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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Florida Republican Party postponed a major Orlando fundraiser, due to leadership disputes and lagging enthusiasm

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 10:32 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOEY ROULETTE
  • Photo by Joey Roulette
Update, 12:15 p.m. | President Donald Trump has been confirmed to speak at the event on its new date, Dec. 9.

The Republican Party of Florida unexpectedly postponed its biggest fundraiser of the year Monday, saying in a tweet that the event will take place later this year.



“More information and exciting news about the rescheduled event will be released soon!” the state party tweeted late Monday afternoon, giving less than two weeks' notice to Republicans who had booked hotel rooms at a Disney resort in Orlando.

According to the News Service of Florida, the 2019 Statesman’s Dinner, part of a three-day party event scheduled from Nov. 8 to Nov. 10, was slated to have Gov. Ron DeSantis as a guest speaker. Peter O’Rourke Jr., the executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, told NSF on Monday that details for the event were being “finalized,” but it was postponed just hours later.
Neither O’Rourke nor state party Chairman Joe Gruters, a Sarasota state senator, responded to NSF's questions about why the event was postponed. Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, where President Donald Trump will be at the top of the ticket running for re-election, such events are key to raise money and energize the GOP base.

Politico is reporting that planners were having difficulty selling table sponsorships to the dinner, and that money pledged for the event by Gov. Ron DeSantis had not yet been received. Event planners also did not have a keynote speaker for the Nov. 9 dinner in Orlando. Gruters had apparently expected Trump to serve as keynote speaker, but so far, DeSantis is the only speaker confirmed.

That same report calls the postponement a significant setback to the state Republican Party and potentially President Donald Trump, as it raised $500,000 last year and is viewed "as much a pep rally as it is a fundraiser, serving to gin up excitement in a state where elections are decided on slim margins and voter turnout is critical."
Politico noted in another report the state party has been grappling with infighting over its leadership. After DeSantis and Trump outed former GOP state party executive director Jennifer Locetta, replacing her with O'Rourke, they were blindsided by allegations that O'Rourke tried to bury whistleblower complaints against Trump appointees at his last job with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"As of Friday, the only table sponsorships that had been sold were bought by local Republican Executive Committees," says Politico. "No donor or corporate tables had been sold and DeSantis had not raised any money for the event, despite pledging millions of dollars."

Northwest Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz told the News Service he did not know why the event was postponed, but said he has a “hard time being concerned about Republican enthusiasm.”

Gaetz, a close ally of DeSantis and Trump, noted that over the weekend he helped the Orange County Republican Party raise more than $100,000 at a Trump Defender Gala and 2019 Annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

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