidates and had found no reason to invalidate any of them.
1950 hrs – The results of the first vote are in, narrowing the field to two candidates. The results were:
- Jack Gillies – 57 votes
- Rico Petrocelli – 54 votes
- Mike Rump – 53 votes
- Chad Lincoln – 10 votes
- Tom Terwilliger – 4 votes
2010 hrs – Second round of ballots has been cast and counted, and Rico Petrocelli is elected State Committeeman for the Broward GOP. The results were:
- Rico Petrocelli – 105 votes
- Jack Gillies – 71 votes