Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush shores up Miami-Dade support, plans to open local office

Jeb Bush posed for a photograph at a May fundraiser in Sweetwater for the political committee now backing his 2016 Republican presidential campaign.
Jeb Bush posed for a photograph at a May fundraiser in Sweetwater for the political committee now backing his 2016 Republican presidential campaign. EL NUEVO HERALD

Jeb Bush has been a friend to many a Miami-Dade County Republican. And now they’re returning the favor.

About 300 elected officials, political donors and community members have endorsed Bush for president, his campaign said Thursday.

Bush also named a Miami-Dade campaign committee charged with winning Florida’s largest county in a presidential primary that could include another hometown favorite, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. If Bush wins the GOP nomination, the committee leaders — Jeb Bush Jr., U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and longtime friends Jorge Arrizurieta and T. Willard Fair — will face the daunting task of diminishing Democrats’ advantage in blue Miami-Dade.

To get a jump on organizing, the committee plans to open a local office Sept. 12 separate from Bush’s existing national campaign headquarters at 9250 W. Flagler St. The satellite office will be located at 5430 SW Eighth St., across the street from Pego Lamps, the Miami Herald has learned — the same space that Bush used in his 2002 reelection campaign for Florida governor.

“The support our friend Jeb will receive locally is a direct product of his longstanding commitment and service to our community,” Arrizurieta said in a statement. “We have been looking forward to this day for 30 years.”

Next week, Bush plans to open a state headquarters in Tampa.

Bush’s Miami-Dade endorsement list includes some names of people who have already raised campaign cash for him or otherwise shown their support, including the three local Cuban-American Republicans in Congress, Ros-Lehtinen and Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart. Also named are a slew of current and former state lawmakers and county and city politicians; developers, political operatives, bankers, family friends and other civic leaders.

Some of them, as is bound to happen with such a long South Florida list, have what some might refer to as colorful backgrounds. Former Homestead Mayor Steve Shiver — the newly named Opa-locka city manager — was once accused by county auditors of squandering Hurricane Andrew rebuilding money (Shiver defended the city’s actions). A college student claimed earlier this year that state Rep. Frank Artiles punched him in a Tallahassee bar (Artiles denied it).

The Republican establishment embraced Bush since he moved to Miami to campaign for his father’s 1980 presidential campaign and later stayed, living here with his wife, Columba, and their three children. Bush was Miami-Dade GOP chairman, helping launch other Republicans’ political careers. And he maintained the ties he made as governor, making endorsements, appearing in campaign events and cutting ads for people now in office.

In some cases, Bush even endorsed their opponents.

Case in point: County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who didn’t get Bush’s backing in his first mayoral run in 2011 but won him over in 2012 (Gimenez’s first run was in a special election).

“He’ll make a great president, so I’ve got to put that above anything that happened in the past,” said Gimenez, who attended a small-dollar May fundraiser in Sweetwater for the political committee backing Bush. Gimenez also has the Sunday morning tee time following Bush’s on the Biltmore Hotel’s golf course in Coral Gables.

“We talk a lot, and I’ve gotten to know the person,” Gimenez said. “I consider him a friend, and I know that he was a great governor of the state. He wants to make America competitive. He wants to make us energy independent. He wants to keep our taxes low. And he wants to bring our country back together again, which for me is very important.”

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