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Profiles in Republicanism: Two Battle for Leadership of Palm Beach County GOP

Why anyone would want to be saddled with the leadership of the Palm Beach County Republican Party is a mystery. Reeling from their unexpected loss in the 2012 presidential contest (they really thought Thurston Howell III Willard was going to pull it out) and riven by Tea Party wilfullness, the local GOP has been on the ropes financially and facing dim prospects in the face of Florida's (and America's) gathering demographic storm. The party of Whitey's in trouble.

See also: - Palm Beach Republican Party Is Self-Destructing But there's a sucker -- and a candidate -- born every minute. So it is that two women have stepped forth to claim the crown, one out of the party's Christianist wing and one from the business end of the business, both with a history of support for lurid and/or not-too-bright presidential aspirants like Herman Cain and Fred Thompson.

Evangelical pastor Tami Donnally has already lost a couple of races for the Florida Legislature, giving Democratic state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo a surprising run for his money in 2010, then being trounced in 2012 by Democratic state Rep. Mark Pafford.

The latter defeat may have reflected her less-than-compelling rhetorical style. As she told local conservative website BizPac Review at the time "I'm just Tami. When people ask me, 'What are you going to do?' I tell them, 'What do you want me to do?' It's not just about what I want."

Donnally had a bit of trouble keeping abreast of campaign finance laws during that race and was fined for filing a late report. In her appeal to have the fine rescinded, she wrote that "as candidate and treasurer" in the race, she "sometimes get[s] overwhelmed with events, paperwork and deadlines." Local GOPers can only hope her management skills have since improved.

Anita Mitchell, the other contender, is a longtime conservative lobbyist and fundraiser with a tendency for, um, eccentric behavior. Mitchell has no lack of political savvy, and it seems to have passed on to her daughter Kimberly, an investment banker and West Palm Beach City Commissioner of great local influence.

Anita Mitchell's prowess at the nexus of business and politics (where don't they meet?) was tested in the finagling over the Scripps boondoggle, where she tried and failed to influence site selection for the project. You can't win them all.

Mitchell's sleazy, loony side took flight in the 2013 West Palm Beach municipal elections, when she launched a smear campaign against City Commission candidate Gregg Weiss. On the basis of evidence so slender as to be nonexistent, she accused Weiss of being an undercover Scientologist and an anarchist sympathizer. Very charmingly, Mitchell told us at the time:

"I'm not doing this mean-spiritedly. It's what you find when you Google -- here's his background. Kind of like investigating someone who's in the KKK or the John Birch Society."

With that sort of talent for mixing the vicious and the disingenuous, our money's on Mitchell to be the PBC GOP's new chief.

AN AFTERTHOUGHT: It'll be interesting to see how Anita Mitchell handles questions about conflict of interest in her new role. Leaders of major political parties presumably have extraordinary access to public officials. Will she be meeting with them on behalf of GOP interests or those of her private clients? Or is what's good for Anita Mitchell good for the GOP?

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact [email protected]

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