You wouldn’t think two low-profile positions that don’t pay anything would garner much attention. But this year, the battle for two state committee positions in Sarasota are drawing some serious political heavyweights.
A former county commission candidate, an ex-state party official and the county’s former GOP chairman are among eight candidates vying for state committeeman or state committeewoman on the August 14 primary ballot in Sarasota.
Winning one of the seats gives the victor a vote at state party meetings. That allows them to help craft the Republican Party of Florida’s rules and gives them a vote in choosing the next party chairman.
“All are credible candidates who have all had an impact on the local party,” said Joe Gruters, the chairman of the Sarasota Republican Party.
The state committee races will appear only on ballots for GOP primary voters countywide.
Here are the four candidates who are running for state committeeman (in order of how they appear on the ballot):
The former Libertarian candidate for state Legislature back in 2004 was a strong backer of Ron Paul’s presidential runs and challenged Gruters for party chairman in 2008. Augustinowicz, who runs a company called Identity Stronghold, serves as the chairman of the Sarasota GOP’s policy committee, where he led an unsuccessful effort to get the party to oppose the countywide continuation of an extra school property tax and more recently led a successful effort to oppose the county commission’s attempt to fight term limits.
In his own words: “Being successful small-to-medium sized business owners, we have a lot of experience and knowledge of what the Republican Party can do to assist Florida businesses in being successful.”
A former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, Miller is the current vice-chairman of the Sarasota Republican Party and a veteran campaign manager who has worked on statewide campaigns for former Attorney General Bill McCollum and U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris. Earlier this year he was a senior adviser to Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign.
In his own words: “I humbly ask for your vote because it is important to elect a liaison to the Republican Party of Florida who has a proven record of conservative leadership and results.”
Robert “Bob” Waechter:
The former Sarasota Republican Party chairman has spent 10 of the last 12 years as a member of the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority. Waechter, a real estate property manager originally from New York, has a long history in Republican politics, including helping run the Bush-Cheney headquarters in Sarasota in 2004.
In his own words: “As a past Sarasota County Republican Party Vice-Chairman and Chairman I have a unique understanding of how the State Committeemen & women can assist the Chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Party.”
The current executive director of the Sarasota Republican Party. Ziegler has worked on U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s last three campaigns for Congress and currently works for Dealers United, a company started by Sarasota businessman Jesse Biter.
In his own words: “The Party’s agenda should not set by and promoted by a few members of the “Establishment”. Instead, the Party should be built from the energy and ideals of the People willing to take their time to help Conservatives win by volunteering and being active within the Party.”
The candidates running for state committeewoman:
Wife of Walt Augustinowicz and co-owner of Identity Stronghold. She has been a member of the Republican Executive Committee and has been also active on the party’s policy committee.
In her own words: “My husband Walt and I are running for State Committeeman and State Committeewoman to strengthen our party and to give Sarasota more influence into what happens at the State level of the Republican Party. We believe we can enhance the flow of information from the State to the County and vice versa.”
Darlene “Dar” Harvey:
The current state committeewoman. She took over for longtime committeewoman Katie Bolon who stepped down in early 2011.
In her own words: “I not only care about our Republican Party and our Constitution but I am an activist who works very effectively in getting out the vote and influencing independents and non-voters to join us in our Republican stand to take back our Nation for LIFE, LIBERTY and FREEDOM.”
The former president of the Republican Womens Club of Sarasota. Long, a retired school principal, has also been a big supporter for former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney. Long helping to organize two fundraisers in Sarasota for him in 2011. She’s also a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Tampa later this month.
In her own words: “I am campaigning for the position of Republican State Committeewoman because my organizational and communication skills combined with my 20 years of political involvement will have a positive influence on our local party structure and strengthened Sarasota’s presence at the state level.”
Kathleen “Casey” Pilon:
Pilon has been a member of the Republican Executive Committee for 17 years. She narrowly lost out on a bid for the county commission in 2006 and was a community outreach coordinator for Sarasota County before that. She is also the wife of State Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota.
In her own words: “I firmly believe the position of State Committeewoman should be held by someone who has been involved in our local Party for many years and knows its history, but also someone who has been involved in the community, local goverment and the business community.”