Facing an insurrection in the ranks, Palm Beach County Republican Chairman Ira Sabin said Friday he’s resigned.
Sabin said he sent an email Thursday night to Republican Party committeemen and committeewomen – the people who govern the county party – quitting “effective immediately.” He said he’s also resigned as a committeeman.
Sabin has been buffeted by criticism virtually since the moment he was elected chairman in December. The latest move against him was to come Tuesday at a meeting of the party’s board of directors, Sabin said.
“My understanding was they were going to bring a resolution of non-support for various reasons, and I felt rather than fight it – and if I could win a the board level, then what, and if they won it at the board level what am I going to put the party in a floor fight – it’s time to move on,” he said in a telephone interview. "If I pushed it I could have won the vote."
Party Vice Chairman Michael Barnett becomes the acting chairman, said Sabin and former county Republican Chairman Sid Dinerstein. A special election will be held to pick a chairman to fill the rest of Sabin’s two-year term.
Barnett could not be reached for comment Friday. His cell phone voice mail indicated he was away and unable to receive messages.
Sabin was the previous party treasurer. He was elected 71-69 over Marie Hope Davis, president of the Palm Beach Republican Club.
He took over from Dinerstein, who had led the party for 10 years – and contributed extensive financial resources from his own pocket. Dinerstein scaled back his support after his chairmanship ended. "Sid took his bat and ball and went home, and he was a primary funding source for the party."
Sabin had had difficulty raising money. Reports filed with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office, show the party took in $173,996 during the first six months of the year. It spent $177,595.
In June, Sabin announced a falloff in financial support so severe he was forced to lay off the party's two professional staffers.
Days later, a large party gathering degenerated into something the conservative website BizPac Review labeled a "brawl" between Sabin and Dinerstein.
Publicity about the financial problems prompted some Republicans to pony up cash, and Sabin rehired the party staff.
Many people in the party criticized Sabin for what Dinerstein described as a “naturally brusque manner, and wound up chasing people away.”
Sabin said he did have a manner some consdidered brusque. "There's no question about it. [But] I was getting better at it." He said some committee members bristled when he pushed them to step up their organizing work instead of just attending periodic meetings.
The divisions were so deep that when Peter Feaman, the Republican state committeeman for Palm Beach County and a Florida representative to the Republican National Committee, spoke to the Broward Republican party in June, he issued this plea: "Pray for Palm Beach County. We need the same peace to come back that has now descended on your [Broward Party]."
BizPac Review reported that the anti-Sabin resolution had “near unanimous” support from voting members as the board meeting approached.
“People finally went to him and said you really have to get out of the way and let us move forward,” Dinerstein said Friday. He said he wasn’t involved in the effort to get Sabin to leave.
“Ira did the right thing. I think over the months he found out that the job is very difficult and requires a certain set of skills that he didn’t bring with him,” Dinerstein said.
“I always enjoyed being in front of Republican groups and being able to feed them some of the red meat: ‘Let’s get out there and kill those liberals.’ That’s the fun part of the job – and a very small part of the job. The job itself is hard work…. You’re recruiting people to run as underdogs. That’s hard. You’re always raising money. There’s never enough. You’re always running events. So it’s a huge, seven-day-a-week volunteer job if you want to do it right,” Dinerstein said.
Sabin said he didn’t want to dwell on what happened. Asked if he had any regrets, he said, “Don’t people always have regrets?”