This was bound to happen.
In October, Nick Egoroff, a satellite-dish peddler and self-proclaimed leader of the local Ron Paul “rEVOLution,” insisted that even if the Libertarian-leaning Texas congressman lost his GOP presidential bid – which, of course, he did – the grass-roots movement Paul inspired would live on.
“I think that we’ve started a movement and a network that isn’t going to sort of blend back into the woodwork,” Egoroff said then.
Last fall, Egoroff entrenched himself in the local Republican machine when he became a member of the Orange County Republican Executive Committee. But according to OCREC chairman Lew Oliver, Egoroff didn’t just want to be a member. Rather, Oliver says, he wanted to take over and remake the party in the Ron Paul mode – anti-war, anti-tax, pro-civil liberties.
Oliver, who has headed OCREC for nearly a decade, is having none of it. In April, OCREC denied membership to eight Paul supporters. Now he wants to banish Egoroff altogether. “I’m adamant about it,” says Oliver. “I’m going to stop him dead in his tracks. It’s over.”
Oliver planned to ask his fellow members to remove Egoroff from their ranks at OCREC’s May 1 meeting. But when Egoroff showed up with a gaggle of supporters, he was greeted by police and told that the vote had been postponed.
In a subsequent e-mail to Orlando Weekly, Oliver said he postponed the vote until June 5 because Egoroff had threatened to sue him. Also, he says that state party officials will be in town for the June meeting and that he wanted to boost security after an OCREC volunteer received a nasty phone call.
The increasingly vitriolic dispute began in November, when Egoroff suggested that the party donate nearly all of its treasury to Ken Mulvaney’s campaign for mayor – about $40,000. OCREC donated $5,000 instead. (Mulvaney lost in a landslide Jan. 29.)
“You don’t empty your entire treasury for a candidate that’s, frankly, a long shot,” Oliver says. “And he did this after being a member of our organization for all of a month.”
But the real problem isn’t money. OCREC exists to support Republican candidates and officials. Its members meet once a month to exchange ideas and listen to invited speakers, who sometimes debate. According to Oliver, Egoroff wants to be included in, if not the center of, all the debates – and more importantly, he wants to debate underlying constitutional philosophies.
“If you put 170 passionate political people in one room and give them the opportunity to debate anything, that’s all they’ll do!” Oliver says. “When you open it up for a lively debate, feelings get hurt, people get angry, and suddenly they don’t want to work as a team anymore.”
The self-styled “Paulistas” – they prefer that term to “Paultards,” which some websites have taken to calling ardent Paul supporters – don’t like that business-only mentality. Oliver says he’s intercepted Egoroff e-mails that “speak directly to insurgencies, coups, disruptive tactics, fanning flames of disunity” and are “reminiscent of a bunch of 12-year-olds playing Dungeons & Dragons.”
Oliver suspects that Egoroff and a handful in his company are trying to sabotage the party. “`Egoroff would` write this e-mail,” Oliver says. “‘Depending on my mood, we should stand up and introduce a resolution condemning John McCain.’ Whatever you think of John McCain, I don’t care. If you’re a Democrat and somebody stands up and says, ‘We need to have a resolution condemning Barack Obama,’ the Democrats would go berserk. And so they should. That’s what his agenda is.”
Egoroff, however, says he didn’t write those e-mails and accuses Oliver of libeling him. He also says that Oliver smeared the eight Paul supporters OCREC rejected in April and compares the OCREC chairman to the late U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
“That is not an exaggeration at all,” says Egoroff. “He is doing the exact same thing that Joe McCarthy did. He smears people, threatens people, and I don’t think that that’s what the Republican Party should represent.”
(Oliver admits that the Paul supporters may have been “painted by a broader brush,” and says the committee is reconsidering a few memberships. On May 1, OCREC elected a Paulista as its secretary.)
Egoroff says the purported “coup” is Oliver’s delusion: “Well, sure, we wanted to try and bring back traditional Republican core values, and if Lew is going to stand in the way of that, then, no, we wouldn’t support him for re-election when he comes up for re-election. But that’s not to say that we’re going to try and remove him from office now. That would be totally ridiculous; he’s done nothing to warrant that.”
If Oliver succeeds in ousting Egoroff next month, that would make Egoroff only the second person OCREC has kicked out. The first was Ax the Tax leader Doug Guetzloe, who in 2003 was ejected for violating his loyalty oath to the party by endorsing Democrat Buddy Dyer for Orlando mayor.
Oliver insists he has the votes to do it: “I’ve been doing this for 22 years, and I don’t take these kinds of actions unless I know that I’m going to succeed. He may get as few as five to six votes, he may get as many as 20, but we have 160 members and we only need 78 to have him removed.”
Egoroff says the tide is turning. “We’re starting to gain support,” he says. He’ll find out if he’s right June 5.[email protected]