County GOP Races Show That Floridians Are Divided on the Future of the Republican Party

hile Florida Republicans and Floridians more generally showed that they are satisfied with the performance of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a formidable grassroots following still wants to reshape the Florida Republican Party in President Trump’s image.

Despite both DeSantis and Trump having staunchly conservative records on immigration and culture war issues, DeSantis has been held out as a potential foil to Trump in the 2024 Presidential election.

Still, conservatives in Florida who approve of DeSantis are carrying out a grassroots insurgency to promote ‘America First’ conservatism in the county and state party.

Perhaps nowhere was the divide between more traditional conservatives and America First conservatives more apparent than in the race for chairman of the Lee County Republican Party.

Michael Thompson, a business associate of ardent America First supporter and former Trump administration official Michael Flynn, won the race for Lee County Republican Party chair by one vote.

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Key America First supporters, such as former Florida House of Representatives member Anthony Sabatini showed their support for Thompson after his narrow victory.

Thompson highlighted a problem in the Lee County Republican Party that sounded similar to Senator Rick Scott’s, R-Fl. autopsy of the party.

Thompson said that the party should create a more robust platform rather than just focusing on building ‘party infrastructure’.

“We have no committees available for volunteers to work on, we have a tired board who want to keep things the same, and the two sides are trying to figure out the direction the REC will go moving forward,” Thompson told Florida Politics before the election.

Lee County occupies an important place in Florida Republican politics as the densest Republican county in the state. Republicans ran up the tally in 2020 to deliver the state to Trump and to give DeSantis his double-digit margin of victory in the midterm elections this year.

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America First Republicans in other counties have also attempted to unseat more traditionally conservative incumbents.

Tim Marden, who was employed at the John Birch Society, ran against incumbent chairman Ed Braddy of the Alachua County Republican Party , defeating him by two votes.

While DeSantis is extremely popular among Florida Republicans, it is likely that Trump would still campaign heavily against him in Florida in the 2024 primary.

In the 2016 primary, Trump beat Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fl. in Florida by 18%. Rubio dropped out of the race that week after not seeing a viable path forward to the nomination.


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