TALLAHASSEE — The Republican Party of Florida on Tuesday postponed its biggest annual fundraiser, a move that some officials blamed on lackluster interest from donors.
Planners were having difficulty selling table sponsorships to the Statesman’s Dinner, and money that Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged to raise for the event has yet to arrive. Event planners also couldn’t land a keynote speaker for the dinner, which was scheduled for Nov. 9 in Orlando.
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The postponement is a significant setback to the state Republican Party and potentially President Donald Trump, who will need to win Florida to secure his reelection in 2020. The annual dinner, which last year netted the party $500,000, is as much a pep rally as it is a fundraiser, serving to gin up excitement in a state where elections are decided on slim margins and voter turnout is critical. The snafu adds to the woes of a party already gripped by infighting over its leadership.
“Someone dropped the ball, it is unprecedented to cancel such a high-profile dinner,” said one member of the state executive committee. “Announcing the cancellation without even giving a notice to the committee is even worse.”
Some officials are unconvinced the party is in a position to reschedule the Statesman’s Dinner.
State party Chairman Joe Gruters and DeSantis did not respond to requests for comment.
The news was delivered via the party’s Twitter account.
“2019 Statesman’s Dinner and Fall RPOF quarterly meeting will be postponed for a later date this year,” the party wrote on its Twitter account. “More information and exciting news about the rescheduled event will be released soon!”
Rumors had circulated for weeks that planning for the party’s major event was hitting snags. The problem was exacerbated by Gruters’ original expectation that Trump himself would serve as keynote speaker.
So far, the only confirmed speaker for the event was DeSantis.
A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign in Florida did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As of Friday, the only table sponsorships that had been sold were bought by local Republican Executive Committees. No donor or corporate tables had been sold and DeSantis had not raised any money for the event, despite pledging millions of dollars.
It’s another blow to a party that has been in turmoil in recent weeks.
DeSantis Chief of Staff Shane Strum and first lady Casey DeSantis were behind the ouster of top party officials earlier this year and recently, with Trump’s endorsement, installed a new executive director, Peter O’Rourke.
Last week, O’Rourke was hit with a scathing report on at his leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ whistleblower office.
The department’s Office of Inspector General said O’Rourke tried to bury whistleblower complaints and showed “bias” investigating complaints made against prominent Trump appointees.
The findings caught many in the state party by surprise, adding to the unhappiness over the ouster of O’Rourke’s predecessor, Jennifer Locetta.
Florida Democrats seeking to unseat Trump next year have had their own difficulties, including trouble arranging a national speaker for their fundraiser earlier this month.