Miami-Dade GOP vice chairman backs Ted Cruz, prompting backlash

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz talks to the media during a Dec. 23 campaign stop in Oklahoma City.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz talks to the media during a Dec. 23 campaign stop in Oklahoma City. AP

The dust-up in the Miami-Dade Republican Party began with a letter to the editor published Saturday in the Miami Herald. Manny Roman endorsed Ted Cruz for president.

The problem: Roman is the party’s vice chairman. GOP officers are supposed to remain neutral in primary contests.

And now some members of the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee want to oust Roman as vice chair, if he won’t step down himself.

Several members intend to make a motion at the party’s next meeting on Jan. 7 to remove Roman from his position. Nelson Diaz, the local party chief, has called for Roman’s resignation, saying the endorsement violated a Republican Party of Florida rule that prohibits GOP officers from endorsing one Republican over another. Members must sign a loyalty oath to that effect.

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“It is inappropriate for party leaders to put their thumbs on the scales of what should be grassroots elections,” Diaz said in a statement to a Herald reporter. He is personally close to presidential candidate Marco Rubio but hasn’t publicly backed him.

Roman counters he broke no rules because he didn’t intend for his endorsement to have his party title attached, only his name. At his request, the Herald’s editorial board changed Roman’s letter online to identify him not as vice-chair but as “Republican activist.”

“Mr. Roman has the position that he has, and there was no way that that was going to be masked by his title not being included,” said Nancy Ancrum, the Herald’s editorial-page editor. “And we opted for full disclosure.”

Roman’s public endorsement got plenty of traction from the Cruz campaign. Cruz tweeted Roman’s letter, and Roman said he’s co-chairing Cruz’s Miami-Dade campaign.

“The only rule that I broke is an unspoken rule in Miami — expressing my support for Ted Cruz [or any candidate] over Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush,” Roman said in an email responding to a Herald reporter Monday. “In politics, it is always easier to take the path of least resistance. But if we want to reignite the promise of America, we need to be courageous and stand up for what we believe in even if it upsets the Washington establishment or their candidates.”

“Reigniting the promise of America” is Cruz’s slogan.

Cruz is polling ahead of former Gov. Jeb Bush but behind or tied with Rubio in Florida, and his supporters have jumped on the idea that the Texas senator could best two locals in voter-rich Miami-Dade.

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Roman has rankled the Miami-Dade GOP before. When he first ran for vice chair, in 2013, a fellow party member sent the Republican Executive Committee an email highlighting that Roman had been a registered Democrat who made a financial contribution to Barack Obama in 2008 and didn’t vote in the 2012 presidential election. Roman had acknowledged his past Democratic affiliation when he donated to Obama as a college student and said he couldn’t take time off from work to vote four years later.

Once a GOP member, Roman further upset the party by successfully pushing a resolution calling out two Republican state lawmakers for advocating public funding for a renovation of the privately owned Miami Dolphins stadium. Roman foes suspected the measure — which they opposed not because they backed the funding but because they rejected a Republican-on-Republican condemnation — was meant to bolster Roman’s own potential statehouse bid in 2014. But Roman never ran.