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Emails show signs of Democratic dissension ahead of Miami-Dade delegation chair vote

Those emails show Sen. José Javier Rodríguez expressing concerns with the nomination of Rep. Joe Geller.

“You’ll forgive my lack of enthusiasm.”

Those are the words of Sen. José Javier Rodríguez in response to plans by Miami-Dade Democrats to nominate Rep. Joe Geller to lead the county’s legislative delegation during the next Session.

But in follow-up comments to Florida Politics, Rodríguez clarified that his “lack of enthusiasm” will not lead to him actively opposing Geller’s candidacy.

Rodríguez made his original comments in an email chain where Democrats were discussing nomination plans for next Tuesday’s delegation meeting. The group plans to elect a chair and vice chair at that Tuesday evening meeting.

The sentiments from Rodríguez appear to stem from a 2016 delegation vote, where Rodríguez competed against then-Republican Rep. José Félix Díaz for the chair position.

That year, the delegation was made up of 13 Democrats and 11 Republicans. But in that vote, four Democrats crossed over to vote for Díaz, the Republican.

Going into 2020, two of the four Democrats who supported Díaz remain part of the Miami-Dade delegation: Rep. Nick Duran of House District 112 and Rep. Geller.

Duran kicked off the recent email chain with a message where Duran announced his plans to nominate Geller for the chair position Tuesday.

“I’d be proud to formally nominate you at our upcoming Tuesday caucus meeting,” Duran said of Geller.

That led to a reply from Rodríguez where he referenced that 2016 vote.

“The only two ‘no’ votes from 3 years ago who are still around are the only two names I see trying to get everyone to high five each other at a partisan delegation meeting,” Rodríguez said, referring to Geller and Duran.

“There is much good work to do and I don’t doubt our ability to do it but given how hard many fought to make this possible, you’ll forgive my lack of enthusiasm for you.”

In follow-up comments to Florida Politics, Rodríguez sought to clarify that he’s not opposed to Geller’s candidacy. That should lead to Geller securing the chair position Tuesday, barring any changes.

“Rep. Geller and Rep. Duran are both friends,” Rodríguez said. “I think they’re effective legislators. It’s not personal.”

Rather, he argued that as Democrats look to increase their seat count in the Legislature that similar close votes, such as the 2016 chair election, could arise again. That desire for Democrats to stick together, Rodríguez said, motivated him to put those remarks in writing.

“As the numbers get closer and closer, moments like what happened in 2016 lay ahead of us,” Rodríguez said.

“And so I think with so many new members in the Dade delegation, it’s extremely important that we don’t forget our history.”

But not everyone agrees with that point of view. Rep. Michael Grieco of House District 113 pushed back in that email thread.

He began by noting that in addition to Duran’s message being sent to Democratic delegation members, the full Senate email account was also included. When Rodríguez, that response also went out to the full Senate.

“I’m just curious as to what the purpose of that reply-all email was (beyond creating a public record for an unnecessary article to be written about dissension amongst democrats),” Grieco wrote in response to Rodríguez. Grieco notably also used the “reply-all” function.

“If you or anyone else wishes to submit their name for consideration then they are free to do so, but to-date I personally have not heard from anyone else seeking to be delegation chair this cycle but-for Rep. Geller (I have accordingly pledged my support). I and many others do not support unnecessary divisiveness, especially within the party and especially-especially within our delegation.

Grieco too referenced that 2016 vote.

“If you have residual 2016 beef with Rep Joe or Rep Nick I think it best that you address it directly with them. I personally see delegation chair as a non-partisan position designed to advocate for important non-partisan, consensus countywide issues. Again, I prefer to keep it the locker room, but that’s just me.”

Grieco stood by those remarks in comments to Florida Politics.

“Once you blow up somebody’s spot in a public record, multi-recipient email, you know what you’re doing,” Grieco said, noting he was fully aware the same would go for his response.

Duran also expounded on the back-and-forth.

“When we as a delegation get together on who the leadership is, what we’re trying to do is unite because we need to unite for Miami-Dade delegation interests,” Duran said.

“Whether the Senator has issues with respect to three years ago, that’s a different story, a different time and place. And I think my reasoning for supporting Joe is my friendship with him and his willingness and his interest and eagerness to serve the Dade delegation.”

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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