"I got plenty of calls from Christian allies asking, 'Are you sure this is what you want to do? Have you lost your mind?'"
No, Doug Guetzloe -- the low-wattage radio host and political rabble-rouser-for- hire -- hadn't lost his mind for endorsing Orlando's first openly gay elected official. But he did nearly suffer a political setback.
Guetzloe, a consultant so conservative he collected 4,000 signatures to recall Orlando's Republican mayor over her spending issues, held off a bid to oust him from the Orange County Republican Executive Committee May 15 because he backed Patty Sheehan, a Democrat, in her winning campaign to unseat Republican Bill Bagley on the Orlando City Council. (Though City Hall elections -- including that for mayor -- are officially nonpartisan, anyone with a keen eye for politics is well aware of the stakes.)
Led by executive director Lew Oliver, the GOP committee asked its 105 members to remove Guetzloe, 46, who says he has been a member of the Republican Party since he was 18. That failed to gain a two-thirds majority, Guetzloe says. A second vote to bring the issue to circuit court failed to garner even a simple majority.
"Lew is way out on a limb now," Guetzloe says.
Oliver declined comment, saying he doesn't discuss the internal workings of the committee.
How did Guetzloe come to oppose Bagley? He says Bagley insulted him a year ago over the light-rail issue, after Guetzloe sent fliers last Easter to voters in Bagley's district, asking them to call the commissioner to oppose light rail.
Undaunted, Bagley delivered a speech in the council chambers in support of light rail in which he said he'd rather be a one-term commissioner than to be "a pawn of a would-be political consultant."
After the meeting, Guetzloe says he told Bagley, "You better watch what you wish for."
When Bagley responded, "Give it your best shot," Guetzloe replied, "I assure you, I will."
Bagley says he wasn't aware that Republicans had acted against Guetzloe until a reporter called. But he says it was the right move, because Guetzloe took an oath as a committee member to support only Republicans. He compares the failed vote against Guetzloe to the failure of the U.S. Senate to impeach President Clinton.
"Guetzloe violated his oath, just like Clinton violated his," Bagley says. "The group that could have exacted responsibility for his action has chosen not to do so."
Guetzloe coyly responds that in a nonpartisan election, it is difficult to judge who is Democrat and who is Republican. But if one looked strictly at his council votes, says Guetzloe, Bagley "voted like a liberal Democrat."
Sheehan, meanwhile, found herself in the unlikely position of attempting to help Guetzloe. "I called some of my gay Republican friends to go back him," she says. "But it's not like Doug has been a friend to the gay community."