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Hillsborough GOP moves meeting site to be more inclusive

Posted Mar 7, 2013 by William March

Updated Mar 7, 2013 at 06:57 PM

State Sen. Tom Lee, the new county Republican Party chairman, says the local party is moving its meeting site to make it more geographically inclusive of Tampa, northwest Hillsborough and university area Republicans.

Lee said the new site, the Museum of Science and Industry, may also send more of a “big-tent message” than the previous meeting site in an evangelical church, The River of Tampa Bay in Mango.

For years, there have been divisions in the local party between East Hillsborough and Tampa Republicans—the east county group considering itself more conservative.

“We’re the Republican Party of Hillsborough County, not Brandon or East Hillsborough,” Lee said.

The party’s headquarters is located in Brandon, “So we sought to move one or the other so we didn’t disenfranchise other Republicans,” he said.

He said party vice chair Debbie Cox Roush researched numerous meeting places including some downtown and Ybor City, but most had parking issues.
MOSI, he said, is “more accessible to northwest Hillsborough, accessible to downtown, and close to a voter base we need to reach out to, young people in the university area.”

He said the cost is the same as meeting in The River.

Some local Jewish Republicans have said meeting in an evangelical church, and starting meetings with prayers they said sometimes are explicitly Christian, has sent a non-inclusive message.

Lee said he’s had no complaints on that subject, “but I had heard an occasional question about whether we were sending a big-tent message to Republicans of other faiths.”

He said that “wasn’t even remotely the primary consideration, but it’s a tangential benefit for anyone who might have felt uncomfortable, and this is a good time to reach out to a broader population.”

Long-time Tampa GOP activist Gil Singer, who’s Jewish, said the local party consists of “the most inclusive folks that exist. They’ve always gone out of their way to make me and other minorities feel comfortable.”

But he said the new location “will make it easier for me to market the party to other Jewish people and minorities.”