The Miami-Dade County Republican Party official embroiled in an internecine feud over his endorsement of Ted Cruz for president is gearing up to fight his colleagues' push to oust him from his position.
Manny Roman, the party's vice-chairman, has drawn the support of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, a libertarian-leaning group within the state party. Liberty Caucus Chairman Bob White said in a statement late Sunday that he wrote Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia urging him to put an end to a planned Miami-Dade vote Thursday to remove Roman from his post for publicly taking sides in the GOP presidential primary.
"The charge is that the vice chairman violated a rule that party leaders must remain neutral in primaries," White wrote. "We both know there is no such rule; certainly not an RPOF rule and I understand there is no Dade county rule either."
RPOF spokesman Wadi Gaitan did not comment.
Roman wrote in a letter to the Miami Herald editor last month that he would back Cruz, the Texas senator, over local favorites Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Angry local Republicans swiftly moved to schedule a vote against Roman, citing a loyalty oath required from party members that prohibits officers from endorsing one Republican over another.
That hasn't stopped party executive committee members across the state from getting involved in GOP presidential campaigns. White noted Donald Trump's Florida campaign chairman Joe Grueters also heads the Sarasota County GOP. Roman pointed out that Miami-Dade GOP recording secretary Corey Breier is one of Rubio's Miami-Dade campaign chairmen.
Republican Liberty Caucus member Hector Roos said in a statement Monday he plans to rally Roman supporters ahead of the local party's meeting Thursday. "Manny Roman has done nothing wrong," Roos said, adding that it was the Herald editorial page that identified Roman as a GOP vice-chairman (and later changed his title online to "Republican activist").
But before Roman's letter was published, he emailed a Herald reporter alerting her in advance of his endorsement. In the email, he identified himself as the party's vice-chairman. Roman said he later asked the editorial board not to identify him as such.
He contends he's been singled out because the Miami-Dade GOP is full of supporters of Bush and, particularly, Rubio. Local party Chairman Nelson Diaz has made no public endorsement but privately backs friend Rubio. On Monday, the Shark Tank, a local conservative blog, published a photo taken in January of Diaz sporting a Rubio button at an RPOF gathering, before Rubio was a candidate.
Diaz said it was Roman's splashy letter -- meant to attract attention precisely because of Roman's position, and promoted by Cruz's campaign -- that upset Republicans who have had no problem with party members quietly taking campaign posts.
"No one is complaining that he endorsed Ted Cruz," Diaz said Monday in an email to the Herald. "The complaints I am receiving from party members [are] that he is using his title and office and is purposefully allowing the press to use the title."
"When he and I spoke several months ago, I told him that it was OK to privately support a candidate of his choice (which he told me was Ted Cruz), but that he could not use his position to promote it," Diaz continued. "He can't go around telling the press that he is the Vice Chairman of the party and then hide behind the excuse that he can't control the press."
If he had a problem with Cruz, Diaz added, he wouldn't have invited him to keynote the party's 2014 fundraiser -- or to come back in 2016. Cruz has accepted that invitation.
This post has been updated.