Lobbyist and Republican fundraiser Anita Mitchell and GOP activist Tami Donnally plan to run for the vacant chairmanship of the Palm Beach County Republican Party in a special election next month to replace Ira Sabin, who resigned last week.
Mitchell, the mother of West Palm Beach City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell, is a longtime fixture in local politics who has raised money for a variety of GOP campaigns, including Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014 re-election bid and the 2012 campaigns of presidential nominee Mitt Romney and state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton.
Donnally, an administrator at a Christian school, is a past president of the Republican Club of Central Palm Beach County. Running in Democrat-leaning districts, Donnally lost a 2010 state House race to Democrat Joseph Abruzzo and a 2012 challenge to state Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach.
The county GOP’s board of directors has set a Nov. 13 date for the election.
Sabin was narrowly elected in December to a two-year term. But he resigned last week after a tenure marked by weak fundraising and friction with other party leaders. The final straw was a disagreement between Sabin and others in the party over a trip to Haiti by Vice Chairman Michael Barnett and other Republicans that was billed as part of the local GOP’s outreach to Haitian-American voters.
Barnett said in one e-mail that the trip would be paid for by the Haitian government and a Haitian political and social organization. Sabin said he was uncomfortable with the funding and insisted that Barnett not go as a representative of the county GOP.
Barnett said he and the three others who went on the Sept. 25-28 trip decided to pay the approximate $600-per-person cost out of their own pockets. He said the excursion, which included a visit to a church-run orphanage, gave him a better understanding of Haiti that will help him relate to Haitian-Americans here.
Barnett, who is serving as interim party boss since Sabin’s resignation, said he’s not interested in seeking the chairmanship.
Mitchell is not a member of the Republican Executive Committee, which is a requirement for candidates for chairman, but the REC is expected to vote on appointing her to a vacant seat at a meeting next week. Mitchell said she was approached by party leaders, including State Committeeman Peter Feaman, about running for chairman.
“She has the ability to raise money and has been active in the Republican Party for many, many years,” Feaman said of Mitchell. He added, “I like Tami as well.”
Mitchell said she’s only interested in holding the job through the 2014 elections.
“I would do it to fill out (Sabin’s) term, raise some money and get the party back on its feet,” Mitchell said. “Tami by the way is a lovely lady. It’s not about running against anybody. The leadership asked me. Had I never been asked I probably wouldn’t have thought of it.”
Donnally said she would bring an end to divisions within the party and focus on the 2014 elections.
“I would like to see our party come together and be united and I think that one of the strengths that I have is being able to bring people together,” Donnally said.