Elections

Miami-Dade GOP reprimands officer who publicly backed Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas talks to a reporter Tuesday after a campaign speech at the public library in Onawa, Iowa.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas talks to a reporter Tuesday after a campaign speech at the public library in Onawa, Iowa. AP

The Miami-Dade Republican Party punished one of its officers Thursday for publicly backing Ted Cruz for president, but stopped short of booting him off the local executive board.

Vice-Chairman Manny Roman had been threatened with ouster after his Cruz endorsement sparked an ugly internal fight. Instead, the Republican Executive Committee censured Roman, reprimanding him with a 66-12 vote for what a majority of GOP members considered violating a loyalty oath that bars party officers from publicly supporting one Republican over another. Roman maintained he was singled out for bucking party loyalists who prefer local presidential candidates Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush.

“Today was a sad day for the Republican Party,” Roman said after the vote. “This was very well orchestrated by the political establishment in Miami.”

Chairman Nelson Diaz declined to comment, other than to say, “We are a united party.” An attempt by Roman supporters to censure Diaz quickly failed.

Diaz had initially sought Roman’s removal, but GOP rules require a more formal process to kick someone off the board, including advance notice via certified mail. Roman said he had advised the Republican Party of Florida he would file a formal grievance if he were kicked out. His backers characterized the censure as a way to “contain” further political fallout.

I did not break any rules. I’m being targeted.

Manny Roman, vice chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party

The vote took place behind closed doors, after a lengthy debate that included cheers and several calls to restore order. Diaz took the unusual step of opening the session only to executive committee members after Roman supporters said they would rally outside. Members recounted the meeting to the Miami Herald after it concluded.

West Miami police were on hand in the event of any conflict, but none took place. A couple of dozen people huddled outside the Renaissance Ballroom before the meeting to show Roman support. One carried a Cruz sign.

“This was never about me, or about Ted Cruz. This is about taking on the political establishment in Miami,” Roman told them. “I did not break any rules. I’m being targeted.” He vowed not to apologize.

One committee member, Christina Pertierra, said she hoped the dispute was “a big misunderstanding.”

“You can voice your personal choice, which is what he did,” she said. “I can’t see how he did anything wrong.”

Had Roman been pushed out, the Cruz campaign — which promoted Roman’s endorsement, issued in a letter to the Miami Herald — would have had another opportunity to paint the Miami-Dade GOP as biased in favor of Rubio in particular, who boasts broad REC support. Cruz’s national political director had written Diaz urging him to back off the effort to punish Roman and knocking Rubio, whom Cruz sees as a potential long-term primary opponent.

This motion is nothing more than a blatant political attack aimed at stifling the growing support for Ted Cruz in Florida.

Cruz political director Mark Campbell

Diaz has remained publicly neutral in the race, though he’s close with Rubio. Recording Secretary Corey Breier is one of Rubio’s Miami-Dade campaign chairmen. (Donald Trump’s Florida chairman, Joe Grueters, is RPOF vice-chairman and heads the Sarasota County GOP.)

“This motion is nothing more than a blatant political attack aimed at stifling the growing support for Ted Cruz in Florida,” Cruz political director Mark Campbell wrote. “This act flies in the face of the principles of the Republican Party.”

The Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, a libertarian GOP faction, had asked the Republican Party of Florida to intervene in the Miami-Dade dispute and prevent the local chapter from punishing Roman. A spokesman for RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia did not comment on the request.

In spite of the squabble, Cruz looks likely to return to the Miami-Dade GOP, after being a popular keynote speaker at the party’s 2014 annual fundraiser. The executive committee invited all Republican presidential contenders to this year’s Lincoln Day Dinner, and Cruz has already accepted.

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