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Miami-Dade Republican Party to pick new chairman

The Miami-Dade Republican Party will meet Thursday night to elect a new leader -- and so far, only one candidate appears to have taken steps to let most party members know that he's interested in the job.

Ben Powell, who recently joined the party's finance committee, sent a letter last week to members of the local Republican Executive Committee formally announcing his intention to seek the chairmanship. Other candidates could volunteer or get nominated at Thursday's meeting.

"Miami-Dade is key to any effort to win Florida for the Republican nominee," Powell wrote. "As the local arm of the GOP, we have a tremendous opportunity to impact the national election this fall and also to elect Republicans in local races. We can make a difference if we organize and unite Republicans, independents and conservative Democrats and finance the important political activities necessary to win."

The party's former chairman, Miami state Rep. Erik Fresen, resigned last month after a rocky tenure that lasted a little more than a year. Once known for its fundraising prowess, the party now has little cash in its bank accounts -- a problem with a general election less than seven months away. Fresen had been criticized by party members in part for being too busy to devote enough time to local efforts and hold regular meetings.

In his letter, Powell lists several goals, including holding regular, monthly meetings; ramping up the party's social media outreach and online presence; establishing neighborhood captains to drive local organizing efforts, and injecting "compelling content and policy discussion into REC meetings."

Powell, a father of three who lives in Palmetto Bay, works in the flower import and distribution business. He said in the letter that he has been a Republican since Ronald Reagan's 1984 presidential campaign -- and that he was a Reagan appointee in Washington, and his wife, Stephanie, a Reagan White House staffer.