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‘I think we are leading the way’: Republican wave hits South Florida

Ron DeSantis meets with supporters at a rally Monday in Orlando, Fla.
Jeff J Mitchell
/
Getty Images
Ron DeSantis meets with supporters at a rally Monday in Orlando, Fla.

Miami-Dade county has experienced a political shift that Republicans have been building on for years.

A Republican had not won the county in a gubernatorial election since Jeb Bush ran for governor in 2002. That changed big time as Republican Ron DeSantis won the county by about eleven points after losing it by 20 points just four years ago.

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This shift has ramifications for politics in Florida and locally in Miami-Dade–if it can stick.

Miami Young Republicans president, Armando Ibarra, told the South Florida Roundup that the shift in South Florida is in big part because of the agenda set by Governor Ron DeSantis and the outreach strategy they put in place.

“We believe in the long game,” he said. “More important than investing in TV ads in any particular election is to invest in the outreach and the engagement and the grassroots effort that build thriving communities of people that work together to achieve the type of change in their community that they want to see.”

Non-party affiliated voters outnumber Republicans in Miami-Dade County. Republicans are third in the county in terms of voter registration. On paper, Democrats have the upper hand in the county, but that wasn’t apparent in this election. Ibarra says that, in part, this is because voters are concerned about the economy.

“First is that the economy still matters. And a lot of people are concerned about inflation. They're concerned about a decelerating economy,” said the group leader, adding that apart from economic concerns, he believes the Democratic party has become too extremist for Hispanic voters.

“I think, in large part because the more that cultural issues are in the forefront, I believe that [hispanic voters] are alienated by some of the cultural excesses of the left. And so, we see many of them going to the Republican Party because they see the Republican Party as opposing some of these excesses culturally of the left.”

Some people might have expected a negative impact on the Republican Party due to well-known connections between the party and groups like the Proud Boys and the January 6 Insurrection.

Ibarra says that every side has its fringe elements.

I can tell you that, you know, our party is not about the proud boys. We're a party that is very diverse with many different types of people, And [the Proud Boys and other groups] are very, very, very small fringe.”

He says that making the connections is central to Republican success and that the mention of groups like the Proud Boys and other groups is a “sideshow.”

“I think that it's that type of work–knocking on doors, doing outreach–that actually wins elections,” he said. "stuff related to the proud boys and groups like that are a sideshow, and they're not really central to the success that we saw.”

Regarding the next election, Ibarra says that the results of this election were so strong for Republicans that they upended the 2024 races, adding that leaders around the community are taking a close look at their chances.

The Republican leader says there are already discussions within the party about the races for the County mayor, tax collector, election supervisor, and sheriff.

“Just a few years ago, these were considered very safe Democratic pickups,” he said. "But this complete change in the dynamics electorally in the county now has to have a lot of people, you know, rethinking their prior assumptions,” said Ibarra.

On the South Florida Roundup, we had an elections analysis with WLRN Americas editor Tim Padgett and WLRN Palm Beach County reporter Wilkine Brutus. We also discussed the unfruitful strategies of the Democratic Party in South Florida with Democratic strategist Jose Parra.

Listen to the full episode above.

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Helen Acevedo is a grad student at Florida International University studying Spanish-language journalism, a bilingual program focused on telling the stories of diverse communities.