With an eye on 2012, Peg Dunmire of Orlando has been named as the new chairman of the Florida Tea Party (TEA).
A lifelong Republican before becoming the Tea Party’s first congressional candidate earlier this year, Dunmire was unanimously chosen by the party’s executive committee on Monday, six days after waging a spirited campaign for the state’s eighth congressional district seat.
“I’m honored to accept the chairmanship of the party and I’m looking forward to expanding our role in public policy and political activities in the months to come,” declared the 63-year-old Dunmire.
Led by little-known and poorly-funded Ira Chester, a 75-year-old retired state worker on a fixed income who garnered an eye-opening 203,000 votes in a bid for Commissioner of Agriculture, Florida Tea Party candidates received more than 300,000 votes on November 2.
A former chief financial planner and longtime health care consultant who spent a considerable amount of her own money on her uphill congressional race, Dunmire unofficially garnered 8,335 votes, or slightly less than four percent, against combative Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson and Republican challenger Daniel Webster last Tuesday.
Webster, a former state senator, captured the seat with more than 56 percent of the vote.
Florida GOP leaders had worried that Dunmire — a self-described tea party activist — would play the role of spoiler in that widely-watched contest, enabling the fiery and controversial Grayson to eke out a victory in his bid for a second term.
Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson, the Tea Party’s only elected officeholder, polled an impressive 22,865 votes, or nearly eleven percent, in Florida’s 12th congressional district.
The party expects to do even better in 2012.
“This is just the beginning and a great beginning it was,” said Dunmire, who hasn’t ruled out another campaign for the U.S. House, especially if congressional re-apportionment results in the creation of a new congressional district in the greater Orlando area in 2012.
Party founder Fred O’Neal, an Orlando attorney who is stepping down as chairman of the fledgling party, will continue to serve as the Tea Party’s general counsel. Longtime political consultant Doug Guetzloe, a well-known anti-tax activist and radio talk-show host, is expected to continue as an unpaid advisor to the party.