Rick Santorum visits Okeechobee, Stuart today

STUART — Local Republicans this week will be able to spend face time with GOP presidential rivals former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who visits Okeechobee and Stuart today, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who will visit Stuart and Port St. Lucie on Saturday.

This morning, Santorum is expected to start the day with a meet-and-greet in Okeechobee.

Then, a few lucky students from the Community Christian Academy in Stuart will get chance to personally quiz Santorum during an 11:30 a.m. rally at the school's ball field at 777 Southeast Salerno Road.

Campaign organizer Dennis Fano of Palm City said Santorum will speak during the 90-minute rally and will return Wednesday night for a private fundraiser Fano is hosting at his Palm Cove Yacht and Golf Club home.

Christian Academy administrator the Rev. Kenny Kotouc said they expect at least 400 students and staff to attend Tuesday's political rally, in addition to having students attend from Jupiter Christian Academy.

"There will be 11th and 12th graders asking him political relevant questions about his campaign and his platform," Kotouc said. "We're calling it Community Christian Academy's civic day; we're trying to get our kids involved in national government."

While the school isn't endorsing Santorum or any GOP rival, Kotouc called the rally a "huge occasion" that could draw 1,000 people, and garner the academy national media exposure.

"It's one of the biggest days we've ever had here," Kotouc said. "It's a big deal coming to a small 300-student Christian school in Martin County."

A "Two Scoops for Newt" ice cream social scheduled Wednesday for Gingrich at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance at 8565 Commerce Center Drive in Port St. Lucie has been shifted to Saturday at 9:15 a.m., confirmed Jolien Caraballo, co-chairperson of Gingrich's St. Lucie campaign.

Gingrich on Saturday will begin his day speaking at a ticketed fundraiser to benefit the Martin Republican Party at the Willoughby Golf Club in Stuart, with doors opening at 7:30 a.m.

He'll leave Stuart shortly after 9:30 a.m. for the PGA Center, Caraballo said, where he's expected to address a large outdoor crowd.

"It's a great pleasure and a great honor to have the Speaker to come speak to our county," Caraballo said. "Our whole team is pumped, the campaign locally here is pumped and we're just ready to for him to get here."

Local supporters are excited to build on Gingrich's South Carolina primary win, Caraballo said, which knocked former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney off his perch as frontrunner ahead of Florida's Jan. 31 primary.

Doors at the Willoughby Golf Club on Saturday will open at 7:30 a.m., and Gingrich is expected to speak at 8:15 a.m., confirmed Susan Auld, chair of the Martin County Republican Party.

The campaigns for Romney and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul have not announced any plans to visit the Treasure Coast before the primary.

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