At the age of 18, I registered as a Republican — which was the same party of my great-grandfather three times removed who lived here in St. Johns County.
The GOP in St. Johns County authorized the appointment of my great-grandfather to the position of Republican Post Master in Elkton in the late 1800’s. It was his Minorcan, Spanish, Caucasian, and Negro Republican constituents in the district who re-elected him, which makes me proud.
My personal experience working with the party goes back to the 1984 Regan/Bush Presidential Campaign where my supervisors were the late great Lee Atwater, Ed Rollings, and many others of the Regan Kitchen Cabinet from California.
Our Division was entitled “Political” and we were responsible for “opposition research and political affairs” for the campaign. Our office was always buzzing with activity focused on winning.
I worked, as staff, on numerous other Republican presidential campaigns including Fund for American Future, Bush-Quayle 1988, Bush-Cheney 2000 and the Bush-Cheney 2000 Transition Team.
I’ve been afforded the opportunity to serve in Republican Presidential Administrations including numerous White House positions; as an advance representative to the President and Vice President of the United States and in the Office of Public Liaison. At the age of 36, my last Presidential Appointment was in the Bush Administration in 2001 where I served as Special Assistant to the Secretary at Housing and Urban Development.
Let me say that the Florida Republican Party has come a long way since 1984 when we worked tirelessly to create a land-slide victory for President Regan and Vice President Bush. My family vividly remembers Florida being written off in other elections after the Regan and Bush era, however, over the years and aided by Republicans like Governor Martinez and Governor Bush, the party created a different base, flourished, grew, and we staked our claim in Florida.
This year Republicans have the choice between the moderate or conservative and the old or the new ideas and political philosophy.
The “rising tide that lifts all boats” in Florida will happen with a fresh conservative movement, with a strong tie to the Christian community, led by an insider to the political system in Northeast Florida, who is known throughout the state as a leader and friend of Governor Jeb Bush.
Like many, my party registration will never change because my convictions and “principals” for the Party are deeply based in history. Let us remember that it was the Republican Party that was founded in the 1850’s by anti-slavery activists. The first official meeting occurred in Jackson, Mississippi on July 6, 1854. In 1856, the Republican slogan was “free soil, free labor, free speech, free men,” and the Presidential candidate was John Freemont. Four years later, Abraham Lincoln became the nominee and first Republican President.
Speaking of Lincoln, Chairman Greer did a great job assisting to re-align the party and made a conscience effort to recruit minority candidates and register more minority Republicans, while working with the religious right.
Our own Republican State Committeeman Jon Woodard has risen in the ranks and helped in this effort. It is unfortunate that Jon is resigning as State Committeeman, because he did a great job in helping St. Johns County Republican Party. But, all of this allows for a new direction. For the first time, the Florida GOP Chairman could hail from our county.
Frankly, I’ve had enough talk with the Republican Party until we get new leadership at the helm. Respectively, over these last few days we have heard news that State Senator John Thrasher is being considered as the next Florida Grand Ole Party Chairman and I am excited and am again supporting Senator Thrasher in his bid to become the Party Florida Chairman.
My ringing endorsement of Senator Thrasher last year when he ran for the State Senate is the same as it is this year. To include the fact during these times we need an experienced hand at the helm to lead us. And, John brings that lobbyist, legislative, and political experience to the table, and I fear our opportunity would be lost if other candidates were elected as state GOP Chairman at this time.
More importantly, with John’s political capital and Republican Majority in the Senate he is likely to rise to the occasion. Personally, I will jump at the opportunity to assist Senator Thrasher when he becomes the chair by reaching out to the minority community, and bring them back home to the party of free enterprise, economic development, progress, fiscal sensibility, and basics of the party. And suggest you Republicans support him in Orlando. I’ll be out of the Country when we meet in Orlando, but wanted to voice my opinion.
Imagine with Senator Thrasher at the helm we can really make some great strides, recruit some great candidates, and recruit more voters back to the party. We need Leadership, Senator Thrasher can provide, get us back on track, and we can continue to build the state party from right here at home in St. Johns County.
Derek Boyd Hankerson
St. Augustine, FL
Derek Boyd Hankerson is the Managing Partner of Freedom Road, LLC. Derek is former vice president of the St. Johns County Republican Executive Committee and was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention. Derek has been a leader in numerous community projects in support of Fort Mose, multicultural education and heritage tourism. Historic City News is pleased to be able to publish Derek’s periodic guest columns which are both informative and entertaining. Derek and his wife live in St. Augustine.