Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

GOP operative Ana Navarro a warrior for the cause

Conservative Latina fundraiser and strategist Ana Navarro of Miami is also a political analyst for CNN and CNN en Espanol.
Published Feb. 7, 2013

WASHINGTON — Ana Navarro, a blunt and sometimes outrageous GOP operative from Coral Gables, sounded miserable last month amid Washington's frigid winter, running around in her Jimmy Choo heels between CNN appearances and gala parties surrounding the president she wanted to defeat.

"Whoever invented Spanx should be hired by CIA to run Enhanced Torture Methods," @ananavarro tweeted. "I might die of asphyxia before I get to Latino Ball."

Navarro, 41, lacks much of a filter.

It's a trait that makes her a sought-after voice in Republican politics and an adviser for any presidential hopeful. She often drives her own party bananas, but with confidants Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio she is poised to play a big role in the GOP response to immigration reform and Hispanic outreach.

"One minute she can be the most attractive person and the next very disagreeable," said a chuckling Sen. John McCain, a close friend of Navarro's and her boss during his 2008 presidential campaign. "She's plainspoken and she loves controversy — whatever the topic may be, whether it's Mitt Romney's problems or John McCain's problems."

Long a behind-the-scenes political player, Navarro these da ys is often showing off her frankness and impeccable fashion style on cable TV. Last year, CNN and CNN en Espanol hired her as a political analyst.

"I get paid to talk politics, which I've done my entire life and I would do for free anyway," she marvelled.

Navarro stands out for her willingness to criticize fellow Republicans. She was the first prominent Florida Republican to attack Gov. Charlie Crist for endorsing the $700-billion stimulus plan. ("If they got Charlie Crist in a dark alley, all you'd have left is a tuft of white hair," Navarro said of Republicans in Congress unwilling to say so themselves.)

In 2010, she rescinded her support for gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum after he shifted hard right on immigration. And in November, after seeing the long voter lines in Miami, she called Gov. Scott directly to urge him to extend early voting.

She repeatedly criticized the Romney campaign's outreach to Hispanic voters as anemic or invisible ("Mitt Romney self-deported himself from the White House," she tweeted on election night), prompting horrified Romney officials to press Navarro's friends to persuade her to zip her trap. Those who knew her best didn't bother.

"I knew it was a waste of time," said Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a longtime friend of Navarro's from Miami. "Ana has a passion about her, and she's not going to be intimidated or coerced into doing anything other than what's right in her mind."

• • •

In the 1980s, the first-year law student at University of Miami campaigned for aid to the Contras in her native Nicaragua. The daughter of a well-off family in the agriculture business — her father was an early opponent of Anastasio Somoza who went on to fight against leftist revolutionaries — she moved to Miami at age 8 to escape the violence.

"I became a Republican before I knew what a Republican even was because of Ronald Reagan," she said, recalling the president's solidarity with the Contra counterinsurgency fighting the Sandinistas.

Before long, she was showing up at GOP meetings, speaking out on Miami's Cuban radio shows, organizing and attending political rallies, and working with a young Jeb Bush to help Nicaraguan immigrants remain in America. Her activism and force of personality helped raise Navarro's profile in a city whose politics were dominated by Cubans.

She served on Gov. Bush's transition team in 1998, and served as ambassador to the United Nation's Human Rights Commission, devoting much of her energy to condemning human rights violations in Cuba.

In 2008 she served as national co-chair of McCain's Hispanic Advisory Council, and in 2012 served as national Hispanic co-chair for Jon Huntsman's presidential campaign.

"She's incredibly loyal, which is a rarity in this business. I can't imagine being involved in a campaign without her being involved as a warrior princess," said Republican consultant John Weaver, who worked with Navarro on the McCain and Huntsman campaigns. "Yes, she can drive people crazy with her honesty, but she's usually right."

Navarro describes herself as a fiscal conservative, foreign policy hawk, who is also "a pro-gay rights, pro-immigration reform Republican who believes in climate change." She is pals with many Democrats, from Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to former Al Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile.

"Ana's the kind of person who will ask you about your personal business in front of strangers," said former Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami. "When I see her I'm always saying, 'Ana, I'm not going to talk about that. I don't even know most of the people at this table.' "

• • •

Most any candidate eyeing a presidential bid makes a call to Navarro for her straight take.

"Ana speaks the truth and she is willing to speak the truth to power without reservation . . . She has the ear of lots of elected officials," said Republican consultant Brett O'Donnell, another longtime friend who worked on Michele Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign.

Helping develop her vast stable of prominent political friends is Navarro's longtime significant other, Gene Prescott, a Democratic fundraiser who owns the grand Biltmore hotel in Coral Gables, which hosts more Democratic and Republican political fundraisers than most any address in America. And she's tight with two of the brightest lights in the national GOP — Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

When almost no Republicans in Florida would give Rubio any hope of beating Crist in a U.S. Senate primary, Navarro urged him on and regularly attacked the governor as a paper tiger.

"I'll always be grateful to Ana for believing in my Senate campaign from the beginning," said Rubio.

Reporters and politicians constantly ask about her pals.

"It's interesting, though, how everybody is much more interested in whether I think Jeb will run for president than Marco," Navarro confided recently in Washington, nibbling on a seafood salad after a meeting with Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

Who would she prefer to run for president? "I love Marco Rubio, and I love Jeb Bush. But I've loved Jeb longer."

Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Tallahassee on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, while a federal judge heard arguments for an against the the Legislature's bill implementing Amendment 4. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    It’s unclear how state and county officials plan on complying with the judge’s order, however. The “poll tax” issued wasn’t addressed, either.
  2. The Florida Capitol. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The job entails being a part-time lobbyist, part-time expert on the Florida Sunshine Law.
  3. Florida K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva presents the state's second draft of academic standards revisions during an Oct. 17, 2017, session at Jefferson High School in Tampa. Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the effort in an executive order to remove the Common Core from Florida schools. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times staff
    ‘Our third draft will look different from our second,’ the chancellor explains.
  4. Igor Fruman, hugs Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, as Lev Parnas looks on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando at the watch party for DeSantis. Fruman and Parnas were arrested last week on campaign finance violations. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Florida’s governor has shrugged off past donor controversies. This time, there were photos. Now it’s not going away.
  5. The sun sets over a slab which once served as a foundation for a home on Mexico Beach in May. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Area leaders fear lower population numbers will lead to reduced federal funding and political representation.
  6. Senador de Florida, Rick Scott.  Foto: AP
    “The FBI has failed to give me or these families an acceptable answer, but I’m not going to allow that,” Scott said, adding that the FBI didn’t share pertinent information on shootings at Pulse, the...
  7. Courtney Wild, 30, was a victim of serial sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein beginning at the age of 14. Epstein paid Wild, and many other underage girls, to give him massages, often having them undress and perform sexual acts. Epstein also used the girls as recruiters, paying them to bring him other underage girls. Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
    Courtney Wild’s relentless quest for justice has led to a bipartisan push for sweeping reforms.
  8. Scott Israel, former Broward County Sheriff speaks during a news conference on Sept. 25, in Davie. A Florida Senate official is recommending that the sheriff, suspended over his handling of shootings at a Parkland high school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, should be reinstated. BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Naples lawyer Dudley Goodlette was threatened shortly after he made his recommendation last month.
  9. Rep. Jamie Grant, R- Tampa and Senator Jeff Brandes, R- St. Petersburg listen to Amendment 4 debate in the Florida Senate on Thursday. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    “I think some of the points of the judge were well-made," Sen. Jeff Brandes said.
  10. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — did not respond this past week to requests from the Miami Herald to address her $761,560 annual salary. She is head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]
    The Florida Department of Children and Families started a review of a domestic violence nonprofit’s finances last summer after it was reported that its CEO Tiffany Carr was paid $761,000. The state...
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement