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.”