President-Elect Donald Trump’s Florida campaign manager Susie Wiles is going all in for Republican Party of Florida chair Blaise Ingoglia, officially endorsing his re-election bid for the job Monday morning.
"As Florida's Chief Strategist for President-Elect Trump's Presidential campaign, I can say that the organization built under Chairman Ingoglia's leadership was a crucial element to our success as we worked together with the Republican National Committee to deliver Florida," said Wiles. "To continue that success in the future, we need a steady hand and consistent leadership who will continue to focus on the grassroots.
"I can't think of anyone to better serve in that role than Blaise Ingoglia," Wiles continued. "I am proud to support him in his bid for re-election and am excited to see the new levels of success our party will find with him at the helm again."
The endorsement comes on the heels of a highly successful campaign season for Republicans, especially for part-time Florida resident Donald Trump.
A veteran campaign strategist, Wiles was largely credited with Trump’s success in the Sunshine State, which carried a crucial 29 electoral votes for the president-elect.
Wiles has a history of success in Florida. In 2010, she ran Gov. Rick Scott’s first gubernatorial campaign, which bore striking similarities to Trump’s run this year. The two outsiders overcame the odds to win their respective seats and make their names on the political scene.
Wiles’ endorsement is especially problematic for Ingoglia’s only opponent in the race, Sarasota Republican committeeman Christian Ziegler.
When Ziegler made the announcement he was running for chair, he touted his close ties with the Trump team as part of why party members should jump on board with his candidacy and cast their votes for him over Ingoglia.
Those relationships, Ziegler said, promote a sense of harmony missing in the party’s current makeup.
"I’ve spent over a decade working on campaigns at the presidential, statewide, and local levels. During this time, I have built relationships with the current Trump Team — in addition to relationships with our Governor and members of the State Legislature — that will help foster a united Party,” he wrote last month.
The endorsement also adds another layer of intrigue and complexity to the party chair race. Sources told Sunshine State News Ziegler was encouraged by Scott to run for the job so he could get his ducks in a row financially for his U.S. Senate campaign in 2018.
It’s been nearly two years since party members bucked Scott’s hand-picked choice for chair, Leslie Dougher, in favor of Ingoglia. Scott and Republican state senators split from the party after the upset, dividing political money between the governor’s political committee, the Senate and the party.
If Ziegler -- a Scott pick -- won, it could mean the governor’s return to raising money for the party once more.
Sources in the party say, however, that they’ve tried to make amends with the governor over the last year but have received nothing but a cold shoulder and a lack of compromise.
Others have accused Ziegler of bandwagoning on the Trump train, and have said the Sarasota Republican actually supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz over Trump.
In 2014, Cruz appeared at a Sarasota Republican Party event where Ziegler led a Ted Cruz chant among party members.
Less than a year ago, Ziegler was tweeting about a lengthy dinner he had with Cruz and his campaign team, piling on the praise.
“I spent a 4.5 hour private dinner (scheduled to only be 2hrs) w/ @TedCruz & have interacted w/much of his team,” Ziegler wrote. “He/his team are first class.”
The warm words didn’t stop in December.
Before the GOP primary in March, Ziegler tweeted once more about how impressed he was with Cruz’s campaign.
“I can't overstate how A+ @tedcruz's team is,” he said.
Ziegler had said not to underestimate Trump at the time, but didn’t go quite as far with his support on social media when Cruz was in the running.
On Monday, he told Sunshine State News his support of Cruz over Trump was a "false narrative," and claimed he never personally endorsed anyone during the primary election. Cruz, he said, met with him but ultimately decided to stay out of Florida, which is when he switched tracks to focus on Team Trump.
"I offer myself as a resource to every candidate," he explained. "Ted Cruz and Donald Trump were the two campaigns that were willing to take me up on that offer. Ted Cruz decided not to play in Florida, so I ended up helping Donald Trump towards in the end."
"I was always very complementary of our candidates," he told SSN. "My position is, as a party official, I like to stay out of the primaries. That’s what I did for Donald Trump’s campaign and I think they were very appreciative of that....I’m going to help [candidates] if they’re a Republican."
Ziegler also questioned what, exactly, the RPOF did on the ground level to propel Trump to a win last month.
"What specifically did the roof do on the ground on Florida?" he asked. "I just don’t know what they did with such limited resources."
The Sarasota Republican also touted his relationships with the governor and with RPOF Vice Chair Joe Gruters, an early Trump supporter who has been rumored to be in talks for a job with the Trump administration.
Ultimately, Ziegler harped on restructuring the party by bringing all factions back into the fold.
"Even the Cabinet members are lukewarm involved and that’s concerning," he said.
Ziegler said Trump's florida campaign director Karen Giorno was fully behind his bid for RPOF chair, but did not mention Wiles backing his bid.
Ingoglia is racking up endorsements -- he already has flexed the names of 113 state committee chairs who he said support his re-election bid, plus he has the support of Republican congressmen. Scott has not publicly addressed the 2016 RPOF chairman's race yet.
The election will be held in January in Orlando.