He shed the brash beard he wore to President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
He deleted from his Twitter account the giddy celebratory photo with Trump at the inaugural party.
He outspent his opponent by almost a million dollars and enjoyed powerful experienced legislator status and establishment endorsements.
Yet, former Cuban-American Rep. Jose Felix Diaz — Pepi to his friends in Miami and on season five of Trump’s “The Apprentice” — couldn’t wipe clean the Trump-lover image.
Despite the clean face, nice smile and potent GOP war chest, Diaz couldn’t persuade enough voters that, as an influential Trump supporter in swing-state Florida, he wasn’t one of the Republican Party architects of the national embarrassment that is the Trump presidency.
He also couldn’t overcome his own record in the Florida Legislature.
Diaz likes to call himself “a true conservative,” and that he is, generously funding private charter schools at the expense of public education and refusing to expand Medicaid benefits to cover people who need it, qualify under poverty guidelines, and are routinely denied coverage in Florida.
It doesn’t get more pressing for people than health and education issues — and the positions of Diaz and others like him in the Miami-Dade delegation are proof that Trump is not an anomaly but a product of a GOP that caters to wealthy elite and disregards the rest of the population. Thanks to Trump, enough voters are starting to see that. And the effective political machine the Republicans run in Miami-Dade, a majority Democrat county, has developed a fault line: The president.
Is the Republican winning streak in Miami-Dade coming to an end thanks to Cuban-American support for Trump?
It may be too early to tell. We’ll see in 2018, but with Diaz’s lost bid for Miami-Dade’s District 40 Senate seat, the GOP begins to pay for embracing anti-immigrant, offensive Trump and for largely remaining silent as he crushes what he promised to destroy on the campaign trail.
This is how a community commands respect: Voting.
Annette Taddeo, a Colombian American who lost several previous political races, becomes the first Latina Democrat in the Florida Senate.
There couldn’t be a sweeter victory than that of a woman who persisted in the midst of a climate of divisiveness, cultural wars and voter fatigue. Or a more symbolic victory than an under-represented sector of the Latino community rising and history being made in the process. Or that she takes the seat of a disgraced senator who used racial slurs and hired a Hooters “calendar girl” as an analyst.
But, what could’ve happened in the nine months since the Democrats lost not only the presidential election, but local and state elections in Florida as well?
Nine months of Trump taking the country down a bottomless pit of discord and war games. And with healthcare in particular, the GOP that made Trump their man and set on an all-out quest to ram an agenda that serves the wealthy and leaves the working-class people who voted for them on the outside looking in.
To be sure, some of the cards were stacked in Taddeo’s favor.
Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the district 57 to 40 percent, and the Democratic party wisely threw an all-out grassroots effort behind Taddeo to get out the vote, including a Joe Biden endorsement.
As a result, the businesswoman and former head of Miami-Dade’s Democratic Party defeated no less than the chairman of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation.
As election results came in, pundits had a field day with the upset by a 3,700 vote lead and a 51-47 margin.
The Florida Politics blog tweeted this, attributed to a top Florida Democrat fundraiser: “Donald Trump has done the impossible get Anette Taddeo elected.”
They’ll need to learn how to spell her name. We’ll all need to learn.
Fired on “The Apprentice” for mismanaging his team, Diaz tweeted along with the infamous deleted photo on inauguration day: “Just ran into the first guy who ever fired me. The next president of the United States @realDonaldTrump #Apprentice #POTUS #ElPresidente.”
People who knew the suffering that Trump’s policies would cause — the casualties like Dreamers and their parents — weren’t laughing. For the Cuban Americans, both Democrat and Republican, who rejected Trump, it’s an embarrassment that Cuban Americans make up the largest group of Trump Hispanic supporters.
Diaz, a lawyer and University of Miami graduate elected to the house in 2010, should’ve known that Trump is the anti-Miami. To Diaz’s credit, he went out with class.
“I stand ready to help her in her new journey,” he said in a statement.
Imagine what his beloved President Trump would say.