Meet Dena DeCamp, Presidential Elector from Lakeland

Dena Stebbins DeCamp has been riding a political high the last few months. “This year has been the most fun I’ve ever had in politics,” she said. “I’ve hit the trifecta. I spoke at Trump rallies. I went to the Republican National Convention. I’m going to the inauguration.” And on Monday, she will be one of the 306 Republicans expected to elect Donald Trump president.

DeCamp, who has lived in Lakeland for 54 of her 60 years, is one of Florida’s 29 members of the Electoral College. Florida’s electors will meet Monday in Tallahassee to cast their votes for president, just as electors in all 49 states will be meeting in their state capitals.

Oversimplification alert: Under the Electoral College system set up in the U.S. Constitution, citizens who cast ballots for president were actually voting for the slate of electors selected by their candidate’s state party organization. Monday’s meeting of electors in all 50 states marks the formal election of  president and vice president.

Like all but two states, Florida is a winner-takes-all state; all 29 of the 2016 electors are ones selected via the Republican Party since GOP candidate Trump’s 49.1 percent of the state’s votes bested Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 47.8 percent in the Nov. 8 election. And DeCamp expects all of Florida’s electors to stick with their party’s standard bearer.

DeCamp, a Tea Party supporter who is currently president of the Florida Federation of Republican Women, is one of two Lakeland members of the Electoral College.

The other — Debbie Hannifan, who is Polk County’s Republican state committeewoman — did not respond to efforts to contact her. Two of the email addresses I found for her came back as no longer valid.

Presumably that’s because Hannifan is trying to avoid the deluge of emails, phone calls and postal mail electors receive from people trying to sway their votes.

DeCamp said she’s been getting at least 100 emails a day and she got 42 letters on Monday. Letters have even gone to her husband’s chiropractic practice.

Just about all the letters are from people trying to convince her not to vote for Trump, she said. None has come from Polk County and only a few have come from elsewhere in Florida. Most are from California, New York, and “all the liberal states.”

“Some people say they now know every way to reach me, which sounds like a threat to me,” she said. “It’s disturbing our lives.”

DeCamp, who owns an embroidery business, says she can bring guests to Monday’s session, which she presumes will be largely ceremonial. She’s bringing some members of the Florida Federation of Republican Women, and her personal guest is Jim Guth, Polk’s Republican chairman.

DeCamp isn’t surprised that Florida has three electors from Polk County (the third is Kat Gates-Skipper from Lake Wales), accounting for nearly one-third of the state’s total. “Polk County is deep red,” she notes. While Polk’s voter rolls have more Democrats than Republicans, she said many are Dixiecrats — people who register Democrat but vote for conservative candidates.

This is her first time attending an Electoral College session, just as last summer’s GOP convention in Cleveland was her first.

She became active in the Republican Party about 15 years ago as a way to combine a longtime interest in politics with a desire to network on behalf of the three uniform companies she owned at the time.

During the primaries last fall and early this year, DeCamp and her husband wavered between support for Trump and Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, she said. She had been a team leader for Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate run.

Trump’s record as a businessman impressed her and fell in line with the Tea Party preference for candidates with business experience over career politicians, she said.

So far, she supports Trump’s Cabinet and White House selections, she said, and she was happy to see that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed support for Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick to lead the State Department.

Florida’s presidential electors are:

  • Ade Aderibigbe
  • Larry Ahern
  • Brian Ballard
  • Kristy Banks
  • Michael Barnett
  • LizBeth Benacquisto
  • Robin Bernstein
  • Pam Bondi
  • John Browning
  • Sharon Day
  • Dena DeCamp
  • Nick D
  • Jeremy Evans
  • John Falconetti
  • Peter Feaman
  • Kat Gates-Skipper
  • Joe Gruters
  • Debbie Hannifan
  • Blaise Ingoglia
  • Tony Ledbetter
  • Mike Moberley
  • Susan Moore
  • Joe Negron
  • Clint Pate
  • Ray Rodrigues
  • Carlos Trujillo
  • Robert Watkins
  • Susie Wiles
  • Christian Ziegler