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Bay County Republican: the truth about what is going on in GOP local politics

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

EXCLUSIVE interview with RPOF Chairman candidate Dave Bitner

1. Why did you decide to seek the office of RPOF Chairman?
I care deeply about this party and this state.  We need strong Republican leaders now more than ever.  After thinking about the challenges our party is going to face in the next few years – the RNC Convention, a must-win Presidential Election, and battling against all the special-interest money President Obama can find –I realized the stakes are too high for me to sit this one out on the sidelines.  We can set ourselves up for a Renaissance—a rebirth—by choosing experienced leaders with fresh ideas, or we can set ourselves up for failure with infighting. I strongly believe that I am the person who can launch an aggressive fundraising program and more effectively use technology to cut down on costs and better communicate with voters.  I believe that I am the person who can represent our Party with a public image that is statesmanlike but not elitist; experienced but not afraid of fresh ideas.   

2. What political experience do you bring to the table?
I think my experience as a small business owner—making payroll, managing employees, etc.—is just as important as my political background. In fact, building a business from the ground up showed me firsthand the need to cut government red tape and fight for lower taxes on small businesses and families. In 1992, I was elected to HD 71 (Charlotte, Lee, Sarasota Counties).  I served eight years in the Florida Legislature and never asked for one earmark, returning taxpayer dollars to the state from my office every quarter. I am proud of the reputation I earned as a hard-working, common-sense conservative. I am also proud to have helped the party gain the majority in the Florida House under Speakers Webster and Thrasher, then under Governor Jeb Bush.
I started as a precinct committeeman and currently serve as a state committeeman for Jefferson County.  My wife Wendy and I have walked door-to-door for hundreds of state and local Republican candidates over the last 18 years, from Pensacola to Key West.  We have redistricting coming up.  I’ve been around the block and know the complex redistricting process in and out. We’ll need an advocate to ensure that the local Republican leaders are heard.
3. Raising money is one of the primary duties of the RPOF Chairman. How do you plan to do that in such a tough economy? 
That’s a great question, because we can’t implement any of the technology improvements or new GOTV ideas if we don’t have any money in the bank.  I will do this by launching an aggressive fundraising effort and handling the Party’s finances with transparency and openness.  I won’t stand for backroom deals or frivolous spending.  Every dollar we spend should be to get Republicans elected.  I am a businessman and have successfully run businesses all my life, so I am confident that I will exceed fundraising goals and ensure that the RPOF is one of the most competitive and successful parties in the nation.  I will work to bring in new donors via traditional outreach, and implement innovative, cost-effective online fundraising efforts.  One example of how we can enhance fundraising is to increase federal fundraising for GOTV efforts. Refilling our coffers with federal dollars will be critical.  If other state and local parties have launched new fundraising efforts with success, I will ensure that the RPOF is ready to take advantage of what they are doing to benefit Florida Republicans.
4. How do you feel about RPOF's online presence? What would you improve? 
There has been a lot of talk about technology and how it can be used to give our party the edge. I think it is important to look at what successful candidates like Marco Rubio and Dan Webster have done and integrate their successes to improve our party’s communications, fundraising, voter contact and Election Day operations. We will establish an up-to-date contact database for RECs and grassroots Republicans to utilize, and we’ll assist with things like voter verification and targeting. 

We’ll use technology such as social networking and online fundraising to not only reach out to more voters in but to also cut costs and save money. It is critical that we hire professional staff who understand how to leverage online/web-based technology and use it to achieve solid results.  I won’t stand for bells and whistles that don’t advance the RPOF’s election day goals.  We won’t hold resources hostage in Tallahassee.  If we have new online tools, they should be available for campaigns at every level.  We can better utilize technology include providing access to an up-to-date contact database, and assisting with voter verification

5. What are your feelings regarding the Jim Greer situation? Are there any reforms you would institute to make sure this does not ever happen again?
Two words:  Transparency and principle.  If I am elected Chairman, we will enact professional standards and internal safeguards against frivolous spending and out-of-control vendor contracts.  While leadership experience within the GOP structure can be a positive quality, in the campaign for the next Chair, I think it is important to bring in someone with no significant ties to the Jim Greer administration. It is time to start anew, with a fresh slate. 

6. Do you have any interest in an official RPOF platform or a State Convention in the future? 
I think Presidency V, along with a Straw Poll and a Republican Presidential campaign, is a tradition that we should maintain and be proud of.  This event not only draws grassroots Republicans from across the state, but media from across the country.  If this event is managed appropriately, it brings in revenue and solidifies Florida’s one-of-a-kind, battleground state status.

7. What is your relationship with Governor-elect Rick Scott? Did you support him during the primary?
I have known Gov-elect Scott for about 16 years. I am proud to have supported him from Day 1 of his campaign. I first met Gov-elect Scott in 1994 when we had an occasion to discuss local legislation. We both believe that many answers to our problems are found in the private sector, not growing a bigger government. I look forward to working closely with the Governor if I am elected Chairman of the party.
8. What is your relationship with the Tea Party leadership in your area? Have you been able to encourage them to join your county REC?

As a small county, Jefferson County does not have a Tea Party…but across Florida, I know that Tea Party members have been speaking out against big government, higher taxes, and skyrocketing national debt.  These are also Republican ideals. I think the RPOF should actively create opportunities to encourage these politically-engaged citizens to join our counties’ RECs and get them involved in Republican campaigns and causes. 

9. Do you intend to travel and meet with county RECs across the state during your term as Chairman? Will you be accessible to the rank-and-file?
If I am elected Chairman, I intend to spend a majority of time outside of Tallahassee, meeting with RECs and the volunteers that make our party as successful as it is today.  Wendy and I have spent so much time driving across the state visiting with Party members, and we have learned that talking face-to-face with folks is invaluable.  A willingness to sit back and listen is one of the most important qualities a chairman can have.  Traveling the state in an efficient, cost-effective manner will enable me to discuss RECs’ concerns, share ideas, and ensure that our local parties have the resources they need to remain competitive.  As I have throughout the chairman’s race, I will continue to make my cell phone number and email address available to everyone.

10. If it was up to you, what day would Florida hold its 2012 Presidential preference primary?
This is an important issue to grassroots Republicans and our elected Republicans.  I will listen to members of the Party’s leadership to weigh the benefits of adopting an early primary against the prospect of losing half of our delegates. Florida will play a key role in deciding our Republican nominee, and I do not want to see our state unnecessarily penalized for holding an early primary.  I am in favor of holding a straw poll in November if this party supports the idea.  Above all else, we will work with RECs and Party leaders to position the RPOF so that we possess national influence in the Republican nomination contest.

11. Finally, are there any other changes you would make to RPOF as it stands as an organization today? 
If I am elected Chairman, I would do a top-to-bottom review of the staffing and infrastructure at the RPOF as it stands currently to weed out duplication and ensure that we are running a professional, cost-effective, and state-of-the-art political party. I bring a degree of separation from the outgoing administration that I think will be both helpful and refreshing.  I will surround myself with experts in different subject areas—fundraising, GOTV/grassroots, and communications and appoint a Chief Information Officer.  I will also immediately undertake a comprehensive review of vendors and consultants and an inventory of resources at the RPOF to ensure we have our affairs in order before beginning to clean house where appropriate.

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