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It's Miami-Dade vs. Hendry in aftermath of GOP delegate selection

 @PatriciaMazzei

The scuttlebutt among Miami Republicans after the GOP selected local delegates for July's presidential convention centered around a single congressional district: What had happened in Florida's 25th?

The district spans four counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier and Hendry. But only one of its three delegates, state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, hails from Miami-Dade, home to the bulk of the district's population. The other two, Steve Nesbit and Margie Nelson, come from Hendry -- which means the county with only 2 percent of district voters took 67 percent of its delegates, said Miami-Dade state committeewoman Liliana Ros, who sat on Saturday's selection board.

"Obviously Hendry was smarter than the rest of us," she said Monday.

She suggested the three counties outside Dade had joined forces to ensure representation among the delegates -- an opinion shared privately by a number of local Republicans. 

"The bottom line is, the Broward people turned their back on us, and the Collier people also, and that's what happened," she said. "They talked it over, and they divided up the pie."

Delegates for each district are chosen by the three GOP leaders -- chairman, committeeman and committeewoman -- for each county. Because FL-25 covers four counties, all 12 county Republicans had a hand in the selection.

But they didn't collude to limit Dade's influence, said Republicans from Broward, Collier and Hendry.

"Both of us, myself and Margie, kind of looked at each other -- we were shocked we were elected," said Nesbit, the Hendry committeeman who was chosen along with committeewoman Nelson. "We thought maybe one of us had a chance."

Had there been a deal, he would have preferred to be a delegate rather than an alternate, said Collier committeeman Doug Rankin, who headed the selection process for the 25th district.

"It's just the way the cookie crumbled," he said. "We voted for all three delegates all at once. The 12 of us are all known to each other, and we're all known to be hard workers. It's very fair."

"I'm sure that Collier thought they should have one of those slots. I'm sure that Broward was trying to get one too," said Miami-Dade committeeman and state Rep. Manny Diaz, who ended up as an alternate for the district (the third alternate is Doug Harrison of Broward). "Obviously we were of the opinion that we should have two of the slots."

Competing for delegate seats from Dade were Trujillo, Diaz and others well-known Republicans, including former Rep. David Rivera and Miami-Dade GOP vice-chairman Manny Roman.

Miami-Dade GOP chairman Nelson Diaz acknowledged he was "very stunned that two Hendry folks took two-thirds of the delegates," but he praised their interviews and called them energetic and hardworking.

Still, he and Ros said they might push the Republican Party of Florida to amend its delegate rules in the future.

"I'm going to try to have some sort of a rule change so that this voting can be more proportional," Diaz said.

"If you have 60 percent of the voters," Ros said, "you should get 60 percent of the delegates."

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