SANFORD, Fla. – A county Republican chairman says his bid to head the state party was sabotaged because a letter falsely accused him of having been married six times. The right number, he says, is five.
"That's unconscionable," Seminole County Republican Party Chairman Jim Stelling (search) said Tuesday in the trial over his defamation suit. "I have four children and eight grandchildren that I love dearly. I believe in family values."
He is seeking unspecified damages in his lawsuit against Nancy Goettman (search), a former county GOP executive committee member who sent out a letter to party executives statewide days before the 2003 election for chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
Stelling narrowly lost to Carole Jean Jordan (search) and sued Goettman soon afterward. Her letter falsely implied he did not have high moral standards, he said.
Goettman, acting as her own attorney, asked Stelling: Five wives or six, when the number gets that high, does being off by one really matter?
"I beg your pardon," Stelling said. "Of course I don't agree with that statement."
He said he was not proud of the multiple marriages, but "no matter how many times I've been married, that has no impact on how I would lead."
It's now up to Circuit Judge Clayton Simmons to determine what damages, if any, Stelling should receive. He did not say when he would issue a ruling.
Goettman said she "did what I thought was right."
Two of Stelling's wives were in the courtroom for the half-day trial, including his current wife, Lorayne.