FL GOP Preps For Crist’s Defection

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April 23, 2010 6:25 am
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Amidst swirling rumors and a number of other signs that Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) may embark on an independent bid for Senate, the state Republican Party is steeling itself for his potential departure.

Party general counsel Jason Gonzalez sent an email this week to members of the state party’s executive committee and county committees explaining that if a Republican runs as an independent, the “party loyalty oath” requires that members must formally revoke their support of him.

Any member who fails to formally revoke his or her public support and request the return of any contributions made to a candidate running against the candidate of the Republican Party would be in violation of the RPOF Rules and would be subject to removal from party office and membership on Republican executive committees.

Neither Gonzalez nor state party Communications Director Katherine Gordon Betta immediately returned phone calls seeking comment.

Polls show Crist getting walloped in a Republican primary against Marco Rubio. The TPM Poll Average shows Rubio leading Crist 59.1% to 27.9% in the August 24 primary. But if Crist ran as an independent, some polls show him leading a three-way general election race.

Crist has until April 30 to decide whether to run as an independent. And in the meantime, the state party is making it clear to its members that even if Crist is officially still a registered Republican who’s running as an independent, they can’t support him against Rubio.

Here’s text of the memo, according to The Palm Beach Post.

MEMORANDUM
TO: Ronnie Whitaker
Executive Director, Republican Party of Florida
FROM: Jason Gonzalez
General Counsel, Republican Party of Florida
DATE: April 19, 2010

RE: Party Loyalty Oath – Candidates Running with No Party Affiliation

At your request, I have prepared the following memorandum involving the interpretation of Republican Party of Florida Rule 9 (Party Loyalty Oath). You specifically asked me to determine whether the Party Loyalty Oath would allow state and county executive committee members to support a registered Republican running with no party affiliation in a general election over the candidate nominated in the Republican primary election. As described below, my conclusion is that the Party Loyalty Oath forbids Republican Executive Committee members from supporting any candidate other than the candidate nominated by the voters of the Republican Party through its primary election.

The Republican Party of Florida requires members of all political party committees organized under the RPOF to abide by a Party Loyalty Oath. The loyalty oath is contained in Rule 9 of the RPOF Rules of Procedure. The Rule provides, in relevant part, that Members of all political party committees, and the National Committeeman and Committeewoman, shall before taking office, establish by written oath or affirmation that during their term of office they will not actively, publicly, or financially support the election of any candidate other than the Republican candidate in a partisan unitary, general or special election, or a Registered Republican in non-partisan elections, other than Judicial races governed under Florida Statute 105, if there is a registered Republican running for the same office, unless the county executive committee has taken an affirmative vote to endorse one Republican over another per Rule 8(B). The written oath or affirmation will also state that they will not engage in activities or conduct deemed by the Grievance Committee and affirmed by the RPOF Chairman as likely to injure the name of the Republican Party or interfere with the activities of the Republican Party.

At the heart of the Party Loyalty Oath is the requirement that members of the Republican Party of Florida’s Executive Committees – from precinct committeemen and committeewomen in each county all the way up to the national committeeman and committeewoman – cannot provide their active, public, or financial support to any candidate other than “the Republican candidate” in a general election. The requirement of party loyalty is appropriate given the leadership roles within the party performed by executive committee members.

RPOF Rule 9 contains a few limited exceptions to its general requirement that members support “the Republican candidate.” For “non-partisan” races, in which no partisan primary is held and in which the party affiliation of the candidates does not appear on the ballot, the loyalty oath requires executive committee members to refrain from supporting any candidate other than a registered Republican (if there is a registered Republican running for the office). Because judicial races are specifically exempted from the loyalty oath, executive committee members may support judicial candidates of their choosing without regard to political party affiliation.

The final requirement of Rule 9 relates to Republican primary elections. In a contested primary, Rule 9 prohibits executive committee members (in their official capacities) from supporting one Republican candidate over another unless the county executive committee has formally voted to endorse that candidate under RPOF Rule 8(B).

In sum, Republican Party of Florida Rule 9 prohibits any member of the Republican State Executive Committee or of any County Executive Committee from “actively, publicly, or financially” supporting a candidate running with no party affiliation over “the Republican candidate” chosen in the primary election. Any member who fails to formally revoke his or her public support and request the return of any contributions made to a candidate running against the candidate of the Republican Party would be in violation of the RPOF Rules and would be subject to removal from party office and membership on Republican executive committees.

Please do not hesitate to call should you have any questions.

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