TALLAHASSEE – Peter O. Rourke, former senior official of the US Department of Veterans Affairs and ally of President Donald Trump, will head the Florida Republican Party, the latest development of a power struggle between the two parties. enter the presidential election of 2020.
O'Rourke, who was introduced to the party's executive committee as a "Trump-chosen" choice for the position, will replace Jennifer Locetta as executive director of one of the country's largest Republican operations. Locetta was hired in January, shortly after the inauguration of Governor Ron DeSantis, Republican.
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Trump's team proposed O'Rourke's name last week after DeSantis and his chief of staff, Shane Strum, spoke with Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale about Locetta's replacement. .
Trump "personally approved" O'Rourke for the appointment, DeSantis said in a statement on Monday.
"We are forming a united and united team at the dawn of 2020," said Joe Gruters, president of the Republican Party, at POLITICO.
In a teleconference with the party's executive committee on Monday, Mr. Gruters introduced Mr. O'Rourke as "essentially a cabinet secretary", referring to his term as Acting Secretary of the VA.
Gruters had revealed the hiring of O'Rourke in a press release issued Monday morning, a surprise announcement by party insiders, including some members of the executive committee.
"No one in the state executive committee had any idea of the new executive director until the press release was published," said a Republican consultant. "People are confused and concerned."
Florida GOP staff working with Trump's Victory team will remain largely in place, but further mutilations may occur, Gruters said.
"There will probably be more changes, but you can expect a larger team," Gruters said during the call.
This is O'Rourke's first job since leaving the VA in December.
When he cut his ties with the department, he was criticized for not posting up to $ 161,000 a year. As chief of staff of the VA, he was also criticized for allowing members of Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Palm Beach County Club, to influence the decision-making process of their department. .
Ike Perlmutter, president of Marvel Entertainment and one of DeSantis' largest donors, was one of those members. POLITICO announced last year that Perlmutter had opposed the award of a $ 16 billion contract to a supplier that he did not like.
"Peter O 'Rourke has the political expertise and management skills necessary to support Governor DeSantis within the state and preserve the cohesion of our party as we work to prepare for Florida for President Trump in 2020, "said Perlmutter in a written statement distributed under the" Gruters ". Press release.
The press release projected a message of unity after months of internal power struggles over party leadership that should influence decision-making.
Prominent Strum-led Republicans and Casey DeSantis's first lady sought to replace Allied party staff with Susie Wiles, a political strategist who helped guide DeSantis' campaign toward victory and leading the transition. Wiles and Gruters co-chaired the 2016 Trump campaign in Florida.
O'Rourke's commitment is "the pursuit of the establishment of [DeSantis’] Susie 'people', said a party official.
Locetta, the outgoing executive director, was considered an ally of Wiles.
The break with Wiles had led DeSantis to stand out from his own political apparatus as 2020 approached. DeSantis said he would raise money for two Florida Republican party events, before focusing on one. of its own political committees.
DeSantis does not have a political spokesperson. Strum did not return a call requesting a comment.