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Republicans Rejoice: Seven Florida Counties Flip to GOP

March 25, 2016 - 4:30pm

Donald Trump apparently has done more than energize just the Republican base. In Florida anyway, he may be helping to nudge angry Democrats to the right. 

The fact is, Florida Republicans are today celebrating numbers that dramatize the overwhelming sea-change in the mood of state voters: Seven of the state's 67 counties have flipped from Democratic to Republican since January 2015.

They credit more than Trump's "take America back" message. They point to anger over Congress' deafness, Obama administration policy, and hard work at the grassroots level.

The seven counties include Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Hardee, Holmes, Pinellas and Washington.

“The grassroots leaders of the Republican Party of Florida have been working overtime over the last year and a half getting this state ready to defeat Hillary and elect Republicans up and down the ticket in November, said Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. "I have always maintained that a strong Republican Party with a strong grassroots infrastructure is the key to winning elections. ... The Republican Party of Florida would like to congratulate these county leaders for all of their hard work and dedication."

Here's a look at the numbers:

Baker: January 2015: 6,116 (R); 6,600 (D); 1,218 (NPA). 3/23/16: 6,707 (R); 5,916 (D); 1,403(NPA)

Bradford: January 2015: 6,464 (R); 7,116 (D); 1887 (NPA). 3/25/16:  6,871 (R); 6,608 (D); 2,238 (others)

Columbia: January 2015: 14,120 (R); 15,390 (D); 5,246 (NPA). 3/23/16: 15,671 (R); 14,876 (D); 6,402 (NPA)

Hardee: January 2015: 4,386 (R); 4,899(D); 1,466(NPA). 3/23/16: 4,780 (R); 4,723(D); 1,837 (NPA)

Holmes: January 2015: 4,179 (R); 5,592 (D); 1,176 (NPA). 3/23/16: 5,017 (R); 4,714 (D); 1,200 (NPA)

Pinellas: January 2,015: 221,035 (R); 2,25,487 (D); 1,56,081 (NPA). 3/23/16: 225,976 (R); 225,957 (D); 178,687 (NPA)

Washington: January 2015: 6, 240 (R); 6,495 (D); 1,561 (NPA). 3/23/16: 7,087 (R); 5,848 (D); 1,910 (NPA)

"It's been incredible," said Nick DiCeglie, chairman of the party in Pinellas County. "Just since the March primary we have 2,065 new registered Republicans. Compare that to the Democrats' 1,232 in the same time period. I'm telling you, we've got momentum, we're not going to stop, we're propelled by the electorate -- we've heard them loud and clear."

DiCeglie said when he started as local chairman in December 2014, one of his top priorities was flipping Pinellas from blue to red. But Democrats had a 6,000-voter lead and it looked virtually un-doable. But he said Ingoglia encouraged him to dive into his grassroots game "and since May we've done a lot of direct mail and micro-targeted independent voters. We're focused. ... When we first announced at a meeting that we were less than 1,000 voters away from our target, a huge cheer went up. Everybody's pumped," he said.

Pinellas County has always been closely divided among the parties -- a swing county. The fight will be for those without a party affiliation. DiCeglie emphasized there's still time before June to recruit more good people. "We know we have to up the ante" with the candidates we put up. I think we're doing it. We have a great team and great executive leadership."

Other local party chairmen, particularly those in the smaller counties, picked up their largest head of steam at county fairs. 

"We had a booth at the Columbia County Fair," Chair Buddy Hines told Sunshine State News. "We started with a deficit of 768 voters and I remember the day perfectly that we pulled ahead -- it was President's Day, the 12th of February. Now we have an 805 majority."

Hines said he has a dedicated group of about 25 volunteers, but voters this year are an easy sell. "Sure, some of this has to do with Trump, but Democrats are disgusted with their choices," he said. "When all you have to vote for is an avowed socialist and a closet socialist, you're ready to change."

In rural North Florida, Baker County Chair Nick Mercorella emphasized that his county has been Democratic since before the Civil War, but it's been an in-name-only membership for several decades. When the Dems left the Dixiecrats, he said, they never reregistered. "These folks are still very religious and conservative ... that's how they vote. Trump was a catalyst for them to change," he said.

Mercorella's team floated a straw ballot at the Baker County Fair in August. "Even with 16 Republicans still in the race, Trump got half the votes of everybody who voted." Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has her work cut out in this rural county. Some 4,000 Baker Countians voted Republican in the straw poll; 1,699 voted Democratic, and mostly for Bernie Sanders.

Mercorella doesn't buy the notion that Florida Democrats will come out of the woodwork to defeat Donald Trump if he is the GOP nominee in the General Election. "I think I can guarantee you, working class Democrats are going to vote for Trump."

In the Panhandle's Washington County, Chairman Malcolm Gainey said his troops are working hard, are proud of their accomplishment to sign up new GOP voters, but he admits Trump's message has resonated in North Florida in particular. "Actually, our citizens have voted Republican for years, they just didn't change their registration. ... Four out of five of our county commissioners are Republican ... We're pretty happy it looks like we're going to elect a Republican sheriff for the first time in Washington County history."

Candidates, Gainey says, are too often conservative in their heart but liberal on the ballot, which makes no sense. Right now he's focused on getting candidates to switch to "where they belong."

Massachusetts native David Dodge, chairman in Bradford County, echoed Gainey: "We were 5 percent Republican when I started this job 25 years ago," he said. "But we've gone slowly, one voter at a time" to get people to switch to where their hearts lie. Our people vote Republican and this time I expect they'll vote Republican more strongly than ever."

Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant did not return SSN's phone call Friday and the FDP Tallahassee office was closed.

Ingoglia said he feels good about the effort the RPOF team up and down Florida have made. "We remain committed to registering new voters to the GOP during this election cycle, while training new volunteers and leaders who will join us in paving the road to the White House. ..."

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith


Ah, yes . . . . . . you must be right . . . . Trump will be the SAVIOR of the GOP . . . . . . . and if you believe that, I'm sure he's got an island named Manhattan that he'll sell you dirt cheap (as long as you don't look at the small print and believe everything he tells you about the deal) . . . . . . . PATHETIC . . . .

Increased R registrations motivated mostly so they could vote in the closed R primary, probably because of Trump. While an interesting statistic, voter party affiliation motivated by a desire to participate in a closed primary does not correlate w voter party choices in a general Presidential election. Nice spin, but really apples and oranges.

I agree with you. No one knows if this has anything to do with Trump as he announced on June 15, 2015 and these numbers are from January 2015. Also, until the general election, if Trump is the nominee we will not know if voters switched in open and closed primary states to give the GOP the weakest candidate against Hillary. The article would have been more on point and thorough to have mentioned the results of the municipal elections in November 2015 rather than the registrations.

This isn't news.

Let's remember these Trump voters don't like the Fla repub leaders, most other repubs either.------------------ And with redistricting you are going to lose a lot of seats.----------------------------------------------------------------------- And some were dems, independents voting for Trump to screw over repubs. As they say, be careful what you wish for.------------------------------------------------ If we want good leaders we need open primaries so the people, not the parties, pick who runs rather than the sorry picks the parties gives us.

And if the GOP won't let the highest winning candidate have the nomination spot.. they will be history.. This is us, taking a FINAL stand.. you better listen up..

Don't be mad when Ted Cruz wins on the second vote. Look at it as a runoff election. Usually the person who comes in second wins the runoff election. We cannot put forward a candidate who merely has a plurality lead. Trump will need to have a simple majority of delegates going in, or, thank God, he loses to Ted Cruz, after the first vote.

The repub party is history as we know it whether Trump wins the nomination or not. Not even republicans like it anymore----------------------------------------------------------------------- And it needs to as it has went so far right it can't even see the middle from there.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A party based on lies, fear and hate and more government telling people, women what to do, has no future and your pandering to them is coming home to roost. Good luck with that . ;^))

Don't give the credit to the "Republican Party of Florida" (OR the "Republican National Committee")...This is ALL ABOUT politicians (R and D) taking taking the electorate for granted. It's ALL about politicians (R and D) pandering to the minority voter. It's ALL ABOUT politicians (R and D) making themselves unavailable and unreachable to voters (no longer any email addresses listed or phone calls answered). JUST "boilerplate" franked letters full of self-praise nonsense from pandering politicians. Just rediculous insulting questionairres asking rhetorical questions any moron in any legislature already knows the answer too,...BUT SEND MONEY ! And you wonder why Voters are disgusted with ALL of you? So don't get all "full of yourselves" Republicans...I would venture to say that BOTH Political Parties are "circling the drain" on their way to join the departed WHIG Party..

Speak for yourself!!! Dems are happy with either of our choices vs you have a bunch of bad con artists getting 80% of your party's vote. You my friend are screwed.

Once again you've revealed just how sick you truly are 'jerryd'.

Have you ever thought about an anger management class.

Yup,..I'm a graduate ! (I think I remember you in that class failed as I recall)

"Hardee: January 2015: 4,386 (R); 4,899(D); 1,466(NPA). 3/23/16: 4,780 (R); 4,723(D); 1,837 (NPA) - A GOP lead of JUST 57 votes! WOW!! And Nancy Smith gets a wet pussy! Sad girl.

OH MY GOSH faux "Hillary" !... You sound jealous; (there must be an isolated doorknob in your abode for you to work against).

The more Trump talks all these counties will go back to the Dems!

Over 1/3 voters Florida are NPA Candidate For US Senate Florida 2016 NPA

All my life I have been under the impression that Pinellas was GOP. Weren't they formerly?

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