Jim Greer Steps Down in Florida Amid Crist-Rubio Battle

(AP Photo/Phil Coale)
Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer stepped down today, citing the willingness of conservative party activists to "burn the house down and try to destroy the Republican Party" for his decision.

Greer is an establishment GOP figure aligned with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (left), who is now seeking a Senate nomination. Crist is being challenged in that effort by Marco Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives with the support of the tea party movement.

In his resignation letter, Greer wrote that "a small but vocal group within our Party has made it a point to destroy this progress and negatively impact our opportunity for victory in 2010."

"Since 2007, I have made a point to put the best interest of the Party before my own, even when criticisms were misdirected and invalid, and I will do so again now," he wrote. "While some are more interested in tearing and shredding the fabric of the Republican Party to pieces, I will not be a participant in this destructive behavior. Therefore, I am putting the future of our Party first and shall step down as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida effective February, 20, 2010."

Crist selected Greer three years ago to run the state Republican Party, and the two men have been close allies. But Greer has come under increasing criticism over what critics see as insufficient fundraising and wasteful spending by the party.

He also appears to have been badly hurt by the Crist-Rubio battle, which pits Crist – an establishment figure whose moderate positions on some issues has outraged some conservatives – against Rubio (pictured at left), whose insurgent candidacy from the right has garnered support from tea party activists and their allies in Florida and nationwide.

In a conference call Tuesday, Greer said a small group of party activists "have turned their guns on fellow Republicans instead of focusing our efforts on defeating Democrats." Greer's critics, who allege that he has unfairly favored Crist, had planned to strongly oppose him at a state party meeting Saturday. (Time has posted audio of the call here.)

Crist released a statement Tuesday saying Greer "always will have my unwavering support" and calling on Florida Republicans "to unite behind our common values of less government and more personal freedom and…move forward together to ensure statewide Republican victories in 2010."

In a separate statement, Crist backed Sen. John Thrasher to be the next party chair. Thrasher is not seen as a Crist ally.

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