In a major setback to the rising libertarian wing of the Miami-Dade County Republican Executive Committee (REC), lifelong conservative Republican Byran Avila was elected vice chairman of the local party on Thursday evening.
Avila, 28, an English professor at Miami-Dade College, beat Burger King Corp. financial manager Manny Roman, a grassroots libertarian activist and GOP newcomer, by a vote of 61-49.
The race was seen in some quarters as a proxy battle for the future ideological direction of the Miami-Dade GOP, which is one of the Republican Party of Florida's largest county affiliates. At least seven sitting state legislators from Miami-Dade attended the meeting, held at west Miami's Renaissance ballroom: Reps. Frank Artiles, Manny Diaz, Erik Fresen, Eddy Gonzalez, Jeanette Nunez, and Jose Oliva; and Sen. Rene Garcia.
It is believed that all seven cast their votes for Avila.
A great candidate won, and a great candidate did not win, lobbyist and Miami-Dade GOP Chairman Nelson Diaz told Sunshine State News shortly after the vote had been taken and Avila's victory announced. Both people who ran are good, solid Republicans, and I think every one will work together for the common cause of unelecting [Democratic U.S. Rep.] Joe Garcia and re-electing all of our Republican legislators, our governor, and our Cabinet.
Those sentiments were echoed by both vice chair candidates.
I'm overwhelmed by the support and trust the members have given me. ... I thank [Roman] for running because, at the end of the day, we're both trying to do the same thing, Avila told SSN. We are going to focus very heavily on taking back the congressional seat held by Joe Garcia and we're going to make sure we elect a very good Republican to that seat. Were going to do everything, from tomorrow to November of next year, to recruit young, energetic volunteers; we're going to register a lot of voters, and we're going to deliver our message of lower taxes, smaller government, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and the defense of our liberties.
Bryan seems like a principled guy, and I hope he is successful, Roman told SSN. I created disharmony in the party, and maybe some of the people in the party werent ready for my message, but I think if I would have done this two, four, or six years ago I would have lost by a lot more than 12 votes.
I'm not going away, I'm going to keep fighting for liberty and promoting the values of liberty. I'm still going to be an activist, together with the college Republicans, the local Tea Party, and Norman Braman, Roman continued, referring to a string of prominent local endorsements his candidacy received.
Roman and Avila both ran clean and positive campaigns, though in recent days at least one Avila supporter sent emails to fellow REC members, questioning Roman's Republican and conservative credentials.
Roman is a former Democrat, voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but joined the Republican Party in 2010 and subsequently ran the Miami-Dade component of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign. In April, he successfully spearheaded the effort to get the Miami-Dade County Republican Executive Committee to condemn the ultimately-failed attempt by some South Florida GOP lawmakers to secure taxpayer funding for Sun Life Stadium renovation, and nearly succeeded last December in orchestrating a takeover of the local party by libertarian-leaning Ron Paul supporters
Avila, even though he opposed the stadium funding, did not support the April resolution, saying it was harsh and divisive.
Local libertarian-conservative activist Rosa Palomino ran for the vice chairmanship in December, and was announced the winner, but later disqualified after opponents pointed out she received only a plurality of votes instead of the required majority.
Reach Eric Giunta at email@example.com or at (954) 235-9116.