Looking forward to 2012, and unconcerned about promoting a "Tallahassee insider," Republicans elected David Bitner chairman of the state party on Saturday.Bitner edged Cox-Roush in a runoff after none of the five candidates attained a majority in the first round of voting. Bitner led the initial tally with 109, followed by Cox-Roush, who garnered 58.The three other candidates trailed far behind: Joe Gruters, 37; Sid Dinerstein, 16; and Tony DiMatteo, 7.Bitner prevailed in the runoff as supporters of the second-tier candidates shifted to the Jefferson County state committeeman and former state legislator.Both Bitner and Cox-Roush encountered anonymous attacks during the campaign, but still finished one-two in the balloting.In his first act as chairman, Bitner brought his rivals to the podium at the Dolphin Resort at Disney's Epcot, where he applauded "a great team."
"There's unity here. There were no bad people in this race," said Bitner, who also worked several years as a lobbyist in Tallahassee.
Choking with emotion, Bitner said he was "honored" to lead the party.
"We are unified, and we will deliver," Bitner pledged.
Monday, January 17, 2011
From Kenric Ward of Sunshine State News on Jan. 15: