VERO BEACH — Independence Day is not for a couple of weeks, but the crowd of nearly 200 party faithful at the annual Old-Fashioned Republican Barbecue Saturday broke out the red, white and blue regalia a little early.
Presidential candidate Herman Cain was the advertised speaker for the event, but he was unable to fit Vero Beach into his schedule, so the locals gave a warm welcome to former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who delivered the keynote address. Hasner hopes to win the Republican primary and then take on incumbent Senator Bill Nelson in 2012. Hasner encouraged his fellow conservatives to resist the urge to become more moderate. Instead, he emphasized the “need to be more principled.”
He called upon those in attendance, who generally make up the loyal volunteers and field campaign workers locally, to “go on offense” and fight for their core beliefs.
Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, another candidate for U.S. Senate, was not on the program, but said a few words before dinner.
The event, sponsored by the Republican Party of Indian River County, is one of a handful of fundraisers throughout the year that help support grassroots political efforts countywide. Dustin Keeling and Vincent Celano of the North County Republican Club, which meets in Sebastian, co-chaired the barbecue this year and two dozen volunteers pitched in with the cocktail hour, the meal, the raffle and the live auction.The food, traditional Southern barbecue fare, was catered by Bono’s of Vero Beach.
County Commissioner Wesley Davis again this year conducted a lively live auction of artwork, orchids, spa packages, gift certificates and novelty items. In an election year, candidates for office usually boost the bidding on the auction, but this year some sitting officials — County Commission Chair Bob Solari and Vero Beach Vice Mayor Pilar Turner — took home some of the larger items to help the cause.
Vero Beach resident Kitty Kennedy attended the event with her husband Stuart, to support the party, to see old friends and to get to know the candidates that will be on the ballot next year.
Not ready to commit to supporting one of the U.S. Senatorial candidates, Kitty Kennedy said good things about both men.
“What I really love is that it will be a pretty energized campaign,” she said.
Among the other declared local candidates in attendance were Bill McMullen, who is running for Sheriff, and Sandy Harpring, one of the challengers for Supervisor of Elections. Tax Collector Carole Jean Jordan, though she has not yet filed paperwork to begin a campaign for 2012, indicated that she does intend to run for re-election. Former County Commissioner Tom Lowther has already declared his candidacy to run against Jordan in the Republican primary.