Both Randy Ross and Lew Oliver bring a lot to the table... but who deserves to sit at the head?
By Gregory Fournier
With the Presidential election out of the way, Orange County Republicans will focus on the December 8th Election of Chairman and Vice Chairman. The two candidates for the position of Chairman are current Chairman Lew Oliver and Randy Ross, the Chairman of the Trump team in Orange County.
Mr. Ross is running on increasing voter registration and having more fundraisers during the year so the committee can assist local candidates.
Ross also argues that his Orange County organization for Trump was the best in the state. All are true statements. His work for the Trump campaign was stellar and he did have one of the best organizations in Florida and possibly in the country.
As I toured North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and elsewhere, I didn’t see half the energy or organized effort that Ross had built in Orange County. With all the efforts, though, Trump lost Orange County, with 60.4% in Clinton's column and 35.7% for Trump. While stating that the numbers of registered Democrats VS Republican voters were the reason for those results is an easy route, there is much more to the story.
Failed targeting, messaging, and outreach with early voters are a few factors in the Trump loss for Orange County. The Democrats won races like Mica’s, Rubio (yes, Rubio also lost Orange County) and Lowe, in large part on major early voting efforts by Democrats. Republicans took YUGE losses in Orange County.
The Mica race alone should have been a major priority of the Republican Executive Committee in Orange County. I fail to see how anyone could argue that it indeed was. Who is to blame for all these major losses? Did Ross do enough with the Trump campaign? Where the efforts (while strong in comparison to the Democrats) misdirect efforts that did not target properly? Did Lew Oliver and OCREC fail by making the same mistakes Ross did with Trump in the other races?
My analysis is that it was everybodys fault. So, let’s get back to the election of OCREC chair.
Who is better suited to stop the bleeding of Republican losses in Orange County?
Randy Ross showed a strong ability to organize large groups of volunteers and get them active. His leadership in gathering like-minded people and leading them showed he has the potential to be great, but that was one race. The question has to be asked, “Can Ross get the same results with multiple candidates in multiple races. Can Ross stay neutral in primary races? Will Ross over burden OCREC by having multiple fundraising events?"
Ross does like a good party and is a superb event organizer. The Chairman of the County Committee takes a lot more than that though. It’s cultivating good candidates, increasing voter registration, getting Republicans elected and forging relationships in both the public and private sectors.
While he sometimes fails in many areas of getting Republicans elected, Mr. Oliver does have the established relationships necessary to right the ship. The OCREC and the future of it would best be served with a coordinated effort between Oliver and Ross. A change in Leadership is not going to happen.
Oliver will prevail based on the relationships he has made and I do not see Ross as having "stuffed" the OCREC with the members necessary to prevail. In Volusia County, Tony Ledbetter spent a few years stacking the Committee with members that would vote his way. It was a coup of epic proportions.
Ross is basing his run on one election and trying to rely on his success in building a strong Trump organization in Orange County. The effort that in reality failed, but again, Ross can organize and engergize.
Oliver will prevail in this election. He should prevail. However, he must embrace Ross and they should work together. A Oliver Chairmanship with Ross leading special events and membership would be the one-two punch Orange County Repubicans need.
Oliver must use better GOTV tactics and spend the next 3.5 years building the party. Oliver must change everything the Republican Party in Orange County does in candidate cultivation, and rebuild what OCREC stands for.
It must build on the Trump win and realize the party has dramatically changed. Orange County Republicans must also better relate to the middle and lower class voters in the County.
Gregory Fournier is a veteran political operative and strategiest that has worked on high profile federal, statewide, and local races across the Southeast.