TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – More than 600 Republican Party supporters and dignitaries converged on the Hilton in downtown Tampa for the 2016 GOP Victory dinner.
The keynote speakers were vice presidential candidate Governor Mike Pence and Senator Marco Rubio. Party officials are hoping the event energized the party’s faithful.
“What we’re doing here today is we’re building a lot of momentum, there’s a lot of energy,” explained Joe Gruters, Florida’s chairman for the Republican Party. “All the county party leaders are coming together……all the state leaders are coming [as well].”
The dinner also provided a chance for GOP supporters to hear from Donald Trump’s running mate one last time before November’s general election.
Gruters: “What we’re doing is this is one last pow wow for us to hear Mike Pence and for us to get together as a team and to go back to our individual counties and carry the banner for our team.”
Tony Ledbetter, a Republican leader from Volusia County believes this is a historic election. He stood near the door and handed out Trump/Pence stickers to those attending Saturday’s dinner.
“This is Reagan all over again,” he says. “Everybody hated Reagan when he ran the first time. Everybody hated Reagan for four years and he got re-elected again and Donald is going down the same path. The people like Donald Trump.”
Governor Pence and his wife were greeted with a standing ovation. He told the crowd when asked if he wanted to be a part of the campaign, he didn’t blink an eye.
“You have nominated a man for president who never quits,” Pence told the crowd. “[One] Who never backs down. He is a fighter, he is a winner and it seemed for a long time he was out there fighting all on his own, but I’ve traveled this country and I can see this party is coming together.”
If the goal of the dinner was to energize those who attended, it seemed to have worked. Kat Gates-Skipper was dancing in between the tables after Pence left the stage.
“Oh, my gosh, I’m so pumped up right now,” she said. “It’s wonderful; It’s wonderful. We need this energy and we definitely have it here in Florida.”
Rico Petrocelli is a state committeeman with the Republican Party of Broward County.
“Now, what you’re seeing is 50 states having these kind of dinners to really get down to the grass roots,” Petrocelli said. “And grass roots for the Republican Party is really spreading; what I like to say, the Democrats are Astro-turf. You put them down, and there in place and they don’t go anywhere. “