State halts GOP meeting
Factions war over Broward chairman
The Broward Republican Party came together Wednesday night — and remained far apart, fractured by two camps that continue to scheme against each other rather than organize for critical 2018 elections.
More than 100 Republicans assembled for the event at Deicke Auditorium in Plantation, with the passionate party members watched over by three city police officers.
One of the party’s factions assembled enough support for Wednesday’s special meeting of committeemen and committeewomen from across the county, with the objective of removing county Republican Chairman Bob Sutton.
But the Republican Party of Florida, which has been receiv- ing complaints from and about both sides in the Broward civil war, intervened.
“On behalf of the RPOF, this meeting is not a legal meeting. No Republican business will be transacted here today,” said J.C. Martin, parliamentarian for the state party. “This is a blatant case of an illegal meeting. Mr. Chairman, close this down.”
Martin, who is also chairman of the Polk County Republican Party, said he was dispatched to Broward by Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the state Republican Party.
Broward Republicans have gone through many cycles of internal fighting in recent years, but turmoil has reached new heights in 2017.
“Totally ridiculous,” was the assessment Wednesday evening from Clarence McKee, a longtime Republican committeeman who worked as an advance man for Ronald Reagan’s
presidential campaign and later worked in the Reagan administration. “Ridiculous, debilitating, and makes them all laughingstocks.”
Broward Republicans learned over the Labor Day weekend, more than five weeks ago, that Rupert Tarsey, the party secretary they elected in May, has a violent criminal past.
Ten years ago, when Tarsey was a student at an exclusive private high school in California, he beat a young woman with a claw hammer. The criminal case ended with a sentence of probation. Tarsey changed his name, moved to Florida and got involved in the Donald Trump presidential campaign and local Republican politics.
But the item up for discussion Wednesday was an attempt to remove Sutton. A faction that includes Tarsey accused Sutton of incompetence, and got the signatures of 20 percent of the committeemen and committeewomen to go along with a special meeting.
Martin said Tarsey couldn’t provide evidence that party members had been given sufficient notice, and said the gathering couldn’t proceed.
Tarsey said he didn’t know whether there would be another move against Sutton. Michael Kane, the Tarsey ally who made the motion to remove Sutton, said he did not want to comment.
Sutton, whose attempt to suspend Tarsey as secretary when his background came to light was overturned, said he didn’t know what would happen regarding Tarsey or attempts to oust him.
“I’m looking for this insanity to go away and I’m looking to get Republicans elected,” Sutton said.
But there’s no indication that will happen. The bad blood has engulfed the effort to find a replacement for Sharon Day, who resigned as Broward’s state committeewoman at the end of August because she is the new U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica.
As state committeewoman 21 years, Day was a steadying force in the local party, a leader in the state Republican Party and served as the national Republican Party secretary and as co-chairwoman, the No. 2 national official. Her presence had provided a significant measure of stability to the party’s operation and her departure from the Broward group’s board lifted the lid on the simmering tensions.
Michele Merrell of Fort Lauderdale and Diana Taub of Pembroke Pines have said they are running to replace Day. Their contest took a nasty turn this week when an anonymous email reported that one of Merrill’s supporters is a “raging homosexual,” and Republicans should vote instead for a “Christian” for the job. Taub said Wednesday that she had been blindsided by the email, and disavowed it.
Jack Majeske, a longtime committeeman and past president of the Broward Log Cabin Republicans, which has many LGBT members, said the infighting is making it difficult to elect Republicans locally.
“If this doesn’t end, we should dissolve the Republican Party in Broward because we will be going NOWHERE,” he said by email. “This constant infighting is a JOKE. How the hell are we supposed to elect Republicans?”