Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has told associates he plans to attend Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration after a fall campaign that saw the Republican mayor endorse Hillary Clinton and call on Trump to withdraw from the race.
Gimenez’s Washington trip would place the Cuban-born mayor within proximity of the president-elect on the heels of the Obama White House announcing a halt to Cubans being allowed to remain in the country solely by reaching land. The surprise announcement leaves Trump to decide whether to reinstate the “wet foot, dry foot” policy and restore the special immigration status for Cubans.
That could put Gimenez in an interesting spot on Jan. 20. Trump and Gimenez have already talked about Cuba once since the real estate mogul was elected president. Trump called Gimenez after Fidel Castro’s Nov. 25 death, and Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade represented a key pocket of support for the Republican presidential candidate during the fall campaign.
During his own reelection bid last fall in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade, Gimenez announced that he would vote for Clinton and called on Trump to drop out of the race following the release of an audiotape that captured the GOP nominee talking about groping women.
On Friday, Gimenez said he and the president-elect have already discussed the mayor not backing his fellow Republican in the fall campaign. Gimenez said Trump began the Nov. 26 Castro call by pointing out that Gimenez didn’t support him and that Trump won Florida anyway. Gimenez said he replied that he had won, too. Gimenez said he and Trump traded statistics on winning margins.
“He said he won by 150,000 votes in Florida,” Gimenez recalled. “And I said I won Miami by 100,000.” (Final results showed Trump beating Clinton by about 113,000 votes and Gimenez defeating challenger Raquel Regalado by more than 99,000 votes in Miami-Dade.)
Asked if Trump was angry at him or ribbing him, Gimenez said the conversation a few weeks after Election Day reflected Trump’s disapproval but was still fairly lighthearted.
“He wasn’t happy I didn’t endorse him. I know that,” Gimenez said. “It was a friendly conversation. It was kind of joking.”
The mayor’s decision to attend Trump’s inauguration was made well before Obama’s Cuba announcement on Thursday afternoon, according to people familiar with the mayor’s plans. Gimenez’s intention to attend his first presidential inauguration comes as Miami-Dade pursues an awkward reconciliation with a politician who was largely abandoned by the local Republican leadership during the campaign, despite extensive business ties to the area.
Trump’s company owns the county’s third-largest resort, the Trump National in Doral, and pursued taking over a county golf course in talks with the Gimenez administration that fizzled just months before he joined the presidential race in 2015.
The mayor’s planned trip to Washington also follows one of his sons, C.J. Gimenez, announcing the start of a lobbying firm, the Hemispheric Consulting Group, aimed at federal issues that intersect with Latin America during the Trump administration. The younger Gimenez served as a Trump lobbyist in the Miami area.
Mayor Gimenez said Friday that he was traveling to Washington with his wife, Lourdes, and that C.J. Gimenez also planned to attend the Trump inauguration. A spokesman said the mayor would pay for the trip himself.