When asked if he is running to lead the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), former state Rep. Matt Caldwell offered a concise response.
“What? If I was running for RPOF chair, I would have announced that,” Caldwell told Florida Daily when asked about it.
Rumors and reports started to circulate last week that Caldwell was looking at making a move to lead the Florida GOP right after he announced he would be running for Lee County Republican state committeeman.
Caldwell, currently a news analyst on 92.5 in southwest Florida, told Florida Daily that the rumor started after he announced his candidacy.
“For some reason why, some people believe that I am going to use my new position to challenge (current state GOP chairman) Joe Gruters for his chairmanship,” Caldwell said, dismissing the rumors as “totally inaccurate.”
Florida Daily talked to a few party insiders that said they believe the rumors are coming from Christian Zieglar, the current vice-chairman of the RPOF. Zieglar himself has an impressive political resume and is rumored to be planning to run for the RPOF chairmanship when it becomes open.
Some of the rumors about Caldwell’s ambitions could be coming from his own backyard as he challenges current Lee County State Committeeman Chris Crowley.
Florida Daily reached out to a few members of the local party who said they are glad to see Caldwell challenge Crowley with some expressing disappointment with the current incumbent based on his feuds with local GOP officials. Some Lee County Republicans insist Crowley has been using his position to endorse certain local candidates and have questioned if he has violated his oath of office.
Caldwell said he is getting calls from countywide elected Republican officials wanting him to become the state committeeman.
For his part, on Friday, Crowley sent an out an email blasting Caldwell for being a “never Trumper,” pointing to an op-ed during the 2016 Republican primary when Caldwell had some criticism of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Caldwell faced this line of attack before when he ran for the Republican nomination in the state agriculture commissioner race in 2018. The former state representative noted that he, along with many other Republicans who opposed Trump in the primaries, came out and heavily supported him in the general election. Caldwell said he continues to support Tump’s policies today.
“The fact is I faced these lame attacks during my 2018 primary. The voters didn’t buy it then and they won’t buy it now,” said Caldwell.
Caldwell was edged by Democrat Nikki Fried in the state agriculture commissioner race back in 2018. He announced earlier this month that he is running for Lee County property appraiser after longtime incumbent Ken Wilkinson announced he was retiring after four decades.
Reach Ed Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org.