State Sen. Tom Lee, the new county Republican Party chairman, says the party is moving its meeting site to make it more geographically inclusive for Republicans outside of eastern Hillsborough County.
Lee said the new site, the Museum of Science & 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.
Divisions have occasionally flared in the local party between Tampa Republicans and more conservative eastern Hillsborough Republicans, who have dominated in recent years.
Lee, a Brandon home builder, vowed to bridge that gap as chairman. “We’re the Republican Party of Hillsborough County, not Brandon or east Hillsborough,” Lee said. “Our headquarters are in Brandon, so we sought to move one or the other so we didn’t disenfranchise other Republicans.”
MOSI, he said, didn’t have parking problems some downtown and Ybor City sites have, and it costs the same as The River. It’s more accessible to northwest Hillsborough and downtown, “and close to a voter base we need to reach out to, young people in the university area.”
Lee said he’s had no complaints about meeting in a church, “but I had heard an occasional question about whether we were sending a big-tent message.”
“That wasn’t even remotely the primary consideration,” he said, “but it’s a tangential benefit and this is a good time to reach out to a broader population.”
Longtime Tampa GOP activist Gil Singer, who is Jewish, said the local party consists of “the most inclusive folks that exist,” but the new location “will make it easier for me to market the party to other Jewish people and minorities.”