Rumors are the fuel that Tallahassee runs on. And one of the hotter rumors fueling political insiders in the state capital at the moment is that Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia plans to step down in January. That would open the door to a wide open campaign to replace him and run the party during the 2020 Presidential Election Cycle.
Ingoglia famously defeated Governor Rick Scott‘s choice to lead the party, and when he took over, managed to shepherd the party through two hotly contested election cycles, including the contentious 2016 presidential primary season. That cycle required Ingoglia to successfully (if not impartially) navigate his way between the powerful camps of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio while managing not to rile the GOP base that overwhelmingly rejected both native sons in favor of Donald Trump.
In 2018, Ingoglia defied the odds once again, presiding over a state Republican Party organization that overcame the national “blue wave” that swept Democrats to power nationally.
But in January 2019, Florida’s Republican executive committee members will elect (or re-elect) the party chairman. Here is a list of all rumored candidates:
CANDIDATES LIKELY TO RUN
Evan Power, Chairman, Leon County GOP – He has been the most active of the candidates for Chairman. Traveled the state, and gone to as many Lincoln Day Dinners as he could. Been reliable and dependable and a steady hand at the party. He would be effective in rebuilding the party and preparing it for Trump’s reelection.
Mike Barnett – Current REC Chair for Palm Beach – By most accounts, Barnett is charismatic and has been actively making inroads to the Haitian community. Barnett initially announced he would run for County Commission in Palm Beach but later removed himself from being a candidate. Barnett is political ambitious, so there’s likely something to the rumors.
Christan Ziegler – Sarasota County GOP – Ran for Chairman in 2016 but was defeated by Ingoglia. As founder of the digital communications firm Microtargeted Media, he’s got the technical chops to do some interesting things with the RPOF when it comes to leveraging data and digital outreach. In 2018, he ran for and won a seat on the Sarasota county commission. He’s also rumored to be close with incoming Governor-elect Ron Desantis, and was one of the first Florida Republicans to publicly support Donald Trump in 2016.
CANDIDATES RUMORED TO BE IN THE MIX
Peter Feaman – Current National Committeeman – Well like by most on the committee, Feaman could leverage his good relationships in the Palm Beach donor community. Feaman is not a current member of the the Republican Executive Committee (REC), so he technically may not be eligible, but there’s a handful of remedies available for him, including a rules change, or any number of political manuevers that could put him in a position to run and win. Downside: Feaman lost a bid for Palm Beach State Committeeman in 2016 to current Committeman Joe Budd
State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, RPOF Chairman – He kept the party functioning and racked up two winning cycles despite financial challenges and political upheaval. The party showed up and did what it was supposed to for the 2018 General Election. Many voices say he won’t again because he accomplished all he set out to do for the party. Messages to Ingoglia seeking comment were not immediately returned.
DARK HORSE CANDIDATES
Matt Caldwell – After losing the Agriculture Commissioner’s race in a squeaker (0.08%), Caldwell has the resources and the political machine needed to mount a campaign for chairman, though he’ll need to pull off a few political manuevers first to make himself eligible. Caldwell was popular with the GOP grassroots, having traveled over 100,000 miles across the state. He has strong relationships with the donor community and could prove to be a capable fundraiser for the party. In addition, he already has relationships within the Florida House, Senate, and with DeSantis, all which could prove instrumental in a campaign to mold the RPOF. Why he may not run: Caldwell could be tapped for an agency role within the DeSantis administration.
Other Dark Horses – With most counties undergoing re-election of their chairmen/women as well as other vacancies for state committee members, there could be a number of political chess moves to keep an eye on. There are even rumors of a mystery candidate not already mentioned above, asd well as more familiar names such as a Karyn Giorno and Stafford Jones.NO CHANCE
Karyn Morton – Current Duval Chairwoman – While she may have once been a stronger candidate, Morton shot herself in the foot in the days following the election. She trashed Governor-elect DeSantis and other fellow Republicans in a nasty, finger-pointing speech that made its way into the media. Worse for her, Duval has seemingly slipped as a Republican power base since the golden era of Cindy Graves and Lenny Curry. Blaming others isn’t the way to win hearts and minds across the state. Despite rumors, she’s a longshot at best.