MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It may not have been a smoke-filled room, per se, but the location to select fifteen of Florida’s 99 delegates to the Republican National Convention this summer certainly encouraged that sort of imagery.
Republican Party leaders gathered Saturday in a backroom at the warehouse for the Oliva Cigar Company, owned by the family of State Rep. Jose Oliva, who is in line to be Speaker of the Florida House in 2018 and was a major supporter of Jeb Bush.
“The bosses that are making the decisions, that are selecting the delegates are all establishment,” said the wonderfully named Dolly T. Rump, who is chair of Donald Trump’s campaign in Broward County. “Most of them are not Trump supporters.”
Rump and a group of about two dozen protesters, stood behind yellow police tape across the street from the warehouse, chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump” as potential delegates entered the building for their interviews.
“There are too many tricks being played in different states throughout the nation,” said another protester. “So I should be concerned, this is my country and I love it
Added Linda Schaimberg, who aggressively proclaims herself a “native” Floridian: “I’m out here to support Donald Trump – our future.”
Republican officials have been holding delegate selection meetings across the state. According to party rules, each of the state’s 27 congressional districts are allowed three delegates apiece, fifteen are chosen by the executive committee for the state party, and the final three slots are given to the state party chair and the state committeeman and state committee woman, for a total of 99.
Under the rules, those 99 delegates are required to vote for Trump through the first three ballots. (Most states only require their delegates to remain loyal to a candidate for one round of voting.) Nevertheless, Trump supporters claim party officials are deliberately picking so-called “Trojan Horse Delegates” – who party leaders know will break away from Trump as soon as they are able to and will vote for rules at the convention that hurt Trump.
“The whole delegation process, the whole primary process on both sides, with both parties, is smoke and mirrors,” said another Trump supporter, Lenny Heda.
One of those individuals hoping to be named a delegate Saturday was former Congressman David Rivera, a longtime friend and close supporter of Marco Rubio. Asked if his avid support for Rubio would hinder his ability to serve as a Trump delegate, Rivera said: “I’m an avid supporter of ending the disastrous eight years of the Obama Administration with whoever the nominee may be.”
In the end , Rivera was not chosen, but several others who had endorsed either Jeb Bush or Rubio were selected. Of the 30 people chosen as either delegates or alternate delegates, at least eight were clear Rubio supporters, including State Rep. Jeannette Nunez, a former legislative aide for Rubio from his days in Tallahassee. There were a similar number of Bush backers on the list.
Nelson Diaz, the chair of the Republican Party in Miami-Dade County and a member of the selection committee, said it should not come as a surprise that there were not many Trump activists selected.
“The Trump people generally have not been involved in any way in local Republican politics,” he said. “They have not answered the call to phone bank, go door to door, or come to our Lincoln Day Dinner. The people we selected have.”
He explained being selected a delegate is, in many ways, a “reward,” for having worked on the party’s behalf over the years and helping get candidates elected at the local level.
“My personal preference is to reward people who have always been there to help Republicans,” he said.
Diaz said despite all of the complaints from Trump’s supporters, he noted the Trump campaign never sent him a list of the people they wanted to be picked.
Diaz will be a delegate and he said his main priority is making sure they come out of the convention unified. And while Diaz and the other delegates are required to vote for Trump through the first three rounds, if it does go to a fourth round he’ll decide who to support based on a simple question: Who has the best chance of winning in November?
The following are the delegates and alternates chosen Saturday to go to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention.
Congressional District 23 Delegates
Corey Brieir (Miami-Dade County), Sanjay Narang (Broward County), and Eric Shure (Broward County)
Kevin Cooper (Miami-Dade County), Richard DeNapoli (Broward County), and Florine Goldfarb (Broward County)
Congressional District 24 Delegates
Kelly Mallete (Miami-Dade County), Stephanie Pidderman-Woodard (Miami-Dade County), and Jessica Fernandez (Miami-Dade County)
Uri Benhamron (Miami-Dade County), Nikita Mizgirev, (Miami-Dade County), and Steven Karski (Miami-Dade County)
Congressional District 25 Delegates
Steve Nesbit (Hendry County), Margie Nelson (Hendry County), and Carlos Trujillo (Miami-Dade County)
Manny Diaz, Jr. (Miami-Dade County), Doug Harrison (Broward County), and Doug Rankin (Collier County)
Congressional District 26 Delegates
Carey Goodman (Monroe County), Alex Trujillo (Miami-Dade County), and Jeanette Nuñez (Miami-Dade County)
Jose Felix Diaz (Miami-Dade County), Harry Hoffman (Miami-Dade County), and Debbie Goodman (Monroe County)
Congressional District 27 Delegates
All Miami-Dade County: Liliana Ros, Nelson Diaz, and Bernie Navarro
Rey Lastre, Rodolfo Milani, and Marili Cancio
For more on Campaign 2016, click here.