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Rubio pal Nelson Diaz fights off Ron Paul-ites to win Miami-Dade GOP chair

Nelson Diaz, a member of Sen. Marco Rubio's inner-circle, was narrowly elected to lead the embattled Miami-Dade GOP on Tuesday night, narrowly beating longtime Republican executive committee member Emiliano Antunez.

Diaz, who otherwise might have walked into the post, barely won thanks to a spirited effort by Republicans inspired by former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. A large number of the newcomers won party posts during the GOP primaries in August.

One source put the vote at 56-54. Diaz confirmed he won by two votes.

Republicans said before the meeting that, if all the Paul-ites showed up, Antunez might have won. A few of them forgot to properly submit party loyalty oaths and some Republicans loyal to Diaz wanted to block them from party posts.

The meeting was closed, outgoing Chairman Ben Powell said earlier. Previous chair races were open to the press.

The chairman race would have taken on added significance had another Rubio insider decided to run: Outgoing Congressman David Rivera, who's being nagged by two federal investigations concerning personal and campaign finances.

Rivera ultimately listened to reason and decided to sit this one out. But he'll be back.

Diaz, a lawyer and lobbyist with Becker & Poliakoff, is a much safer choice. Diaz isn't a polarizing figure and the local party -- overwhelmed in the just-ended elections -- needs to soothe rattled nerves, expand and get ready for 2014, when Republican Gov. Rick Scott is up for re-election.