ORLANDO, Florida — Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott's hand-picked party chairman Saturday and instead elected Blaise Ingoglia to lead the state GOP.
Ingoglia won decisively on a second ballot, defeating Leslie Dougher 132-90. Dougher took over the Republican Party of Florida last May with Scott's endorsement. The governor again backed her for re-election.
Ingoglia has served as party vice chairman since 2011. In a speech before the vote, he noted President Barack Obama carried Florida the last two presidential elections and it's important that Republicans are successful here next year if they want to win the White House.
"We in the Republican Party do not need to change our message, we need to change the way we deliver that message. We do not have a message problem, we have a marketing problem," he said. "The only thing holding this party back is us."
None of the four candidates won a majority of votes on the first ballot, with Ingoglia receiving 80 votes and Dougher receiving 79 to force a runoff.
"Leslie did a great job as chairwoman. We had a successful election and that's why I voted for her. The delegates made another choice, which is their prerogative," Scott said through a spokeswoman.
Ingoglia, 44, is a homebuilder from Spring Hill. Last year he was elected to the state House.
"In 2016 Florida will be center stage. All eyes will be on us," Ingoglia said after winning the vote. "An open message to any Democrat who wants to run for president in the state of Florida: You are not going to come in here and you are not going to roll over our Republican Party. This state will go to our Republican nominee and we will take back the White House."
Scott won re-election in November despite a low approval rating. He won both his elections with less than half the votes cast and built a campaign team that was largely led by people brought in from outside Florida.
Dougher praised Ingoglia after the election.
"It's going to be positive for the party. It's going to be uniting," Dougher said. "It's the grassroots making a choice."
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