Richard DeNapoli at the Sarasota Statesman of the Year Event

Last night I attended the Sarasota Statesman of the Year Event featuring Sean Hannity, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater, and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.  It was an amazing event with over 1600 people in attendance.  Kudos to Chairman Joe Gruters and the team at the Sarasota GOP.

Picture of the Crowd - Care of Sarasota GOP

Picture of the Crowd – Care of Sarasota GOP

Richard DeNapoli at the Sarasota Statesman of the Year Event with Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, and CFO Jeff Atwater

Richard DeNapoli at the Sarasota Statesman of the Year Event with Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, and CFO Jeff Atwater

Excerpt from the Sarasota Herald Tribune, :

…More than 1,600 people packed the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall to watch Hannity receive the Sarasota Republican Party’s annual statesman of the year award.

Hannity also gave his most detailed explanation yet for why his popular television program is moving to another time. And he fired up the crowd by trashing President Barack Obama’s health care reforms and cheering on a potential government shutdown.

“We should be so lucky,” Hannity said of a shutdown, which could begin Tuesday if Congress does not pass a bill to keep the government funded. “There’s one day we don’t have to pay taxes, anyway.”

To a loud ovation, Hannity praised the work of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who spoke all night on the Senate floor earlier in the week in a bid to defund the Affordable Care Act. He said health care reform has put the U.S. on a path to socialism and will increase the cost of care for many of the very same people it’s supposed to help.

Said Hannity: “Everybody knows Obamacare is bad.”

Hannity said Cruz’s efforts, along with those of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, show that the Republican Party has a bright future.

“What I think happened this week is the emergence of a revitalized Republican Party standing on conservative principles that, if we follow them, it will lead to great success,” Hannity said.

With key provisions of the Affordable Care Act set to go into effect on Tuesday, Republicans such as Cruz and Rubio have declared this their best chance to defund it. But that has created turmoil within Republican ranks from those who fear the strategy won’t work and could hurt Republicans.

Hannity had harsh words for those Republicans. He singled out Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., for attacking Cruz. Hannity said his message to Republicans is this: Fund Obamacare, and you own it.

Hannity’s 45-minute appearance in the region is yet another signal of Sarasota’s significance to the national Republican Party, said Sarasota County GOP chairman Joe Gruters. Over the last two years, Republican leaders including Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Haley Barbour, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have visited Sarasota County and met with GOP activists.

Gruters said the more success Sarasota has in assembling big audiences, the more it gets the word out that Sarasota is a must-visit community for conservative leaders and future presidential candidates.

Hannity typically commands up to $100,000 in speaking fees, according to media reports. But Gruters said Hannity came to Sarasota for nominal travel costs because of the county’s reputation. He said it certainly didn’t hurt that Trump spoke to 1,000 people a year ago at the 2012 statesman event.

Hannity, who owns a home in Naples, told the Sarasota audience he feels like a neighbor and plans to one day retire in Southwest Florida. Twice during his speech, he hinted at a potential future run for statewide office.

Hannity also said that his highly rated show’s shift from 9 p.m. to 10 starting next month was because he has “not been home for dinner for all of these years.”

He said he was looking for a more flexible schedule that would enable him to be home more often.

“I wasn’t gong to continue on Fox, to be honest,” Hannity said, “because I didn’t think I could do it and still be a father.”

Hannity has been on Fox News since 1996.

His “Hannity” program is the second-highest-rated cable news program in the country after “The O’Reilly Factor,” also on Fox News.

Hannity said Fox has built a studio in his home and given him the authority to tape more of his shows to accommodate his family.