PONTE VEDRA, Fla. (September 10, 2023) – Election season is in full swing and politicians are making the rounds. Welcoming a fiery trio on Saturday evening the St. Johns County Republican Party Founder’s Day Dinner featured U.S. Congressman Michael Waltz (FL-6), U.S Congressman Byron Donalds (FL-19), and potential Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake.

St. Johns County Commissioner and Gold Star Mom Krista Joseph leads the invocation after introductions by St. Johns County REC Chairman Dr. Blake Patterson.

Speakers started with warm and fuzzy family stories, from working class America to everyday life as a dad and underdog sports coach, to a foundation rooted in faith, before getting to the red meat of the speeches.

While not alarmist, the speeches were clear reminders of the challenges the nation faces as it tries to balance homegrown social issues with fundamental American values and rights, and global priorities ranging from national security to the economic impacts of climate change.

U.S. Congressman Mike Waltz (FL-6) and wife Dr. Julia Nesheiwat attend the 2023 Founder’s Day Dinner hosted by the St. Johns County Republican Party in Ponte Vedra, Florida on September 9, 2023.

Red Meat on the Menu

Addressing what he considers internal and external threats to the American Dream, Waltz was blunt about China’s military developments and relationship with Russia, while still addressing the critical situation at the southern border.

“I am a 27-year Green Beret, just retired as a Colonel, no longer jumping out of planes but between China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and the weakness of this White House, they’re all on the march,” said Waltz.

Republicans from across multiple counties attend the 2023 Founder’s Day Dinner hosted by the St. Johns County Republican Party on September 9, 2023.

“I’m just as worried about the internal threats facing us. They’re like termites eating up the foundation. Between Critical Race Theory, the indoctrination in our schools, men in women’s sports, the fundamentals, our values, are under assault. We need fighters in D.C., and I think we’ve got them tonight in Byron Donalds, Kari Lake and me.”

“I just got back from India. There’s no coincidence that Xi refuses to meet with Biden. He’s cancelling on institutions like the G20, that the west has historically run and then enhancing organizations like BRICS where the Chinese and Russians have a greater influence. They fundamentally want to replace the United States as a world leader, replace it with their vision, and that’s not a world I want our grandkids growing up in.”

A strong economy and dollar are important to helping retain the United States’ place as a global leader.

“First and foremost we’ve got to get government spending under control, our debt under control. It’s weaking the dollar and weaking confidence in the dollar,” he said.

Congressman Donalds brought the discussion closer to home with a bone-chilling message for all Americans, discussing the double standards and current state of investigations at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

“You want to know why the right and the left continues to protect Joe Biden? They are accomplishing more of their agenda through him and that is the reason why they’ve not gone after Joe Biden.”

“The future of our country is on the line,” he said stoically before introducing the evening’s keynote speaker.

Attendee Nicole Crosby commemorates the evening with a photo alongside keynote speaker U.S. Congressman Byron Donalds (FL-19).

Rumors have swirled around Kari Lake’s political future after a brutal 2022 gubernatorial race in Arizona. The staunch Trump supporter has been a topic of discussion as a potential vice presidential pick on a Trump 2024 ticket and as a contender to take on Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema in 2024.

“When you speak out and you speak the truth, they want to take you down,” said Lake.

Arizona firebrand Kari Lake headlines the 2023 St. Johns County Republican Party Founder’s Day Dinner in Ponte Vedra on September 9, 2023.

Preparing For 2024

The room was a pro-Trump crowd, and St. Johns County Republican Party Chair Dr. Blake Patterson said he was inspired to get involved in local politics after the 2020 election.

“When November of ‘20 happened and then January of ’21 happened, I felt I had to get involved for my kids’ sake, my grandkids’ sake,” he said.

“We underwent a leadership change of this organization in December of this past year, revamping the organization since the beginning of the year,” he said, building a solid infrastructure and ground game for the organization ahead of the upcoming elections.

“Our aim is to put citizen patriots in position who are really going to reflect the needs, the wants of their citizens. We think this will be very well received.”

Election integrity is of high importance to Republican voters.

Flagler County REC Chairman Perry Mitrano and wife Diana Minotti join St. Johns County REC Chairman Dr. Blake Patterson (right) for a chat with U.S. Congressman Michael Waltz (FL-6), who represents portions of both St. Johns and Flagler counties.

“There’s a lot I think needs to be done because there’s way too much vulnerability and risk currently in our election system,” said Patterson.

Though the party faithful are currently split among a field of nominees, party officials hope the rifts will heal and conservatives will coalesce to ensure the conservate agenda is successful. Party chairmen from Duval and Flagler attended the event in a show of unity.

“I came up to listen to Kari Lake and hear the other speakers that talk about the great Republican party that we are and why we need to win in ’24,” said Flagler County Republican Party Chairman Perry Mitrano, encouraged by the speakers’ messages.

“Especially when you hear from someone like Kari Lake who flies all the way from Arizona just to share their story and to get us to jump on going forward.”

Flagler County REC Chairman Perry Mitrano and wife Diana Minotti catch up with U.S. Congressman Byron Donalds (FL-19) at the Founder’s Day Dinner in Ponte Vedra.