Abe Lincoln Day 2011 in Pinellas: The Republican Storm Continues to Surge
The Republican storm continues to rise in Pinellas County, and there was no end to it in sight on Saturday night, February 12th, as Senator Marco Rubio and other Republican luminaries addressed hundreds of the Republican Party faithful at the Pinellas County Republican Party’s 2011 Lincoln Day Dinner celebration in honor of the memory of the great President Abraham Lincoln. The event, held at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park Hotel in Feather Sound, was sold to room capacity, with 550 wildly enthusiastic attendees each paying between $125 and more than $500 a seat: It would appear that the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee (PCREC) is very much alive and is doing fabulously well.
Under the stewardship of PCREC Chairman Jay J. Beyrouti, the Republicans in Pinellas County have out-fundraised, out-organized, and out-campaigned the combined forces of the local Democrats and their Progressive allies. As a direct result of the efforts of the PCREC and other conservative Republican groups, the 2010 elections saw voters trending conservative and the Republicans registered significant gains in local and state government. Although judicial races are nonpartisan, known Republicans also fared significantly better than known Democrats in local judicial races.
The theme of this year’s event was “A Tribute to The American Wound Heroes,” and special guests of the event were a dozen veterans wounded while on active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Each of the night’s speakers paid homage to the sacrifices of America’s military veterans, and part of the program included a musical slide show produced by Ricky Sierra of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Master of Ceremonies was Hon. Jim Coats, Sheriff of Pinellas County, who did an admirable job juggling a schedule that had to be rearranged at the last minute because of the tight commercial airline travel itinerary of keynote speaker Marco Rubio. Sheriff Coats also had to balance a raft of speakers with a series of auctioning events spread throughout the evening. Presentation of the colors, and their later retrieval, was performed by members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 236. The Invocation was given by State Representative Jeff Brandes. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by County Commissioner John Morroni. A stirring rendition of the National Anthem was sung by Erica DiCeglia. State Representative Jim Frishe announced the parade of more than a dozen Republican elected officials, which included several municipal, county, state, and federal officials in an impressive array of Republican political power.
[Video of Erica DiCeglie courtesy of PCREC]
After the preliminaries came welcoming remarks by PCREC Chair Jay J. Beyrouti, who praised the enthusiasm of the assembled activists, with special appreciation for the Tea Party Movement members who was the “sweet wind” that allowed the Republican ship to sail to victory in the 2010 elections. He encouraged all to keep up their enthusiasm and work hard for the repeal of Obamacare, defeat of Democrat Senator Bill Nelson in 2012, and other Republican Party goals.
[Video of Jay J. Beyrouti courtesy of PCREC]
After Chairman Beyrouti came Beverly Young and her husband, Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young, sharing the same podium. Mrs. Young, referring to herself as “the biggest pain in the ass of the bureaucracy in Washington DC,” praised the wounded military veterans who were the guests of the event, and veterans in general in what sounded to some like a tentative campaign speech. Congressman Young, looking frail but resolute, in turn greatly praised the event’s keynote speaker, newly-elected United States Senator Marco Rubio, who followed him on the dais.
[Video of Beverly Young and Cong. Bill Young courtesy PCREC]
Marco Rubio, in a 24-minute speech delivered without notes (or a teleprompter) galvanized the crowd and demonstrated in clear an unadorned form why the Democrats and other Leftists fear him so much. Eloquent, personable, sincere, and possessed of a clarity few politicians have been able to achieve since Ronald Reagan, the young new charismatic Senator from Florida spelled out the stark choices that lay before Americans as we approach the 2012 elections. He began by thanking the Republicans of Pinellas County who gave his campaign such a psychological boost when he won the PCREC straw poll against a local candidate. In the main body of his speech, Rubio sounded all of the major themes of his campaign, especially reducing government spending and control and increasing economic opportunities for the individual. He warned that out-of-control government spending, foreign debt, and other economic problems could create the situation in which, for the first time in American history, one generation will leave the next in a worse condition. An immensely gifted politician, Rubio showed the crowd why many political veterans are predicting that his influence over the course of the Republican party nationally in the 2012 elections and beyond will be profound.
[Video of Sen. Marco Rubio courtesy PCREC]
Senator Rubio was followed by newly-elected (and decidedly upbeat) Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) chairman David Bitner, who praised the ongoing efforts of the Party faithful and told those assembled that the RPOF has found its way back to the grassroots, that the Party does not elect candidates — people do, and that the Party would be frugal in the conduct of its business. He thanked those veterans present and promised that the RPOF would be there to serve the people.
[Video of David Bitner courtesy PCREC]
Chairman Bitner was followed by Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-Florida), who thanked Beverly Young for her enthusiasm when it came to wounded veterans and asked for her help with an unspecified veterans project. Bilirakis pointed out that the last four letters of REPUBLICAN spell “I can,” linking that attitude to the American dream and telling his audience that “We’ve got to get it back.” He went on to tell his audience about the Republican program in Congress to reduce government spending and increase opportunities for private enterprise. He also predicted that there will be a new President after the 2012 elections and took the opportunity to made plain his preferences for the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee with an open endorsement of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
[Video of Cong. Gus Bilirakis courtesy PCREC]
Congressman Bilirakis was followed by President of the Florida Senate Mike Haridopolos, who complimented Chairman Beyrouti for his efforts with the Republican Party, told the crowd about the new Republican majority in the state senate (28 out of 40 senators), talked about his Greek-born father who came to America seeking opportunity and freedom, and told those in attendance that he and the other Republicans in the legislature are committed to reduced government spending. He went on to outline his opposition to Obamacare and the steps he will be taking in the Florida legislature to defeat its implementation in Florida. Haridopolos cited the current $3.620 million budget shortfall and promised the crowd that there will be no increased state spending or new taxes, and that pension reform will be accomplished in this legislative term. Haridopolos is currently considering a 2012 run for the United States Senate currently occupied by Democrat Bill Nelson, and has already set up a campaign website and a political committee called Friends of Mike H.
[Video of Sen. Mike Horidopolos courtesy PCREC]
After Senator Haridopolos spoke, and in keeping with the theme of the evening, veterans activist and songwriter Anthony “Tony” Rizzo serenaded the crowd with a song he wrote to honor our nation’s wounded heroes.
[Video of Anthony “Tony” Rizzo courtesy PCREC]
The event finale was the very inspirational singing of “God Bless America” and “Proud to be an American” led by Christine Honein, whose family members originally emigrated from Lebanon and received their citizenship only last December. Ms. Honein is also the niece of Chairman Beyrouti, who also emigrated to America from Lebanon .
[Video of Christine Honein courtesy PCREC]
It is always difficult to predict with any certainty the outcome of elections that are more than a year-and-a-half away. If, however, the energy and enthusiasm for conservative values and the traditional American way of life shared by those who assembled in Pinellas County for this year’s Lincoln Day celebration is shared by the majority of Republicans across the nation, and it continues or intensifies over the next 19 months, 2012 could be a political Waterloo for the Democrats and their allies on the Left. Time will tell.