Having languished for nearly a century as a nominal political entity, Florida Republicans seemed poised by 1970 to establish parity, if not supplant, the Democrats as the Sunshine State’s majority party. The groundwork for such a metamorphosis had been laid when Eisenhower and Nixon won Florida in four of the five presidential elections between 1952 and 1968. William Cato “Bill” Cramer was elected in 1954 as the state’s first twentieth-century Republican Congressman, and Claude Roy Kirk, Jr., seized the governorship twelve years later amid the internecine bickering of Democratic factions. Moreover, Edward J. Gurney’s 1968 United States Senate victory was the sole statewide Republican triumph that year outside the presidential contest in the eleven ex-Confederate states. In the crucial 1970 elections, the Republicans seemed poised to re-elect Kirk and win a second Senate seat with what the New York Times termed “inexorable strength and unlimited potential.“ But the squabbling that previously crippled the Democrats now wreaked havoc on the fledgling GOP as the conflicting interests of five leading Republicans shook the party to its foundation: Congressman Cramer and his senatorial rival, former Judge G. Harrold Carswell; Governor Kirk and his primary foe, businessman Jack M. Eckerd; and Senator Gurney, whose potential soon deteriorated to the extent that he would retire from politics after a single term. It may be argued, however, that despite the 1970 losses, the GOP could have remained competitive in Florida had Kirk not undermined Cramer’s Senate candidacy. This article examines how the Cramer-Kirk schism helped re-cement Democratic hegemony and delayed the establishment of a competitive two-party system in Florida.
Hathorn, Billy B.
"Cramer v. Kirk: The Florida Republican Schism of 1970,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 68:
4, Article 3.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol68/iss4/3