Miami Beach

Did Democrat for Congress split with campaign manager over #MAGA posts or strategy?

Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez speaks to people protesting after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez ended the county’s sanctuary policy for immigrants on Jan. 31, 2017. Rosen Gonzalez is now running for Congress.
Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez speaks to people protesting after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez ended the county’s sanctuary policy for immigrants on Jan. 31, 2017. Rosen Gonzalez is now running for Congress. pportal@elnuevoherald.com

Democratic congressional candidate and Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez says she and her Republican campaign manager quietly parted ways after he trolled liberals on social media and continued working for a man whom she accused of unwanted sexual advances.

Citing philosophical differences, Rosen Gonzalez, who is running for the 27th Congressional District seat held by retiring Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, says Pedro Diaz resigned last month from her campaign. She said they split “because he would not step down” from the Miami Beach Commission campaign of Rafael Velasquez, though Diaz said their dispute was over campaign strategy.

“The only reason we parted ways was really strategic differences. I don’t think it had anything to do with Rafael or anything else,” Diaz said.

rosen gonzalez
Kristen Rosen Gonzalez is one of several candidates in the race for Congress in the 27th district. Miami Herald file

Rosen Gonzalez accused Velasquez in late October of exposing his penis to her, and said Diaz resigned about a week later, just before Velasquez lost his election. But she says she was also aware of Diaz’s inflammatory social media use, including a tweet where he responded to a story about activists hanging clown effigies in KKK robes by asking “why so much hate, racism and violence from the left?”

“Someone sent me that tweet and I realized that he might not be the best choice for a Democratic primary, so his resignation was timely,” she texted. “Although his firm is bipartisan. He works with Democrats and Republicans.”

The relationship between Rosen Gonzalez and Diaz — who also represented Ana Rivas Logan and Michael Góngora in Democratic primaries over the last two years — predates her campaign for Congress. Diaz helped her win her Miami Beach seat in 2015. So when Rosen Gonzalez launched her congressional campaign, she said it made sense to keep working with his firm given their existing consultant-client relationship.

But Miami Beach commission seats are nonpartisan. Congressional seats are not.

And within weeks of receiving his first $5,000 to work for Rosen Gonzalez’s campaign in May, Diaz was defending President Donald Trump for sharing terrorism information with Russia, calling CNN “fake news” and referring to Democrats as snowflakes. In August, he defended keeping Confederate street names in Hollywood.

I realized that he might not be the best choice for a Democratic primary.

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez

“If your not #MAGA — get out of the way,” Diaz tweeted May 15, with a link to a video of Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

Rosen Gonzalez’s campaign reports show she paid Diaz’s firm just over $10,500 through the end of October, or roughly a quarter of her reported campaign expenditures. She says she relied on a different consultant, Stephen Cody, for campaign messaging.

Diaz confirmed that he resigned last month but said he did so without being asked. He says he left because he wanted “full control” over campaign strategy and wasn’t going to get it.

“It was strategic differences, to be frank with you,” Diaz said, noting that his firm also employs a Democratic strategist and his wife, who is independent. “We are a bipartisan firm. We’re hired to be professionals. We do what we have to do to make sure a client gets elected.”

Rosen Gonzalez is running in a crowded Democratic primary to claim a left-leaning district that many expect will switch parties after being held for decades by Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican. Also in the crowded race: Mary Barzee Flores, Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, Frank Perez, David Richardson, Jose Javier Rodriguez and Ken Russell.

In an interview, Rosen Gonzalez defended her “diverse team” and said criticism of her relationship with Diaz is misplaced and rooted in hyper-partisan thinking.

“I have my views. Pedro has his. It’s called the First Amendment,” Rosen Gonzalez said. “His tweets do not represent my political views.”

This article has been changed to correct and remove a previous statement that Ken Russell is working with a Republican political consultant. Russell’s consultant, Fernando Diez, was previously registered as a Republican but became a Democrat this year.

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