Marlon Montero calls himself a surrogate of the Grand Old Party.
The 18-year-old freshman political science student took a stand in this turbulent electoral season and started a new political student organization: Miami Dade College Republicans—Kendall Campus.
“I’m very proud to lead a group where we all think alike and we all believe in the ideals of the Republican Party,” Montero said.
Approximately 40 students have become members since its start on Sept. 12. It has an odd composition—right-wing independents, libertarians and Montero claims, even a few former Bernie Sanders supporters.
“This is not a Trump club. It’s a Republican club,” said Gianni Ginory, 18, vice president of the club and political science major at Kendall Campus. “There’s a place for everyone in this club, whether you want to learn, help out local candidates and hang out with friends.”
His draw to the party’s platform comes from living under the Castro dictatorship in Cuba, one that he escaped six years ago.
“I was the happiest guy in the world,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud that I touched American soil. We got welfare when we came to this country, we got medicare, we got food stamps. You know how much it lasted us? Six months.”
He takes pride in his family’s success in this country.
SharkNet, the online platform for student organizations at MDC, describes the club’s mission as a way to give a voice to students, encourage political activism and engage students in real world politics. It says the College Republicans give students a way to advocate their beliefs through a respectable and structured organization. The club has received paraphernalia from local and national Republican campaigns and plans to host local Republican candidates that will address the organization’s members such as John Couriel, Frank Artiles and David Rivera. They say they want to host workshops sponsored by organizations like the libertarian Generation Opportunity and the conservative Americans For Prosperity.
“We try to embrace the Republican ideals and we try to help all candidates up and down the ballot to win on Nov. 8,” Montero said. “The role as a college Republican is for me to lead and engage the students into the political process.”
The last time there was a Republican student club at MDC was around five years ago, according to Montero. Political clubs are rare on MDC campuses. The only other visible political club is the immigrant rights organization Students Working for Equal Rights (S.W.E.R.) which also started a chapter this year at Kendall Campus. The College doesn’t have a Democratic student organization, although there’s a Green Party club at Wolfson Campus.
One of Montero’s activities this election season has been tabling on campus to recruit club members. His group elicits mixed reactions from students. Some congratulate them for their activism. Others approach their table to ask “Why Republican?”
Recently, a small commotion arose during one of the group’s tabling events outside the cafeteria on Sept. 28, when more than 20 people debated on the presidential elections.
Demetri Kendrick, 19, an English major at Kendall Campus, approached the table asking for three reasons to vote for Donald Trump.
“At some point it got very passionate and some words were derogatory,” Kendrick said. “They handled everything very well, we were just intensely debating.”
Public safety remained vigilant of the table to avoid further escalation of the situation, according to Lauren Adamo, the student life director at Kendall Campus.
It is not unlawful or against the student code of conduct to display support for candidates on campus at MDC.
“It’s all part of the learning process,” Adamo said. “It’s great that he cares and cares enough to get students involved.”
Although his first choice in the primary was former governor Jeb Bush, Montero will be voting for his party’s nominee, Donald Trump, whom he recently met personally at the Koubek Center and describes as a caring individual. But he acknowledges the candidate’s flaws, such as his remarks about women and his performance on the first presidential debate.
“He’s such a gentleman,” Montero said. “I really do see him as a leader not a follower. The guy is tall and very, very respectful.”