BY STEVE ROTHAUS, SROTHAUS@MIAMIHERALD.COM
Two of Miami-Dade County’s best-known conservative groups have launched an alliance to elect like-minded candidates this fall.
“If any candidate wants to get elected to public office in Miami-Dade County and all of South Florida, then they need to work with fair-minded, pro-life, pro-family citizens of this community,” said Anthony Verdugo, executive director of the Christian Family Coalition, which has united with the Catholic Cultural Fund for the 2012 election cycle.
Flanked by a half-dozen endorsed candidates, Verdugo and Eladio José Armesto of the Catholic Cultural Fund announced the pact at a news conference on Friday.
The coalition came together “through tedious planning and hard work,” Armesto told The Miami Herald. “There’s a great need to share with the electorate the fact that their right to vote is more than a right. It’s an obligation. It’s a duty. It’s a responsibility to our community and to future generations.”
Armesto, also director of the conservative Florida Democratic League, said the Christian Family Coalition and Catholic Cultural Fund “are going to be mobilizing churches and parishes and organizations within the county to ensure the widest participation possible.”
Verdugo says his group represents 100,000 voters and that 29 percent of CFC members say they voted in the 2011 elections.
On Friday, the alliance announced endorsements for the Miami-Dade commission, county and circuit court. In following weeks, they will recommend candidates for Miami-Dade mayor, school board and legislature. It’s uncertain whether an endorsement will be made in the state attorney’s race, Verdugo said.
Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson, running to unseat Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan, accepted the alliance’s endorsement and said she would seek a cost review of Miami-Dade County’s human rights ordinance, which protects gays and lesbians from discrimination in work and housing, and also provides health benefits for same-sex and opposite-sex partners.
Gibson said she “wouldn’t initiate” a repeal of the ordinance, passed in 1998.
“My personal opinion is, if we’re looking at the fact that Dade County already has it, then I’m not going to go take it away,” Gibson said.
Verdugo said not all endorsed candidates “agree 100 percent” with the conservative Christian groups.
“We don’t have a litmus test,” he said. “Our litmus test is qualifications.”
• Enrique “Rick” Yabor
• John M. Rodriguez
• Lourdes T. Cambó
• Maria Elena Verde
• Victor De Yurre
• District 1 - Shirley Gibson