Call it the summer of speakers from the fringe for the Broward Republican Executive Committee.
In June, BREC -- the main county GOP group -- invited conspiracy theorist Trevor Loudon of New Zealand to speak while tonight the guest speaker is Laurie Cardoza-Moore, who was parodied on The Daily Show in 2010 for her opposition to the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The mosque had been around for decades and wanted to construct a larger building.
After Cardoza-Moore made broad generalizations about Muslims, Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi asked her:
“You do know I’m Muslim right?”
“Nobody is perfect,” she replied.
Cardoza-Moore noted that the mosque had already been around for 20-something years, prompting Mandvi to ask “20 years -- it’s been 20 years of nonviolence?”
Cardoza-Moore replied “None yet.”
When a spokeswoman for the mosque said that they had been there for 30 years, Mandvi quipped that it wasn’t a sleeper cell but a “comatose cell.”
Broward GOP chairman Tom Truex said in an interview that Cardoza-Moore was recommended as a speaker by the county’s Jewish Republican Club.
“She has a point of view that some of our membership was interested in,” he said.
Truex argues that it’s just the media griping about the speakers. Truex said the bulk of the meeting is about other business including listening to judicial candidates and a representative from Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign. He also says he has opened the floor to a variety of speakers.
“We’ve had libertarians, speakers from a variety of perspectives.”
We asked for an example of a speaker who had a moderate perspective and Truex said a few months ago he had the president of the Log Cabin group -- a gay Republican group -- do the invocation at the beginning of the meeting though he said he got complaints for that.
BREC has drawn attention for an internal fight about gay marriage with some activists criticizing two elected officials who are Republicans -- County Commissioner Chip LaMarca and school board member Heather Brinkworth -- for participating in the gay pride parade in Wilton Manors. Both LaMarca and Brinkworth defended their decision to reach out to the gay community which is part of their constituency.
Jon Stewart’s Daily Show is seen as more friendly to liberals so the fact that a speaker was parodied on the show isn’t an automatic turnoff for Republicans, but it raises questions about the party’s focus in a critical election year. As leader of the Broward GOP, Truex has the difficult task of trying to unite various factions ranging from tea party activists to more moderate business-type Republicans. The question is if such speakers will turn off some Republicans from the group’s main task: helping elect Republicans to local, state and federal office.
With more than 230,000 Republican voters in the county -- one of the largest contingents in the state -- the Broward GOP could play a key role in helping turn out the vote for Gov. Rick Scott or trying to win back a state Senate seat for Ellyn Bogdanoff and hang on to other local seats.
Internal party warfare is common among political clubs -- the Broward Democrats brawl over whether to re-elect chairman Mitch Ceasar every four years while Herald political reporter Marc Caputo details Miami-Dade Democratic dysfunction related to the governor’s race.