- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Florida Republican Party has turned some high-profile clutter to cash, selling a portrait of its former leader — newly independent Florida Gov. Charlie Crist — on eBay Wednesday for $7,700.

“Now that Charlie Crist has deserted his post as elected head of the Republican Party … we are trying to clean up the mess left behind,” said a statement from party officials announcing the sale. “Today we completed an important step.”

Florida state Sen. John Thrasher, chairman of the Florida GOP, removed the portrait from the party’s Tallahassee headquarters immediately after Mr. Crist announced last month that he was bolting the party to continue his run for the U.S. Senate without party affiliation.

The online auction for the portrait, an oil painting on linen canvas, ended late Wednesday morning after a flurry of bids in the final hour jacked up the price about $1,000, the party said.

The party said it hasn’t had contact with the buyer yet and doesn’t know what he or she plans to do with it. The buyer, from Florida, made a total of six bids during the auction, which began May 3.

The painting, along with a portrait of former party Chairman Jim Greer, a Crist ally who recently was forced from office amid reports he misused party money, had cost the party $7,500.

“It’s a new day for the [Florida] Republican Party and this portrait is just an example of the extravagant spending under the leadership of Mr. Greer and Gov. Crist,” said Florida GOP spokeswoman Katie Betta.

Once a darling of the Republican Party, Mr. Crist had been considered a shoo-in a year ago to win his party’s primary for an open Senate seat and the probable winner in November’s general election. But his support among Republicans began to erode the moment conservative former House Speaker Marco Rubio entered the primary race.

Mr. Crist had fallen significantly behind Mr. Rubio in polls for the open Senate seat just prior to leaving the party. Recent surveys, however, give Mr. Crist a slight lead over Mr. Rubio and Democratic Rep. Kendrick B. Meek in a three-way race.