Just days after a newspaper extolled State Representative Paul Renner’s strength in a House leadership run, he stepped into a political minefield with an endorsement of 4th Circuit State Attorney Angela Corey.
And the fallout from that endorsement may have far-reaching implications.
The Florida Times-Union’s front page story painted the picture that Renner is positioned as a leader in the race to serve as Speaker to the Florida House in 2022. And he’s got some competition in fellow Republicans Randy Fine and Jamie Grant.
The Times-Union and public records indicate that an important weapon in Renner’s effort is a war chest exceeding $500,000 stashed in a political committee called the Florida Foundation for Liberty. Since the conclusion of this year’s legislative session, the committee has only seen a handful of contributions. But the two most prominent, each for $25,000, come from Northeast Florida businessmen Gary Chartrand and John Baker.
Both men have a long history of big support for Republican candidates and their committees. In fact, both can be found in earlier reports for Renner’s committee and in his campaign account as well. It would be hard to argue that Chartrand and Baker are not near the top of the list in support for Renner’s effort to become Speaker.
But both of Renner’s biggest donors are strong supporters of an effort to oust Angela Corey from her controversial tenure as state attorney. The exact opposite side that Renner took.
Renner’s decision to endorse Corey is a bit of a head scratcher. Not only does he gain little from the endorsement, the financial downside is significant, and it sends the message to his opponents that he may not even have his home base locked up.
Angela Corey’s opponent in the state attorney’s race is Melissa Nelson. Time will tell how Nelson’s growing list of financial backers ultimately reacted to a move some are calling a double-cross.
In the meantime, Representative Renner, call your office because you probably have an angry voicemail from Gary Chartrand.