The Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee was supposed to meet Thursday night. But earlier this week, its chairman, state Rep. Erik Fresen, sent members an e-mail postponing the meeting until next Wednesday.
"I would like to address the REC regarding some personal decisions I've made with as much of the REC membership as possible in attendance," Fresen wrote at the end of his e-mail. That got party members buzzing about whether Fresen is planning to leave his post.
Not necessarily, said Fresen, who is out of town and responded via text messages to The Miami Herald.
"Whether I'm stepping aside has not been decided yet," he said. "A lot depends on what the Senate maps end up looking like."
Senators began meeting in a special session this week to redraw their districts after the Florida Supreme Court struck down the chamber's first draft. Fresen is waiting for incoming Senate President Don Gaetz to reveal the latest version of the map Saturday before deciding whether to run for Senate.
Fresen is not term-limited yet in the House, where he faces a primary challenge from Amory Bodin. He is also likely to face a primary opponent in a possible Senate race, he said.
The Miami lawmaker -- whose district includes portions of South Miami, Coral Gables, West Miami, Virginia Gardens, Miami Springs and Hialeah -- has been mentioned as a possible challenger to Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis, whose coastal, Miami-Dade-based district became more Hispanic in the rejected version of the Senate's redistricting maps. Former Republican Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla has already submitted paperwork to seek that seat.
Were Fresen to remain Miami-Dade GOP chairman while competing in a Republican primary -- either for House or Senate -- he could open himself up to criticism from party members or opponents that he could use his position to gain advantage in the campaign. U.S. Rep. David Rivera, the party's former chairman, faced similar criticism during his 2010 primary.
Fresen said he wants to avoid the appearance of using his position to help his race and plans to ask party members next week for their opinion. "If that is their pleasure, I may step down from the titulary role to avoid any perception of preferential treatment," he said.
Fresen, who took over the party reins in late 2010, has had a sometimes rocky tenure. Last summer, the committee had so little money left in the bank that some members confronted Fresen asking him if the organization was broke. Some Republicans have complained privately that Fresen has postponed several meetings and fallen short of fundraising goals in an election year -- a far cry from the days when the party was flush with cash.
UPDATE: Stanley Tate, a developer and longtime member of the local party, said state Republicans are concerned the Miami-Dade GOP is floundering months before a national party convention in Tampa and a presidential election. Fresen, he added, has been too busy to devote enough time and attention to his party duties.
"I have no qualms about saying I'm unhappy with his leadership, because it's been lacking," Tate said, adding that he recently had to donate thousands of dollars to keep the party afloat.
"We've had many leaders of the Republican Party — including Al Cárdenas and others — who were very active in other positions, but the party always took a very prominent role in their efforts."
Read the full text of Fresen's e-mail below.
Dear REC Members, As you are aware, the Florida Legislature concluded its regularly scheduled session last Friday. However, unfortunately, the Supreme Court rejected the state senate maps submitted by the legislature and we have been asked to reconvene for a special session this Wednesday, March 14. Given the absences of our county delegation members and others, we have decided to postpone this Thursday's REC meeting and reschedule it for Wednesday, March 21st,2012 at Renaissance at the Gables, 2340 SW 32nd Ave, I believe we will have a much more effective and informed meeting on the new date. Further, I would like to address the REC regarding some personal decisions I've made with as much of the REC membership as possible in attendance. Until then, I thank you all for your continued support and commitment to the Miami-Dade REC. Kindest Regards, Erik Fresen