Let me tell you a little about Mike Moberley.
Mike (that's him in the picture with our governor) is chairman of the Citrus County Republican Executive Committee. That may not mean much to some people but in a county where politics is watched keenly like high school football, he's head coach of the winning team.
I’ve always known Mike as a fair and reasonable person. Someone extremely knowledgeable of Republican issues and truly dedicated to the cause.
Over the last two years, in particular, he’s been caught in the middle between a segment of the party that wants to veer further right and those who don’t. It spilled out into the public arena during this past year, in particular, as certain local Republican leaders slammed county commissioners who wouldn’t give in to the Library Guy Gang over the make-believe library display issue.
So when another Republican, part of a growing movement across the U.S. called “America First,” said he would challenge Mike for the chairmanship, well, who knew what would happen?
Here’s what happened: Citrus County Republicans showed up in force and re-elected Mike to another two-year chairman term. In doing so, they sent a strong message to those who think turmoil is the best way to go: Hit the road, Jack.
Monday night was the big Republican Executive Committee (REC) meeting. I’d like to explain in detail how one becomes a member of the executive committee, but I’ll pass; its voting membership is 110. The meeting’s purpose was to elect the slate of officers.
Mike’s been chairman for two years and before that state committeeman and before that chairman for four years. He’s also treasurer of the state party.
The point being he’s no middle-of-the-road Republican. I remember writing about Mike being named a delegate at the 2016 Republican National Convention, and then he was one of Florida’s 29 electors who cast Electoral College votes for Trump.
In Citrus County he has an earned reputation of being a voice of calm, reason. He sees the party’s role in encouraging conservative candidates, helping them get elected, and then continuing to support them.
Stephen Mecler, the Republican challenging Mike, had the opposite approach. He, and others with this “America First” movement, believe the local party should not only help elect conservatives to office, it should then TELL THEM WHAT TO DO.
“The REC is for the members to decide our county’s direction,” he posted on his Facebook page.
Here’s another one: “Everybody will know the rules and we will hold politicians accountable!”
So the battle lines were clear.
Team Moberley: Inclusive, encourage voter registration and participation, support conservative candidates, but hands off local government policy.
Team Mecler: Tell politicians what to do and if they don't do it, damn them.
Monday’s turnout was incredible: 96 of 110 voting members — 87%. Of that number, Moberley received 74% of the vote.
A few things I glean from this.
First, that’s an electorate turning out to vote for a specific purpose. If Republicans liked Moberley and didn’t want Mecler, they could have just stayed home. Instead, they showed up to MAKE SURE nothing weird happened.
And, clearly, it’s a mandate. How can local Republicans read it any differently?
It means Citrus County Republicans are geared toward moving our community forward and are not interested in bogging down progress with cheap-shot bickering.
It means all that noise and saber-rattling we’ve been hearing from the Library Guy Gang is little more than hot air.
And, most of all, it means Republicans backed a true Republican. Mike Moberley is a trustworthy, forthright and honorable man. Citrus County Republicans could not have a more dedicated leader.
I’m not naïve to suggest this is the end of the naysayers, because it isn’t. I know some of these folks are targeting the 2024 election, particularly seats held by Commissioners Holly Davis and Ruthie Davis Schlabach. Expect ugly in two years.
But not today. It’s Thursday — a good day for Citrus County Republicans.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.