The Republican Party of Sarasota County will not pit one Republican against another.
Party members voted last week on whether to endorse a candidate in primary elections, in which two GOP candidates oppose each other. The party currently does not choose one Republican over another.
The final tally of the July 8 vote was 65% against the change and 35% for it.
“We need to be united in November,” said Joe Gruters, party chairman, who was against a push for primary endorsements.
Republican Party member Rich Swier was outspoken in favor of choosing one Republican candidate against another in the primary.
“People look to the party for leadership on issues and candidates, who are fully vetted to uphold the tenets of the Republican Party,” said Swier.
He said newspapers, unions and other organizations all issue endorsements, but the Republican Party does not. But Swier believes party leaders know the candidates better than anyone.
“If the party does not begin to endorse candidates, then it will keep losing elections,” said Swier.
Gruters believes Swier presented a good argument, but said picking and choosing in a primary election could alienate candidates.
He brought up the County Commission District 4 race, in which incumbent Nora Patterson will face Mark Smith in the Republican primary.
Gruters said if the party endorsed Patterson, then Smith, a Siesta Key architect who is new to politics, could be soured.
“Mark Smith would never work with the Republican Party again,” he said.
On the other hand, if Smith won the party’s endorsement, Patterson, who Gruters said attends all party functions, could be upset with party members.
“Are we going to spoil that relationship?” asked Gruters.
The Republican Party of Sarasota County did approve two measures dealing with endorsements.
Members unanimously voted in favor of endorsing Republican candidates who are running unopposed in primaries. At their September meeting, members will vote on and endorse positions on November’s constitutional amendments.
The Sarasota County Democratic Party does not make endorsements during primary elections.
Said Democratic Party Chairwoman Rita Ferrandino: “All candidates running as Democrats will be treated equally and will have access to our resources. It’s up to the individual candidates to win votes.”