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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida's largest legislative delegation is powerful and, for now, frayed



Who will be the next chair of the powerful Miami-Dade delegation?

Nominees are the current chairman, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, and freshman Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, the delegation's current vice chair.

The vote is Tuesday and the post is generally perceived to be a bi-partisan and ministerial -- heading up the 24-member delegation. But the job does include some important appointments to several locally powerful boards -- from Jackson Memorial Hospital to the Arsht Center for the Arts to the Homeless Trust.

Technically, the election gave Democrats the majority, outnumbering Republicans 13-11.  Democrats could name one of their own to the one-year post but that's the rub. They may not have the votes if some of their members don't show up for the afternoon vote.

Sen. Daphne Campbell, the Democrat who was elected to the Senate after bitter primary and general election feuds, is not happy about the Democratic Party's role in what she believes was behind-the-scenes attempt to back one of her primary opponents, Jason Pizzo. She is not feeling magnanimous about supporting Rodriguez. 

"The bottom line is, I've been on my own, period,'' she told the Herald/Times. "I never got strong support from no side. I've been a free agent."

Diaz argues that recent tradition is to allow the delegation chairman to remain in the post for two years. Since he took over for Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, after only one year, he argues that he deserves to be elected to a second year. He wouldn't comment on whether he has appealed to Democrats to support him.

"I'm running for re-election,'' he said Monday. "I feel confident that whoever wins, our delegation will be in good hands.''

Rodriguez, the delegation's current vice chairman, argues that he doesn't consider it a partisan position. "The things that we work on are almost by consensus,'' he said. "The reason for my running is I want to work on long-term priorities -- really drilling down into what we could accomplish and build on what we have been doing."

He suggested that among the goals of the delegation chairman should be to "put Miami-Dade in a better place competitively,'' rather than seeking "small battles." 

Campbell wouldn't say what she would do Tuesday but said she will remain a member of the Democratic caucus. 

"I will never be an independent. I love being a Democrat,'' she said. But she harbors a grudge.

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon supported her, she said, but she is still stinging from the fact that she did not receive the endorsement of President Obama in the general election. "I was the only one,'' she said. "They never treat me fairly period -- and I always win."

[Last modified: Monday, November 21, 2016 7:51pm]


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