Curry poised to succeed Bitner as GOP bossby John Kennedy | August 31st, 2011
Florida Republican Party Chairman Dave Bitner told GOP leaders Wednesday that he was resigning because of health problems and urged them to elect Vice Chairman Lenny Curry of Jacksonville as his successor.
Bitner, a former Charlotte County legislator and lobbyist, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in April. Bitner has been using a mechanized wheelchair to get around.
But in an afternoon conference call with members of the state party’s executive committee, Bitner hinted that his condition was growing more challenging.
Bitner also mentioned his wife, Wendy, who had played a central role in his campaign for the party chairmanship last winter.
“Now is a time when Wendy and I look to God for his grace and wisdom, as we write my life’s next chapter,” Bitner told REC members, reading from his resignation letter.
Bitner said he would step down Fri., Sept. 23, toward the end of the Florida GOP’s Presidency 5 convention. Bitner called a special meeting of party leaders in Orlando that day to elect his successor, endorsing Curry for the post. Curry is a businessman and Duval County chairman.
”Through it all, our vice chairman has shown the leadership and tenacity that makes our party such an effective political force,” Bitner said.
Bitner’s resignation — and the likely transition — will provide a coda to the P-5 event, scheduled for Sept. 22-24 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The conference will include a nationally televised presidential debate, slated to be broadcast Sept. 22 on Fox-News.
The chairman’s role is expected to prove demanding in coming months, with Presidency 5 marking the effective launch of the 2012 presidential campaign in Florida. Next summer, the state party also will gain more prominence, with officials helping host the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Bitner’s move drew condolences and praise from leadership within both of the state’s major parties Wednesday.
“I have known Chairman Bitner for a number of years,” said Florida Democratic Chairman Rod Smith. “While we often differ on our views, I have always respected him as a talented andable spokesman on behalf of his party. Party allegiance aside, we all wish Bitner the very best in the difficult days ahead.”
Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, also said Bitner’s short reign at the party’s helm will endure.
“During the 15 years or so I’ve known Dave, he’s been an upbeat, loyal friend and leader,” Gardiner said. “He maintained those characteristics through his struggles with ALS while RPOF Chair. Following his resignation, he will leave an undeniable legacy in his professional path and as an example to us all.”
Tags: Lenny Curry