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Referendum leads to GOP infighting

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  • | 4:00 a.m. April 1, 2010
  • Sarasota
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In the wake of the passage of the school-tax referendum, one of Sarasota’s harshest critics of the tax, who’s also one of the area’s most vocal Republicans, has some harsh words for the Republican Party of Sarasota County.

“It is not the party of less government, lower taxes and more liberty,” said Dr. Rich Swier. “This referendum proves it.”

Swier is upset because the Republican Party of Sarasota County did not take an official position opposing the referendum, even though a majority of party members voted to oppose it during a January meeting.

The party requires a super majority vote, and although a super majority was achieved, a number of those voters left the meeting before the votes were tallied. Those votes did not count, so there was just a simple majority.

Swier sees that as the motion failing on a technicality.

“If you have a party platform of lower taxes, less government, greater accountability and more freedom, live up to it,” said Swier. “Actions speak louder than words.”

Swier is not only critical of the local Republican Party, but also the state and national parties.

“The Republican Party at every level is just there to recruit, train and elect Republicans,” he said. “They’re not interested in core values.”

Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, thinks the criticism is an unfair characterization of the party.

“We voted on (the referendum) as a party,” Gruters said. “Rich is also a voting member. That’s the way our system works.”

Gruters said he was in disbelief when he heard Swier’s opinion on the process.

“It’s distorting what reality is,” he said. “Rich has been a friend for a long time, but I don’t support him attacking a system that he is a part of.”

Swier still believes the party needs to take a position on critical issues.

“The Republican Party of Sarasota County needs to take stands on things like the referendum,” he said. “Wishy-washy doesn’t work.”

But Gruters said nobody is going to agree on every issue all the time.

“If you cut off people who don’t agree with you 100%, you’ll keep cutting and cutting, and you’re going to end up alone,” he said. “Attacking our party is not going to make a stronger party.”

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].


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