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Columbia, Suwannee GOP rallies draw crowds

By John-Walt Boatright

Local Republicans in Columbia and Suwannee counties organized earlier this month to generate enthusiasm and voter turnout for the upcoming election.

Approximately 100 people congregated Friday evening at the City Park in downtown Lake City to listen to local, state and federal candidates.  Local musician Tony Buzzella led the group in a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to kick off the evening.  

Supervisor of Elections Elizabeth Horn reminded voters of the important dates and deadlines for the 2016 election.  Early voting will begin October 29 – November 5 at the

Lake City and Fort White locations.  The voter registration deadline has been extended to October 18.  Election Day will be Tuesday, November 8.  Further information can be found at

As the GOP candidate for the newly redrawn Congressional District 2 stretching as far as Panama City, Dr. Neal Dunn touted his background as a surgeon, an Army veteran, and a businessman.  Specifically, Dunn acknowledged the “illusion of healthcare coverage” under Obamacare with rising insurance costs and broken promises.  He noted that an individual from Georgia reported a 263% increase in his premium in one year.  As with the economy as a whole, Dr. Dunn asserted government overregulation is rampant and stifling growth; Dunn states it will be his priority, once elected, to repeal and replace Obamacare and other burdensome policies, while strengthening our military and meeting our national security needs.

Elizabeth Porter addressed the crowd to request re-election to her fourth and final term in the Florida House of Representatives.  Rep. Porter reminded voters of her consistently strong commitment to the region’s natural resources and reiterated a guiding philosophy rooted in conservative and constitutional principles.  Porter lamented that the political polarization has trickled down to the state level over basic concepts such as the constitutional requirement of a balanced budget, a policy that Washington, DC would be wise to adopt, she claims.  Rep. Porter also touched on expressing support and appreciation for law enforcement and remaining vigilant in electing conservatives to public office.

County Commission District 5 candidates Scarlet Frisina and Tim Murphy also spoke of their plans to enhance Columbia County.  Incumbent Frisina highlighted accomplishments over two terms, including five miles of paved roads and maintaining the millage rate at the current level, and a proven ability to make tough decisions as a county commissioner. 

Challenger Murphy, while noting this is second attempt for the seat, seeks to “bring a new face to county government,” prioritizing the taxpayers with every decision and committing to more collaboration between the city and the county on economic development efforts.
Brittany Powell wowed the crowd with musical talents, singing Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.”  Hunter Peeler briefly made a resolute case for a Trump presidency, pointing to the unprecedented level of corruption Hillary Clinton embodies.

Columbia GOP Chairman Buddy Hines reported with regret that the Trump bus was unable to make it due to a last-minute scheduling conflict.

Suwannee Republicans held their “Proud to Be an American” Rally at the Train Depot in Live Oak the following day, which gave local candidates an opportunity to make their case to the voters.  

From 10 am to 3 pm, the schedule was packed with candidate speeches, auctioning cakes, and inspiring performances by Larry and Susan Roush and Joey Holiday.

Dunn and Porter made pitches at this event, along with Superintendent of Schools candidate Ted Roush, Sheriff candidate Buddy Williams, Property Appraiser candidate Shawn Crocker, County Commission candidates John Rothenberger and Ronnie Richardson.  Current elected officials Keith Mixon and Ricky Gamble also updated the group on their work to improve the city and the county.

Layne Schultetus and Sherri Ortega gave stirring accounts as party delegates at the GOP National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.  Both recounted it as a moving, “once-in-a-lifetime” experience and an honor they will treasure for years to come.

It was undoubtedly a busy weekend for local Republicans.  The leadership of the Columbia and Suwannee GOP organizations extend their appreciation to those who helped and attended, but encourage all to remain active through the election.