The Miami-Dade GOP has a history of extremism that’s now taken a more radical turn as chronicled in Thursday’s New York Times.
Some key points from Miami-Dade GOP history and The Times story.
- The Miami-Dade GOP was the thrust behind the Watergate scandal. Not only did Richard Nixon own a Key Biscayne Condo (previously owned by Democratic Senator George Smathers) where he spent much of his Presidency and enjoyed the patronage of Bebe Rebozo, but the Watergate burglars were all tied to the Miami area.
- Dade State Attorney Richard E. Gerstein made the first direct links between President Nixon and Watergate heist. His Assistant State Attorney, Martin Dardis did a lot of the investigating.
- The planting of listening devices at 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach was planned and executed by local GOPers working with Nixon’s team.
- A $25,000 cash contribution from Kenneth Dahlberg to President Nixon’s re-election campaign was converted into a cashier’s check. It was then deposited into a Boca Raton bank account. This account was controlled by Bernard Barker, one of the Watergate burglars. Ironically, Dahlberg had been shot down in World War II and rescued by a fellow American soldier – Martin Dardis.
- Nixon’s enemies list had a strong Miami focus. Arnold Picker, a film executive was listed at the very top of Nixon’s list. He was a big Democratic fundraiser, Chairman of the National Center for Jewish Film and later Mayor of Golden Beach. Gerstein obviously made the list as well.
- In the late 1990’s, multiple elected Miami-Dade GOPers were caught in corruption scandals and forced to resign from office.
- The 2000 Brooks Brothers riot which shut down the Miami-Dade County recount was planned by a local agitator – Roger Stone. Similarly, Stone’s operatives used delaying tactics to ensure the clock ran out in Broward and Palm Beach Counties during the recount. The final margin of 537 votes statewide would have actually been just 154 votes if amended tallies from Broward and Palm Beach were accepted. Moreover, if Dade had actually counted and let’s say one other county like Duval had counted it’s almost certain Al Gore wins Florida.
- During the Jeb Bush years, the Miami-Dade GOP, the party he has previously been the Chairman of became the state’s hub for extremist “school choice,” promotion as well as party beset by corruption and scandal.
- In 2006, State Rep. Rafael Arza a close ally and personal friend of then State House Speaker Marco Rubio was forced to resign after using the “N” word to describe Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Rudy Crew, who is African-American.
- Another Miami-Dade GOPer, who was a close ally of Rubio’s, Congressman David Rivera has been caught in so many scandals, we need a whole post to detail them.
- The concerted effort by the Proud Boys to join the leadership of the GOP in 2021 — and, in some cases, run for local office — has destabilized and dramatically reshaped the Miami-Dade Republican Party that former Gov. Jeb Bush and others built into a powerhouse nearly four decades ago in the wake of Watergate, transforming it into an organization roiled by internal conflict as it wrestles with forces pulling it to the hard right. The conflict comes at a pivotal moment for Republicans nationally, as primary voters weigh whether to wrench the party from its extremist elements — or more fully embrace them. Governor Ron DeSantis is at the forefront of efforts to make the GOP a clone of Fidesz in Hungary led by Viktor Orbán. The Governor has strong allies now in the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.
- “Yes, we have fringe elements,” said René García, the chairman of the approximately 125-member Republican committee in Miami-Dade County, who is also a county commissioner and former state senator. “Yes, we have different points of view in our party. That’s how we are. And my job as Republican chairman is to protect everyone’s First Amendment right, however wrong they may be.” Garcia has a history of moderation in both the State Legislature and on the County Commission, so his inability and unwillingness to control this element confirms they have in fact co-opted the party.
- The Proud Boys spent nearly half a decade engaged in often violent protests across the country over issues such as the removal of Confederate statues. After the Capitol attack, however, as Proud Boys were being investigated by law enforcement and charged with federal crimes, they lowered their profile. The group dissolved its national leadership and encouraged chapters to get involved in local issues, with the goal of amassing support in advance of this year’s midterm elections. Like Mom’s for Liberty, another extremist national group with strong-South Florida ties (MFL have the open support of Governor Ron DeSantis), the focus has become local issues and infiltrating local government.
This is a very interesting article about the Miami-Dade GOP.
A couple of things that were not mention included the following:
1) George Smathers had defeated Claude Pepper in the 1950 Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate. Claude Pepper was the incumbent. Claude Pepper was given the derisive nickname “Red” Pepper. He was accused of being a Communist sympathizer. He was also accused of practicing “thespianism”. George Smathers counted on the voters not knowing what it meant. It just sounded bad and that was enough for many people.
2) Richard “Dick” Gerstein was Miami-Dade County’s State Attorney for years. He resigned in 1974 after the Watergate Scandal had run its course. Janet Reno was appointed to serve the remaining two years of his term. She won the State Attorney’s office in her own right in 1976 and served until President Clinton named her his Attorney General. She had the distinction of being the only member of President Clinton’s Cabinet to have served in both terms of his presidency.
3) Our current State Attorney, Kathy Fernandez Rundle was Janet Reno’s Assistant and succeeded her when she became the Attorney General of the United States. She was the first woman to serve as Attorney General of the United States.
4) Bebe Rebozo and then Vice President Richard Nixon would dine together frequently at a steakhouse on Douglas Road a few blocks north of Coral Gables Hospital. The steakhouse. They continued getting together to dine there when Nixon became President Nixon. It was torn down years ago. I do not remember what has since been built there.
5) Howard Hunt and the Watergate burglars were from Miami.
6) Nixon began going to Key Biscayne while he was Vice President. Nixon made himself very accessible to the residents of Key Biscayne. He would sign autographs. You could have your picture taken with him. He did not care who you were and it was easier then to approach such an important public figure. This is, in large part, why Key Biscayne voters registered mostly as Republicans. It is still the same way today as far as voter registration.
7) We need to help Victor Vazquez with his campaign for the County Commission. If he were to win, then there would be a Democratic majority serving on the County Commission. There is somebody from the Proud Boys that is running against him. Do you think we could have him speak to us via Zoom in July? If he were to be elected, it would help Daniella tremendously.
8) I met Jeb Bush in person when he was governor of Florida. It was during Dade Days in Tallahassee. Metro-Zoo brought onto the charter flight to Tallahassee a cheetah named Savannah. Savannah was beautiful. We went to the Governor’s Office to escort him to the courtyard for the serving of the Paella Valenciana. Savannah came with us. Governor Bush was a little taken back when he saw her. However, she liked him. He started walking out of the office and Savannah wanted to be next to him. The handler had to hold onto the chain leash firmly. He did. There is a huge wok that is transported by truck from Miami to Tallahassee every year for Dade Days. The Paella Valenciana is cooked for hours in the open air of the Capitol Courtyard. Savannah went to visit Speaker Rubio in his office. However, Savannah took a small bite out of the face of one of the employees in the office. Needless to say, she went back to the hotel room and made an appearance on the street later that day.