TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer announced his resignation Tuesday amid criticism the party has been wasting money and not raising as much as it should.
Mr. Greer will step down Feb. 20, more than three years after Gov. Charlie Crist handpicked him to run the state GOP. In recent weeks, major party donors and other leaders have called for his resignation, citing questionable party spending, lackluster fundraising and division among party loyalists.
In his resignation letter, Mr. Greer said he has the support of most party executives, leaders and donors, but the few who oppose him are causing too much division.
"This internal discord has many origins and political agendas, but the one common result is a detrimental effect on the Republican Party," Mr. Greer said. "I have made a point to put the best interest of the party before my own, even when criticisms were misdirected and invalid, and I will do so again now."
During a conference call with reporters, Mr. Greer said there was a vocal group within the party that would say or do anything to embarrass him. He said if he didn't resign, that group would try to "burn the house down and try and destroy the Republican Party."
"These individuals who have turned their guns on fellow Republicans instead of focusing our efforts on defeating Democrats have done nothing to serve our party," Mr. Greer said.
Mr. Crist defended Mr. Greer throughout the criticism and continued to praise him.
"Under Chairman Greer's leadership, we maintained a strong majority in Florida's congressional delegation and overwhelming majorities in the state House and Senate. Jim has long been a loyal servant to the Republican cause," Mr. Crist said.
Mr. Crist, former Gov. Jeb Bush and other party leaders are encouraging party activists to elect state Sen. John Thrasher to replace Mr. Greer this weekend. Mr. Thrasher is a former House speaker who worked as a lobbyist until returning to the Legislature last year.
"Sen. Thrasher will do an excellent job as chairman. John is such a fair-minded and balanced guy. I think he can restore faith and confidence going into this very important election year," Mr. Crist said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. "The leadership of Sen. Thrasher will have a unifying impact."
Sen. Paula Dockery, a Republican candidate for governor who has criticized the way the party is being run, said she hopes Mr. Greer's resignation is the first step in making the party more accountable with money.
"I don't think you can correct the problem until you address it fully and put it behind you," Mrs. Dockery said. "I'd hate to see us just change the person and not change the way business is done."
Finger-pointing within the party has caused a distraction in a year when the governor's office, a U.S. Senate seat and all three state Cabinet seats are on the ballot without an incumbent running.
"Now is the time to build our party, raise financial resources, register voters and reach out to all Floridians to share our vision for the future of the Sunshine State," said Attorney General Bill McCollum, the front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor.
Mr. McCollum, who also supports Mr. Thrasher as chairman, had been talking with top party officials for several weeks about making a change in leadership.
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