At the Thursday night meeting of the Orange County GOP at the Marks Senior Center, Lew Oliver won re-election as county chair over challenger Randy Ross.
In addition, Chadwick Hardee won in a narrow, contentious victory over challenger Melissa McGee to be vice-chair.
On his win, Oliver said he was happy – in spite of the fact that having two elections so close to the end of the year was exhausting. But he said he was ready to continue running the party and was open to new ideas.
“One of the first things I want to do is call together a lot of voices and see who has new ideas,” he said. “I can’t run the county by myself. I want to see what new ideas there are, and I’ll support them. Then I’ll make a strategic plan for 2018, to see which seats might be winnable, and see what candidates we can get to run for them.”
Ross, who was Donald Trump‘s campaign chair locally, spoke animatedly about the need for new blood in the party to the crowd. After his loss, he told FloridaPolitics.com that he hoped the party could pull together and “turn Orange County red again,” which had been a motto of his during his bid for the seat.
“Only 8.4 percent of the precincts here are covered by committeemen or women,” he said. “That puts us third for voter registration, below even No-Party Affiliated candidates. We have to continue to hold the party accountable for those numbers, or we could lose Florida in the 2018 Governor’s race or, more importantly, when Donald Trump runs for re-election in 2020.”
Ross said it was unfortunate Oliver wasn’t up to the task, from what he’d seen.
Oliver said that issue was one he would work on more – they just needed the volunteers first to do it at all.
A minor drama cropped up when Hardee and McGee tied for the Vice Chair position, both receiving 49 votes.
Then, a recount was done and a few people who cast votes the first time did not do so the second time, as they left the event. However, one last vote came in from someone who didn’t vote in the first count, who had been outside on a phone call at the time.
But ultimately, Hardee won by a 50 to 49 vote.
He told FloridaPolitics.com that the whole thing was energizing to him.
“I thought it was awesome,” he said. “It was incredible to see – that’s how democracy works. Every vote counts.”
He said his priority as Vice Chair would be to make the Republican party more inclusive and educate people as to who they were. To do that, he said he would oversee new outreach programs targeting African Americans, millennials, small business owners and more.
Later on, Ross made a bid for Secretary, too, but ended up losing to Charles Hanus for the position. Joel Knopp ran unopposed for his incumbent Treasurer seat.