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Politics

Young Republicans Battle It Out for Future of Miami-Dade GOP

May 7, 2013 - 6:00pm

The seemingly never-ending struggle for the ideological future of the Miami-Dade GOP has entered a new chapter, as a normally routine election to fill the vacant vice chairmanship has turned into yet another battle between mainstream and libertarian-leaning Republicans.

On Thursday night, the 120 members of the Miami-Dade County Republican Executive Committee one of the RPOF's largest county affiliates will decide whether to hand their local party's No. 2 slot to lifelong-Republican Bryan Avila, 28, or libertarian activist and GOP-convert Manny Roman, 27.

The two candidates have run a clean, friendly campaign, but the same can't be said for at least some of Avila's supporters.

Manny Roman told a reporter that he supported, voted for, and gave money to Barack Obama in 2008, reads a May 7 email to REC members from Miami-Dade committeewoman Roxanna Greene, citing a December report by Sunshine State News. Worst of all, according to the Miami Dade Elections Department, [Manny] Roman DID NOT VOTE in the 2012 general election! This was the most important election of our time and our only opportunity to get rid of Obama and Manny couldnt even bring himself to cast a vote against BARACK OBAMA which he voted for in 2008!

Roman hit back on Wednesday in an email to supporters, insisting that conversion to the conservative cause is a mark in his favor.

Like one of our conservative heroes, Ronald Reagan, I was also a Democrat before becoming a Republican, Roman responded. I know the lies the Democrats tell our youth and I am ready to fight to not lose them forever.

As to why he didn't vote at all in 2012, Roman told the Miami Herald he "started working at a start-up firm and became totally immersed in trying to make it a success, working 70-plus hours a week. I could not take time off during that time.

Avila told SSN he does not hold Roman's former Democratic affiliation against him, though he does find his abstention from the 2012 election concerning. Avila also said he and Roman differ mostly over style, rather than substance.

I think I'm more inclusive. Whenever there's a tough decision that needs to be made, as vice chairman, or any sort of decision, I'm always going to be open to ideas, open to suggestions, and be open to any criticism, Avila pledged, contrasting his approach to the REC with that of Roman, who last month successfully spearheaded an effort to get the Miami-Dade GOP to condemn the ultimately-failing attempt by some Miami-Dade Republican legislators to secure taxpayer funding for Sun Life Stadium renovations

I agree that we shouldn't be raising taxes to renovate the Miami Dolphins' stadium, said Avila, who voted against the resolution. We are Republicans, and when we have a problem with our legislators, our elected officials, we should deal with them directly. The language [the resolution] used came off offensive.

Roman suggested the attack email might have been motivated by his recent receipt of several relatively prominent local endorsements. His candidacy is being supported by J. Marc Lewis, founder of Tea-by-the-Sea, one of South Florida's most active tea party groups, and by the College Republican chapters of the University of Miami, Florida International University, and Barry University.

Roman's also received the endorsement of multibillionaire Norman Braman, owner of Braman Honda car dealerships, former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, and outspoken opponent of the Sun Life Stadium legislation.

Avila, an English professor at Miami-Dade College who sits on the Planning & Zoning and Scholarship boards of the city of Hialeah, insists the only endorsement that matters to him is that of the Republican voters of his Hialeah district, who elected Avila to one of the region's two REC seats last August. (The second seat subsequently became vacant, and Roman was elected to it last month, by fellow REC members.)

Roman, manager of financial planning and analysis for the Burger King Corp., instead touts his business experience and experience organizing and working with the grassroots to build a strong REC, telling SSN he thinks that we're on the verge of losing an entire generation to the Democratic Party unless we include young people and do it effectively.

In December, Roman led the effort by libertarian-leaning REC members to take control of the Miami-Dade GOP, failing by just two votes. At that time, two Ron Paul supporters were elected to the position of vice chairman and treasurer, but vice chair elect Rosa Palomino was disqualified after opponents pointed out she won only a plurality of votes instead of the required majority.

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116.

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