Tom Powers, whose leadership of the Broward Republican Party since 2020 culminated in a strong performance in last year’s midterm elections, has resigned eight months into his second term as party chair.
“As many of you know, I have been battling cancer since early 2021. I have fought as hard as I can fight, but in recent months my health has deteriorated quicker than I expected. I would prefer to spend the moments I have left with my family,” he said in a weekend email to party members.
Powers is passionate about politics — as a candidate, elected official and Republican Party activist. “I want to thank my family for allowing me to spend the last years of my life fully immersed in politics,” he said in the email.
Powers, 65, said in December he planned to lead the party through the 2024 elections. But in a July interview, he said his health has gotten worse. He said mobility was a challenge and he had started using a wheelchair.
He said he announced his resignation via email because, “Unfortunately I no longer have the strength to tender this to you in person.”
Powers said his resignation was effective immediately.
Vice Chair Chris Marino, immediately became acting chair of the county party. He is responsible for picking a date for a special election at which Republican precinct committeewomen and committeemen from around the county will select someone to serve the remainder of Powers’ term, which runs through the 2024 elections.
He said he has not yet decided on an election timetable.
Marino, a retired firefighter who was elected vice chair in December, said he would run for the job.
Also running is party Treasurer Abby Stafford. She is a certified public accountant and chief financial officer of Tiresoles of Broward, her family’s commercial tire business, and was an unsuccessful 2022 candidate for Lighthouse Point City Commission.
Powers endorsed Stafford as his successor in his resignation letter.
“Our party deserves dedicated leadership. I have given it my all, and now it’s time to pass the baton to the next generation of leadership. In anticipation of this day, I have spent this year mentoring others to make sure the organization is successful because of the team in place, and can carry on without me.”
In some ways, Powers was a throwback to an approach that has become less common in today’s political environment. He routinely answered questions from reporters — but wasn’t inclined toward making incendiary statements for the sake of garnering attention.
“He focused on the message and driving the message home. If you say something to get a reaction that’s exactly what you’re going to get — a reaction, not results,” said state Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, who served as party chair from 2007 to 2010.
Under Powers’ leadership, the ranks of precinct committeemen and committeewoman expanded substantially, said Kevin Tynan, who was party chair from 2001 through 2003.
“He was an excellent chairman because he talked the talk and walked the walk. If he said, ‘you’ve got to walk precincts,’ he was out there walking precincts with you. He did a wonderful job of raising money. He’s done a wonderful job of increasing membership to levels we haven’t seen in a long time,” Tynan said.
LaMarca and Tynan said Powers worked to bring together different factions of the party.
When @BrowardGOP Chair @flpowers said 10 months ago his goal was for Republicans to get 40% of vote in overwhelmingly Democratic county, it sounded impossible.
@RonDeSantisFL received 42% of vote in Broward.
— Anthony Man (@browardpolitics) December 6, 2022
“He did a lot to bring the party together. He’s a selfless person,” LaMarca said. Tynan said Powers “tries to bring people up rather than bring them down. In politics you have a lot of opportunity to be negative, and he was much more positive.”
Powers had had a 21-year career in law enforcement with the Arizona State Police, most of it working as a narcotics agent on the Mexican border.
In South Florida, he turned to politics.
Powers spent six years on the Coral Springs City Commission, and in 2014 was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor. He also served as county Republican Party vice chair and president of the Coral Springs-Parkland Republican Club.
Powers is something of a rarity, someone who had a successful enough experience and enjoyed the job enough to run for and win reelection as party chair. When he first got the job in 2020, he was the 10th Broward Republican leader in 14 years.
Powers was challenged by Jenna Hague, who was an unsuccessful candidate for state Legislature last year. (Powers had hosted a fundraiser for Hague’s state representative campaign at his home, the first time he’d ever hosted a candidate fundraising event at his house.)
“Dictatorships are great for politicians. They’re not good for citizens,” @BrowardGOP Chair @flpowers says at Hialeah Gardens Republican event supporting Cubans protesting regime.
Demands Biden act. “You need to step up. You need to do what’s right, and it needs to be done now.”
— Anthony Man (@browardpolitics) July 21, 2021
Hague’s state legislative loss notwithstanding, Republicans did well in Broward in 2022.
With DeSantis at the top of the statewide ticket and Democratic voters demoralized and not showing up to vote, Republicans capitalized on the political environment.
- Republicans made up just 21% of the registered voters — 26 percentage points behind Democrats. But DeSantis received 42% of the vote in Broward, 15 points behind Democratic candidate Charlie Crist. That’s an unusually high percentage of the vote for a Republican candidate in Broward; early last year when Powers said his goal was at least 40%, some were skeptical.
- Brenda Fam, a Republican, defeated a Democrat in a School Board race. And Powers was the one who administered the oath of office to Fam.
- LaMarca easily defeated his challenger in his northeast Broward district that had about the same number of registered Democrats and Republicans, and a large share of no party affiliation/independent voters.
- Even as U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, the longest-serving Democratic member of Congress in the state, won reelection with 55% of the vote, it was a lower percentage than she’s ever received before in Broward. She’s averaged 63% in Broward in previous elections.
LaMarca said he hopes before the contest to succeed Powers gets too intense, “I would just hope that the members of the party take a minute to realize what (Powers) did for the party.”
Anthony Man can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @browardpolitics and on Post.news/@browardpolitics