Republican vacancy attracts plenty of candidates

PoliticsElectionsRepublican PartyDavieBroward CountyPlantationCooper City

It's a lightning rod for criticism and doesn't pay anything, but four people — and maybe more now in the wings — are seeking the chairmanship of the Broward Republican Party.

The second Republican leadership election in four months comes after Rico Petrocelli, who was chosen by party activists in December, resigned. Citing "irreconcilable differences" among party leaders, he quit just 12 weeks after winning a hard-fought campaign for chairman.

Leading the county party is never easy in Broward, where Republicans make up just 23 percent of the registered voters.

Now, before they can gear up for the 2014 election season, Broward Republicans need to rebuild their brand and infrastructure after a disastrous 2012 election season. Republicans lost all the high-profile local races: Adam Hasner's bid for Congress, Ellyn Bogdanoff's attempt to stay in the Florida Senate, and Al Lamberti's campaign for re-election as sheriff.

Still, there's no shortage of candidates for chairman. So far, four are seeking the job:

• Christine Butler, a lawyer and current vice chairwoman of the party.

• James Gleason, who has unsuccessfully run for mayor of Coral Springs and state representative.

• Bob Sutton, who has unsuccessfully run for county commission.

• Tom Truex, a lawyer and former mayor of Davie. Truex narrowly lost the 2010 chairmanship contest to Richard DeNapoli on a 129-125 vote.

Butler, who has been acting chairwoman since Petrocelli quit, said it's possible other candidates will be nominated from the floor at Monday's election.

Jeff Rubinoff, president of the Davie-Cooper City Republican Club, which hosted one of two forums for Republicans to check out the candidates last week, said the party needs to figure out "who is going to be the best to lead the Broward County GOP party moving forward."

Rubinoff said he's weary of the Internet bashing of various candidates, which he finds "very distasteful. Everyone has to get along after this."

The election for chairman will be held at the Sheraton Suites Cypress Creek Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. The voters are about 380 committeemen and committeewoman from throughout the county who were elected in the August 2012 Republican primary.

The committeemen and committeewoman make up the Broward Republican Executive Committee, the governing body of the local party.

Petrocelli, a former member of the Plantation City Council, was elected chairman in December by unanimous vote after much of the party establishment, including the previous outgoing chairman, DeNapoli, pushed hard for him. In the face of his strong support, the only other candidate in the race, restaurateur and failed congressional hopeful Karen Harrington, dropped out just before the election.

Read Petrocelli's resignation letter at SunSentinel.com/BrowardPolitics.

aman@tribune.com, 954-356-4550.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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PoliticsElectionsRepublican PartyDavieBroward CountyPlantationCooper City
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