Big crowd turns out to Trump rally in Istachatta

In this May 2019 file photo, Ray Carsillo takes a photo of Ally Bedson as she stands with a cardboard cutout of then-President Donald Trump at the Citrus County President Trump Republican Club's rally in Istachatta. Since Trump's re-election loss, the club has dissolved.

The Republican Party in Citrus County holds a commanding lead for registered voters, with more than twice as many as the Democratic Party.

But following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump supporters, something unusual has occurred in Citrus County:

Republicans are losing members.

Since Jan. 6, the day of the Capitol riot, the Citrus Republican Party has lost 277 registered voters, according to the Supervisor of Elections office.

It wasn’t a windfall for Democrats, though. Just 33 switched to Democrat while the vast majority — 235 — went to the Independent Party or no-party affiliation.

Democrats also lost 36 voters during that same time, with 33 going Republican.

Citrus Republican Party leaders acknowledge the party may have lost members who were Republican only because they supported Trump.

Others may have jumped because they feel the party didn’t support Trump in his attempts to overturn the election.

“A lot of these changeovers were within the last few months,” Citrus Republican Chairman Mike Moberley said. “Loyalists to the president weren’t happy with the party not getting behind the president in objecting to the election results.”

Moberley, who is also treasurer of the state Republican Party, said party officials have noticed the same slight fall off throughout Florida. And, he said, they’re not alarmed.

“We have seen a small exodus of some people,” he said.

Moberley resigned as Citrus County Republican state committeeman to become party chairman in December, a role he’s held before. Former chairman George Gasparini is now the state committeeman.

Gasparini was a director in the President Trump Club of Citrus County, which broke from the Republican Party in June 2019 to focus on Trump’s re-election efforts. The organization dissolved Dec. 2, 2020, according to state corporate records.

Republican State Committeewoman Avis Craig said her concern is for younger voters who, pumped up in their support of Trump, joined the party only to see their favorite candidate lose.

“My concern is for young people who are disenchanted with the process,” she said. “We need to ensure people feel there is a future in the party.”

The party’s direction post-Trump will depend on how Republicans view Trump’s four years in office.

“I do not see the party pulling away from his accomplishments,” Craig said.

Craig said the party’s challenge is to continue seeking leaders who can rally the citizenry. 

“It’s just a matter of which candidates come forward that are most akin to their views and philosophies,” she said.

Despite the slight drop, Citrus County remains solidly Republican. Of the county’s 118,808 registered voters, 51% are Republican. Democrats and the category called “others” — minor parties or no-party affiliation — split the rest.

Craig and Moberley said the party will continue attracting voters regardless whether Trump is a party figurehead or not.

“With the passage of time, and I’m talking in generalities, people can have short memories,” Craig said. “I think we’ll be fine.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com. To view more of his stories, go to www.tinyurl.com/y3bakm6w.