Republican grassroots activists, inspired by the message of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, failed to gain control of the Miami-Dade County GOP Tuesday night, but they have nevertheless won a record number of seats in the county party apparatus.
Most of these victories were won several months ago and not only in Miami-Dade but they are only being made public now.
Two Paul supporters were elected to the board of directors of Miami-Dade Countys Republican Executive Committee, one of the largest RECs in the state: Rosa Palomino as vice chairwoman and Elizabeth Romney-Robayna as treasurer.
In addition, about 48 to 51 of the approximately 128 new committee persons seated Tuesday self-identify as supporters of the Texas congressmans libertarian conservatism.
Sources from within the Republican Party tell Sunshine State News that Ryan Anderson, state committeeman for the Broward GOP, is also a Paul supporter, as are others elected to local party offices across the Sunshine State.
Their gains are the fruit of a months-long stealth campaign that activists say is intended to return the Republican Party to its traditional small-government roots.
Nelson Diaz, an attorney and lobbyist who has been heavily involved with the campaigns of several Republican heavyweights since the 1990s (including now-U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio), beat out longtime grassroots activist and political consultant Emiliano Antunez for the position of county party chairman.
Diaz was reportedly the favored candidate of party leadership; Antunez supported Pauls candidacy in 2008 and 2012, and was the favorite of the Paul supporters.
Antunez reportedly lost by only two votes.
Sources from within the Miami-Dade GOP told Sunshine State News that all but one of the state representatives, and two of the three state senators representing Miami-Dade County were present to cast their votes for the RECs board of directors. The absent legislators were reportedly Rep. Michael Bileca of West Miami and Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami.
County REC elections are a mystery to most voters, perhaps even most registered Republicans. But they are important for the impact they have on setting the future agenda of the party at the county and state levels.
Every countys Republican Party is divided up into districts or precincts, and each district/precinct is represented by up to four elected party officials: two district committeeman and two district committeewomen. In addition, each county has two countywide elected officers: a state committeeman and a state committeewoman. These positions are all filled during the presidential primary election.
Each district and state committee person and every representative and senator representing the county in the Florida Legislature -- is eligible to vote for a county partys board of directors, which is made up of five officers: a chairman, a vice chairman, two secretaries, and a treasurer.
The state committee persons, district/precinct committee persons, and the county party board of directors all make up a countys Republican Executive Committee. The chairman and the two state committee persons of all the states county REPs are eligible to elect the leadership of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF).
The Miami-Dade GOP is divided into 40 districts, for a potential committee membership of up to 162 persons (160 district committee persons and two state committee persons), though sources tell Sunshine State News about 20 percent of those seats are vacant, either because no one ran for them or those elected to them were subsequently disqualified on any number of procedural technicalities
State Rep. Manny Diaz of Hialeah and activist Liliana Ros, who is often referred to as the Godmother of the Miami-Dade GOP, are the county RECs two state committee persons. Neither is a Paul supporter.
Though Manny Roman --a district committeeman whose term expired Dec. 1, and who ran the Miami-Dade component of the Texas congressmans presidential campaign in Florida --estimates that anywhere between 48 and 51 of the new district committee persons are hard-core Paul supporters, he says only about 42 showed up to vote Tuesday. Roman told the News that so-called liberty candidates ran for each of the five board positions, winning only two of them.
This is bigger than Ron Paul, Roman tells the News. We supported him because we thought he was the only candidate with real ideas to solve the problems we had, but this movement has now grown larger than him.
Roman, a 26 year-old financial analyst, grew up in a Democratic-leaning household; he supported then-Sen. Barack Obamas 2008 presidential campaign and even contributed to it financially before his conversion to the Republican Partys limited government, free-market principles in 2010.
Im young, Im Hispanic, and Im a former Democrat, Roman tells the News. Im just the kind of person everyone says the Republican Party has to appeal to.
Roman is quick to insist that he and his like-minded colleagues in the party do not see themselves as being at war with the GOPs establishment mainstream, and says their efforts are all about one thing: party unity.
This is about bringing the Republican Party back to its roots, Roman tells the News. We believe in free markets, the Constitution, and individual rights. Those are all things that are talked about in the Republican Party platform. Were all part of the same party. I think we could work together to promote the beliefs that we all share.
Antunez, shortly after the vote that elected Diaz as Miami-Dade GOP chairman, echoed those same sentiments. While admitting that some supporters of the ideologically eccentric Paul are fringe extremists, he says most of them are harking back to the ideas of famous Republican forebears like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
"As a party we really have to expand our tent; not to include socialists or liberals, but to include conservatives and libertarian-leaners, he told the News. We should not be chasing those people away, and we should be having an adult conversation within our party and seeing where we go, especially after this last election. We need to have a message thats inclusive, not exclusive.
Antunez says he will continue working within the party to make sure it runs effective grassroots campaigns for the 2014 midterms and the 2016 elections. He says if party leaders better avail themselves of 21st century technology the way the Democrats did, and stick to a consistent message, he believes they can take back both the White House and the Senate.
Roman certainly hopes so.
As a young person," he said, "I have hope that the Republican Party is the best vehicle for bringing about liberty and prosperity."
Reach Eric Giunta at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (954) 235-9116.