A pair of Orange County Republican party leaders have been suspended by state party Chairman Jim Greer, and Brevard County GOP chief Jason Steele has been put on probation as part of a wider raft of punishments recently handed out to members who have been critical of the Florida party’s current leadership.
Orange Republican executive committee members Nick Egoroff — suspended for four years — and Ax the Tax activist Doug Guetzloe — suspended 13 months, two years of probation — both plan to file legal appeals to overturn the sanctions.
“This is nothing but trying to take out the groups opposing Jim Greer’s leadership,” Egoroff said.
Egoroff said a a host of other Greer critics from all over Florida suffered the same fate, accusing them of supporting non-Republican candidates or just being “detrimental” to the party. He expected that same group to file a class-action lawsuit against the party to get the probation and suspension terms killed.
Some in this singled out group have come to call the whole episode a Florida Republican Party “purge.”
“This is clearly a party purge,” Guetzloe said. “Party purges were popular with Stalin, Hitler and now Jim Greer all denying free speech.”
Guetzloe said he will tap long-time legal advocate Fred O’Neil to file a First Amendment lawsuit against Orange Chairman Lew Oliver, and possibly other local GOP officers.
“This is just really painful to me, because I’ve put a lot of work into this party,” Egoroff said.
Egoroff and Guetzloe have been at odds with current Orange GOP Chairman Lew Oliver, who filed the grievance complaints against the two dissidents. Another Oliver critic, Deon Long, had already been removed from his party post by the state.
Steele relested this statement: statement said the probation was a price he was willing to pay for standing up for his principles.
Later by phone Steele said that if the state party hoped to “stifle” his activity with the official punishment, “that’s just not going to happen.”
“We can’t be stifled in Brevard County,” Steele said. “It’s unified the party here.”