According to FIU News, Gary Johnson's town-hall discussion at Florida International University's Wertheim Performing Arts Center this past Wednesday was a success, with a packed house of about 600 showing up to hear the Libertarian presidential candidate speak about everything from the legalization of marijuana to replacing income tax and the IRS with a national consumption tax.
His Miami adventure took a turn for the worse when Johnson tried to hold a news conference at Calle Ocho's Versailles the following day. The restaurant has long been a traditional stop for political hopefuls to schmooze and get a photo op while in the Magic City.
According to the Miami Herald, Johnson was scheduled to hold a small news conference Wednesday afternoon but changed the date to Thursday. Unfortunately, the general manager didn't get the message and wasn't there to inform staff.
When Johnson arrived, he sat in the main dining room instead of the private room afforded visiting politicians, reporters, and camerapeople in tow. When he began to do a radio interview, the media was asked to leave, and Johnson followed suit. Once outside, the presidential hopeful continued speaking with reporters and was handed a cafecito by a supporter.
According to a representative for Versailles, the campaign coordinated with Nicole Valls, vice president of operations for Valls Group, for a Wednesday appearance at 3:45 p.m. However, Johnson's FIU town hall began at 5 p.m., and there was no way the politician could have made it to his appearance on time. The Versailles stop was then changed to Thursday at 9:15 a.m., but "no one called Nicole [Valls] personally to tell her about the time change."
Additionally, the general manager in charge of meeting Johnson Thursday was off that day, and the manager on duty the next morning was new.
In an email, Versailles' spokesperson emphatically stated Mr. Johnson was not asked to leave, nor was he denied service:
"Unfortunately, he didn’t contact the main office to confirm the visit but he also never kicked Mr Johnson out or asked him to leave. All that happened was that the media and all of their cameras were asked to stay outside, which is typical protocol for anyone trying to film inside the restaurant without prior approval. Mr. Johnson was very gracious despite the miscommunication and went outside with media and continued with his cafecito, which he was never denied as the MH [Miami Herald] headline suggests."
Nicole Valls says she hopes the candidate has no hard feelings, and invites him to return to Versailles the next time he's in Miami. “At Versailles, we are very proud of our legacy as the go-to place for officials, dignitaries, and candidates and for people who want to discuss politics and current events. It is unfortunate that we were not able to receive Mr. Johnson in the typical Versailles fashion that we are widely known for, but he and his campaign are definitely always welcome at our establishment, and we hope that he will take the opportunity to come back on his next visit to our wonderful city.”
Johnson might actually get the chance to campaign in Miami again. According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll of swing states, the Libertarian candidate, though still far behind Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, is closer than ever to getting the crucial 15 percent of likely voters to allow him a spot at the upcoming debates.
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