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Speculation Buzzing on Lenny Curry's Replacement

May 2, 2014 - 6:00pm

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry announced Thursday hell be packing up his things from his office in Tallahassee and heading to Jacksonville to possibly run for mayor, and insiders are already speculating about who will be taking his place.

The next chair will be chosen during a special election held at the partys next meeting on May 31, when the 256 members of the State Executive Committee will meet and eventually vote on Currys replacement.

The committee consists of Republican Party county chairs from the 67 counties across the state as well as an elected committeeman and committeewoman from each county. The Cabinet and the governor are also committee members and the remainder of the State Executive Committee consists of a block of appointments made by the House speaker, the Senate president, and the governor.

While no one has officially announced their candidacy, it hasnt stopped insiders from speculating who may have their eyes on the position.

Rising to the top of the list of potential nominees is Leslie Dougher, who has served as Clay County Republican Party chairwoman since 2009. Dougher, a Realtor, admits it was President Ronald Reagan who further fueled her interest in politics, community and the world around her, and inspired her to roll up her sleeves and get to work.

In addition to her duties as chairwoman, Dougher also served as chairwoman for Women for McCain-Palin, Scott-Carroll chairman as well as Romney-Ryan chairman for Clay County.

Republican strategists say Dougher is seen as the most even-keeled and respected candidate and contend she also has a great leadership capacity within the party. She could also be a prime asset for Rick Scotts campaign with the potential to help the governor raise cash for his re-election campaign.

Peter Feaman is another possible contender for the position. Feaman, a litigation attorney, was elected as the Republican national committeeman from Florida in January 2012. Hes also served as Palm Beach County state committeeman, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida committeemen and womens caucus, and holds a position on the Republican Party of Florida executive board.

House Speaker Will Weatherfords name has also been tossed around to replace Curry. Several prominent state Republicans say Weatherfords got what it takes to be a dynamic party chair and could easily take the reins of the RPOF. If he runs for the position, he could be hard to beat.

No one in the state could do a better job than Will Weatherford, Bill Bunting, former chairman of the Pasco County Republican Executive Committee, told Scripps reporter Matt Dixon. He can fundraise, he is well-respected and well-connected.

Two other names on the list of potential replacements -- RPOF Vice Chair Blaise Ingoglia and Sarasota GOP Chief Joe Gruters -- have already made it clear they have no intention of running for the position.

Ingoglia has quite a few plans for 2014, but running for party chair doesnt seem to be one of them.

I will continue to run an effective campaign to be the next state representative from District 35, serving the people of Hernando County, Ingoglia wrote in a statement released Thursday evening.

Gruters doesnt have any interest in being the chair right now, but did say he was interested in running next year.

While I intend to run for a full term as RPOF chairman in January of 2015, I will not be running in May, Gruters told blogger Peter Schorsch on Thursday.

The committee meets May 31 in Tampa.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

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