Updated | 9:45 a.m. and 2:33 p.m. Oct. 29
Original post | 9 p.m. Oct. 28
After a drawn out, often contentious debate, Broward Republicans killed an effort aimed at removing their secretary, Cara Pavalock, for what some members regarded as an egregious offense: a written statement supporting Republicans who said publicly they favor same-sex marriage.
Republican committeewoman Karin Hoffman of Lighthouse Point said Monday night's debate, which dealt largely with arcane interpretations of party procedures, seemed as if it was something that ought to play on the Comedy Central cable network.
The contretemps reflected a deep divide among Republicans across the country. One camp wants the party to stick to conservative principles, especially on social issues, in an attempt to win elections. Another wing wants the party to appeal to a broader base of voters by doing things like reaching out to voting blocs – blacks, Hispanics, gays – that haven’t been voting Republican.
In Broward, the debate has centered on Pavalock. Discontent with the party secretary has been bubbling among some conservative Republican committeemen, several of whom are affiliated with the tea party movement.
In June, Pavalock emailed about 60 people, urging them to “show your support” for Republicans who’d been quoted in a Sun Sentinel article as supporting same-sex marriage. She urged people to show that support by wearing red – which she did – to the June gathering.
Critics accused Pavalock of using the official Republican Party email list to push her personal views. She said she didn’t do that, but instead used the email list fro her December campaign for party secretary. They also complained that Pavalock signed the June email with her party secretary title, something she said was an inadvertent error caused by using an email program that automatically adds her title to outgoing mail.
Committeeman Ed Bender wanted the full Broward Republican Executive Committee, known by the acronym BREC – the group of committeemen and committeewomen who govern the affairs of the local Republican Party – to vote on whether to remove Pavalock.
On Monday, Party Chairman Tom Truex said Bender could have a vote of sorts – on whether the party would hold a vote on removing Pavalock at its next meeting. He said the party’s board opposed the move, but felt Bender was entitled to put his request to the entire membership.
“Your BREC board does not support or endorse this, and in fact does not think it has merit,” Truex said.
None of the speakers except Truex had a microphone, and many in the back of the room of about 200 people couldn’t hear what was going on.
The back and forth during and after the meeting showed several camps.
One group supported Pavalock. The other wanted her punished. A large group didn’t want a debate at all over her, with many saying they disagreed with her stand on same-sex marriage, but she had a right to say what she believed.
And still another group didn’t know what was going on. The public discussion centered on whether there would be a future vote, not the specifics of what Pavalock did or didn’t do.
“What exactly did Miss Pavalock do?” one woman yelled out.
“Forgive me for being completely in the dark as to what it is we’re talking about right now,” said committeeman Steve Eller of Pompano Beach. “I object to taking any vote at all tonight until we are informed as to what we are talking about.”
The vote against Bender’s motion, and in effect for Pavalock, was overwhelming, 92-32.
Many of the party’s most conservative members, including some who disagree with Pavalock on same-sex marriage, voted with her. Among those opposed to a vote on removing her were Hoffman, founder of the tea party group DC Works for US; Scott Spages, a Davie political activist; and Tom Lauder, a conservative online journalist.
While the voting was taking place, and once it became apparent his side would lose, the Rev. O’Neal Dozier, a committeeman and pastor of Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, tried to get others to join him.
“If you don’t stand up, then you’re endorsing homosexuality,” Dozier said.
Bender said Tuesday he thinks the matter should still be pursued. “I think that the focus of the subject matter was missed by too many people in that meeting. Unfortunately that means it will not die here it will have to come around again,” he said.
The discussion overshadowed other topics on which party members were more unified Monday night: opposition to the Common Core curriculum (though it is strongly supported by some leading Republicans, including former Gov. Jeb Bush), support for gun ownership, and ways to get more Republicans elected to city, town and village offices.