Fed up with the tone of the current presidential race, Alex Almazan jumped head first into unchartered waters of political activism by leading an effort to host a major campaign rally in Miami.
“Few people will disagree that politics has gone down a dark hole,” said Almazan, a South Miami attorney.
But mostly it was the absurd and negative tone of the campaign season that got him fired up to do something — “anything,” as he put it — “to get decency and civility back into the election process.”
After months of venting on social media and getting nowhere, Almazan decided to leave the Republican Party, “at least temporarily, until they can figure out what their direction is,” he said.
Instead, he started looking closely at a third-party presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, and his Libertarian “live-and-let-live” ideals.
“With all the finger pointing and scathing insults, I realized I just couldn’t expose my kids to the nightly news anymore for fear that Donald Trump might be boasting about his manhood, or calling Hillary Clinton out as a ‘bigoted crook,’” Almazan said.
So late one evening, he sent an impassioned email to the Johnson campaign, sharing his views and offering support. Little did Almazan know he was setting into motion a fast progression of events that would culminate in a hugely successful media event, fundraiser, and political rally for the Libertarian candidate, right here in Miami.
The first call he received was from the party’s Florida campaign staff telling him that Gary Johnson and vice presidential running mate Bill Weld (former two-term Republican governor of Massachusetts) were, just by chance, planning a quick visit to Miami the following week.
“They told me, if I really wanted to help, the candidates would be willing to extend their stay, if I was able to secure a venue and host a public forum.”
Suddenly it was happening.
Almazan quickly reached out to fellow attorney and former Miami Commissioner Mark Sarnoff, who contacted FIU president Mark Rosenberg, who immediately had his chief of staff Javier Marques call back Almazan with the news: “OK, let’s get this done!”
Almazan was impressed — and relieved!
“I’d never done one of these things before,” he said. “Here we are on Friday, planning a major event for hundreds of people on Wednesday for two men running for president of the United States… It was a little overwhelming.”
But the team at Florida International University was “amazingly organized,” he said. “They knew exactly what to do, from parking, to security, and event expertise in general.”
With just four days’ notice, this fast-track rally managed to fill all 685 seats in the house. And although more than 100 supporters were turned away when the Wertheim Performing Arts Center hit capacity, those fans were able to join the 7,000 others who watched the event stream live on Facebook.
In his remarks, Johnson went through his positions on the issues —replacing the income tax and the IRS with a national consumption tax; legalization of marijuana, and a “socially agnostic” approach to social issues like abortion and gay marriage.
“I believe the majority of people in this country are Libertarians; they just don’t know it,” Johnson quipped.
Almazan humbly admits he was pleased to play such an integral role in an event that, “if only for one night, made us believe that politics isn’t all about fear and anger.”
One of Almazan’s close friends later said, “In a dark year for politics, Alex lit a candle for all of us.”
But it was the feedback Almazan got the next morning from his two daughters that moved him most.
“Right off the bat, my 6-year-old Reese says, ‘I really liked what they said… people seemed excited and I really liked waving my sign.’”
Eight-year-old Avery added, “It was cool that they mentioned our name on stage, and I liked it when I got to meet them… I really liked those two men’.”
For Almazan, that was it — mission accomplished.
“The only thing I selfishly wanted out of this experience was to create a day for my family and other peoples’ families where together we might once again be able to experience the good side of politics.”