For many years, the Miami-Dade County Republican Party was synonymous with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and allies such as GOP strategist Ana Navarro, who is now a CNN pundit and an outspoken Never Trumper. Navarro's husband, Havana-born Al Cárdenas, was another major player.
The Miami-Dade County GOP of the 1990s and 2000s was known for Reagan conservatism, and it attracted a lot of Cuban immigrants. The fact that Bush is a fluent Spanish speaker didn't hurt.
But thanks to the influence of former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Miami-Dade County GOP has taken a much more MAGA and increasingly radical turn in recent years — one that, according to New York Times reporters Patricia Mazzei and Alan Feuer, includes welcoming the violent Proud Boys with open arms.
"The concerted effort by the Proud Boys to join the leadership of the Party — and, in some cases, run for local office — has destabilized and dramatically reshaped the Miami-Dade Republican Party that former Gov. Jeb Bush and others built into a powerhouse nearly four decades ago, transforming it from an archetype of the strait-laced establishment to an organization roiled by internal conflict as it wrestles with forces pulling it to the hard right," Mazzei and Feuer report in an article published on June 2. "The conflict comes at a pivotal moment for Republicans nationally, as primary voters weigh whether to wrench the Party from its extremist elements — or more fully embrace them."
The Times reporters note that "at least a half-dozen current and former Proud Boys" have "secured seats on the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee, seeking to influence local politics from the inside" —and that includes some Floridians facing criminal charges in connection with the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building.
"Gilbert Fonticoba has been charged with obstructing Congress," Mazzei and Feuer observe. "Gabriel Garcia, a former Army captain who says he has left the group, has been charged with interfering with law enforcement officers during the civil disorder on January 6, 2021."
The reporters point out that after the attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, the Proud Boys "dissolved" their "national leadership" and "encouraged chapters to get involved in local issues."
Mazzei and Feuer explain, "The Proud Boys' encroachments into the Miami-Dade Republican Party are, by far, the group's largest political success…. Such a rightward shift mirrors the evolution of state and national Republicans but is remarkable for Miami-Dade, Florida's most populous county, which Democratic presidential candidates have won since 1992. Republicans vastly improved their showing in 2020, a swing that has soured Democrats' prospects."