Florida GOP Removes Loyalty Oath Primary Condition Which Trump Opposed

Nathan Worcester
By Nathan Worcester
September 16, 20232024 Electionshare
Florida GOP Removes Loyalty Oath Primary Condition Which Trump Opposed
People mill around in the hallway of the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Fla., outside a closed-door meeting where the state Republican Party officials were debating whether to remove a loyalty oath for those seeking to enter the GOP primary. (The Epoch Times staff)

Leaders of the Republican Party of Florida voted to eliminate a loyalty oath requirement for participation in the state’s primary, marking a victory for former President Donald Trump in his attempt to beat Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other challengers in the race for the 2024 nomination.

The former commander-in-chief said he wouldn’t sign such a pledge, which was added to the party bylaws just months ago. Now it won’t disqualify him as he gears up to compete in the delegate-rich state.

A spokesperson for Governor Ron DeSantis told The Epoch Times that the opposition to the pledge was surprising.

“We believe anyone who wants to run for president as a Republican should be willing to pledge their support for our eventual nominee. It is surprising that anyone interested in seeing the defeat of Joe Biden in 2024 would disagree,” Bryan Griffin, campaign press secretary for Ron DeSantis, said.

“Once Ron DeSantis secures the party’s nomination, we hope everyone in the field will join him in that fight,” Mr. Griffin said.

An official who was inside the party’s executive board meeting on Sept. 15 confirmed to The Epoch Times that the loyalty oath language was removed.

The vote played out behind closed doors in a small meeting room at the Rosen Centre Hotel on a Friday evening. The executive board meeting was part of the party’s larger Fall Quarterly Meeting.

Just after the meeting started, about 50-60 state party members who weren’t permitted to vote were booted from the room.

They and about 50-60 others, mostly Trump supporters, milled around a nearby hallway as members of the state party’s executive committee deliberated.

NTD Photo
Debi Stolte of Altamonte Springs, Fla., stands outside a closed-door meeting of the Florida GOP’s upper ranks on Sept. 15, 2023. (The Epoch Times)

The atmosphere was tense. Trump supporters concerned that the loyalty pledge would hurt their candidate of choice stood out against the drab business suits. One woman wore a T-shirt reading, “Donald Trump Did Nothing Wrong!”

“If it wasn’t for Trump, he [DeSantis] wouldn’t be governor right now,” said another Trump supporter Debi Stolte of Altamonte Springs, Florida, in an interview with The Epoch Times.

“The reason why I’m here is because I need Trump on the ballot,” she continued.

Ms. Stolte said she thinks Mr. DeSantis has been “a fantastic governor.” She told The Epoch Times she volunteered for him during his first run for governor and his successful reelection campaign.

“I gave him money. We all worked for him to be our governor. He should have just waited [to run],” she added.

NTD Photo
People mill around in the hallway of the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Fla., as the state Republican Party considered a rule change to remove a loyalty oath for those seeking to be on the GOP presidential primary ballot. (The Epoch Times staff)

At a meeting in May, the Florida Republican Party’s Executive Committee passed a rule requiring the loyalty pledge for those seeking to appear on the state’s primary ballot.

That language instructed hopefuls that they should not “seek to run as an independent, non-party affiliated, or write-in candidate” or “seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.”

It also required would-be candidates to “endorse the 2024 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is” if they do not secure that nomination.

Florida’s GOP isn’t the only state party to come under scrutiny from Trump supporters for changes perceived as detrimental to the former president.

In late July, the California Republican Party Executive Committee approved a rules change for that state’s March 5 GOP primary that would see delegates distributed proportionally based on vote totals unless a candidate secures more than half of the vote in the state.

Earlier that month, the proposal met with criticism from Laura Loomer and other Trump supporters, who argued that it stands to benefit Mr. DeSantis.

But Republican leaders in the state pointed out that the change was triggered by a new Republican National Committee (RNC) requirement.

“With this rules change that now puts us in compliance with RNC rules, Republican presidential candidates will not only be encouraged to spend real time campaigning in our state and making their case to voters, but Republican voters will equally be encouraged to turn out to support their chosen candidate to help them win delegates,” California GOP Chair Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement after the change passed the executive committee.

In addition, the RNC has required prospective participants in their debates to sign a loyalty pledge in order to participate.

Former President Trump did not attend the first primary debate, which took place in Milwaukee on Aug. 23. He’s also not expected to appear at the next debate, which will take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on Sept. 27.

While former President Trump has been at the center of the conversation over loyalty pledges, he and his backers aren’t alone in criticizing such measures.

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson described the debate pledge as “unhelpful” during an interview on CNN in March.

From The Epoch Times

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