Republicans rally at Naples park Sunday

William DeShazer/Staff
Priscilla Grannis, from left, Pat Wagner, and Pat Bargon, all with the Women's Republican Club of Naples Federated, talk during an old fashion Republican rally at Cambier Park on Sunday Sept. 30, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Priscilla Grannis, from left, Pat Wagner, and Pat Bargon, all with the Women's Republican Club of Naples Federated, talk during an old fashion Republican rally at Cambier Park on Sunday Sept. 30, 2012.

— Wayne Crandall is a long-time voter, first-time campaign worker.

Crandall, a Naples resident, said he felt compelled to work for FreedomWorks, a conservative organization associated with the tea party movement, to campaign for Republican Senate candidate Connie Mack after he became disillusioned with some of the things the Republican Party was doing.

"I think some people don't feel they have a voice," he said. "I want to try and make a difference."

With many polls showing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney falling behind President Barack Obama in Florida, and with Republican senatorial candidate Connie Mack facing a tough opponent in Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, Republicans want to get their party excited about the election.

Sunday, about 100 people attended a rally in Cambier Park in downtown Naples for Republican candidates running for local, state and national offices.

The hope, said event organizer and state Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, was to get Republicans energized and voting.

"The Republican community has a lot of spirit," she said. "A lot of people want to get involved and some didn't know how to do it. So, I thought, why not a rally where people could meet the candidates, have cupcakes and ice cream, have fun?"

Passidomo, who had a booth at the event, said she is confident that Republicans will do well in Florida. She pointed to the state Legislature, which has a supermajority of Republicans in the House and Senate, as a good example of what Republicans can do.

"We've been so effective. We've balanced the budget," said Passidomo, who faces a challenge from libertarian candidate Peter Richter. "We worked together. I think we should continue that way."

Passidomo pointed out that Romney has also worked well with others, including the Democrats in the state Legislature when he served as Massachusetts' governor.

"I think he'll be a good president. We don't want someone to promise the moon. We want someone with a proven record of doing good things," she said.

Tim Nance, a Republican who is running for the District 5 Collier County Commission seat, said the electorate is not in love with either Romney or Obama. Still, he thinks the election will be a good barometer of where the county stands come November.

"I know the Republican Party has really moved to the right. It has happened in Collier County and nationally," he said. "I think (the Nov. 6 election) will be very telling overall."

As for his race, Nance — who points out he is running as a Republican in an area where Democrats and independent voters outnumber his party — said he believes local races are focused on the issues, not parties. His opponent is Democrat John Lundin.

"In the county, it's about are you a good public administrator or not," Nance said.

Naples Mayor John Sorey, who hosted Sunday's event, said for Romney, the debates against Obama will be key to setting up his campaign for a victory. But, he said, getting supporters out to vote will also be key.

"I don't think people are focused on the election," he said. "It will be very important to get people educated about the candidates, the issues."

Emily Thoemke, who was at the rally representing both the young and teenage Republicans, said it will be imperative for the youth to be involved in the campaign and to vote in November.

"It is too late to wait until you are in your 40s or 50s to care," she said.

Thoemke said the key to winning in November will be for Republicans to remember that, at the end of the day, they have a very different view and ideology than Obama. She said it is important to remind people how those differences can effect them, which the party is doing by hosting things like debate parties and outreach efforts.

Trey Radel, a Republican running for Mack's vacated seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, said voter turnout will be the key to a Republican victory in November. He urged attendees to contact their friends and family and share why they should vote.

"It's about conservative values, not Republican values," he said.

Radel said his party is very energized and said those likely voters in 2008 who came out to support Obama are not as likely to turn out in 2012.

"President Obama doesn't motivate people like candidate Obama," he said. "His campaign has been about anger and resentment. The Republicans are very energized."

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