Former Palm Coast City Councilman Dave Ferguson came to my office this morning and explained why he feels the Republican Party “needs better unity” in Flagler County, and that his impression when he was considering running for office in 2014 was that the party was “dysfunctional.”
REC needs ‘religion’
Ferguson hopes that someone from the state Republican Party will put some pressure on the Republican Executive Committee’s leadership. The REC recently disbanded the Republican clubs in Flagler County and Palm Coast and also voted not to accept County Commissioner Frank Meeker’s request for an excused absence, resulting in Meeker being kicked out of the REC. Ferguson sees this as a political games, essentially, and not helpful for the party.
“If you got more people aware of what’s going on, maybe the RRR would get some religion and back off a little bit, and quit acting so cavalier and quit throwing out the county commissioner from their club,” Ferguson said. “I would feel good about that.”
By religion, of course, I took it to mean that Ferguson thinks the group needs to act in a more reasonable way.
The fact that he referred to the REC leadership as RRR, or Ronald Reagan Republicans, is an indication that many do, in fact, feel the two are one and the same. Anne-Marie Shaffer, the REC chairwoman, is a member of the RRR group. But current RRR President Mike McElroy thinks the RRR Assembly is being unfairly lumped in with the REC. You be the judge.
What he learned, why he didn't run
Ferguson was appointed mid-term to the City Council in 2012 — he was not elected — and then decided not to run for his same seat when it was available in 2014. And his decision not to run is a reflection, in part, on his view of the state of the Republican Party in Flagler County. (He also was considering moving out of his zone, which factored into his decision.)
At the time when he was considering running, he said, he was contacted by a leader in the REC, who said, "If you run, you won't beat Anne-Marie," referring to Shaffer. She ran for City Council and lost, but has since been elected as the chairwoman of the REC. Then someone suggested that he could run in 2014, and then if he wanted to resign mid-way through, someone else could be appointed. He didn’t like the political maneuvering and didn't feel like "pandering" for votes.
Speaking of his interactions with leadership of the local clubs, he said, “My experience was not a rich experience. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” He suggested that the party leaders were more interested in the “status” and being visible and “drinking the coffee on election day.”
Signs of dysfunction
Separate from his own decision not to run, he said he went to someone in the party and asked for signs to put up, in support of the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. He was told he had to pay for the signs, and he thought that was crazy. So he went to St. Johns County, “and they gave me 20 signs for free.”
So what did that say to him about the Republican Party in Flagler County? He said, “I figured it was dysfunctional.”
After talking to him today, I got the impression that Ferguson is still unsure what he wants his political future to be. He said it’s too early to think about running for any office in 2016, but he might be interested in being involved in the Chamber of Commerce or in the Flagler County Economic Opportunity Council.
'In my soul'
Ferguson came to my office wearing a polo shirt with the words "Presidential Retreat Camp David" embroidered on it. He said he got it from his sister about 12 years ago as a birthday present. "She knew I always had an interest in politics. I wore it today to show you that I have that in my soul somewhere."