Vincent Foster, who in 2016 led Log Cabin Republicans of Miami when the group bucked its national parent and endorsed presidential candidate Donald Trump, died Aug. 16 at age 31.
“Vinny was very good. He was a good friend, a good leader, and a good person,” Miami attorney Jihan “Gigi” Soliman posted Aug. 20 on Facebook. “He loved America, wholeheartedly, and loved a good time. Americans hate getting old, but it is a gift we seem to consistently take for granted. We both joked we'd die young. In his honor, I won't make such jokes anymore, because it's just not funny.”
Foster’s family has not revealed how he died, according to Soliman.
Her friend, however, quietly suffered failing health. “He was diabetic. He was diagnosed about eight years ago,” Soliman said. “He was living in Coral Springs with his aunt. He moved there to be closer with his grandmother whose cancer came back. They were very, very close.”
Foster was born in Coral Springs and grew up in North Carolina, where his mother’s conservative Republican family lives.
After he graduated from Porter Ridge High School in Indian Trail, North Carolina, Foster returned to South Florida and enrolled at the University of Miami. In 2012, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in political science and philosophy, and minors in Spanish and criminology, according to a family obituary.
“He was a young man, a man of color. A very tragic thing,” said Tony Lima, who in 2015 hired Foster to work as SAVE LGBTQ’s development director.
“He was very passionate about bridging the divide between Republicans and Democrats. That was his focus, his reason for wanting to join SAVE at the time,” said Lima, SAVE’s executive director at the time. “As an activist, he had very strong Republican ideals, but he always thought we could effect positive change working together.”
Foster left SAVE as the 2016 campaign heated up. “He was gone before the age of Trumpism,” Lima said.
Foster, who was single, recently sold patient data-management software for halfway houses and rehab centers.
“Vinny was very passionate about life, family, friends, and politics. He was driven, charismatic, supportive and loving. He had an amazing energy that reflected on everyone that knew him. He truly had a heart of gold,” according to the family obituary, which doesn’t mention his LGBT activism or that he was president of Log Cabin Republicans of Miami during the 2016 presidential election.
A celebration of Foster’s life was held Aug. 20 in Coral Springs. He is survived by his parents, paternal grandparents, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Soliman said she met Foster more than a decade ago, when both were involved in student government at UM.
“I was the first openly gay student bar association president,” Soliman said. “We met, we hit it off so well, we actually bonded over the fight to have smoking areas on campus. As Republicans, there needs to be a choice. That was our discussion. It was how we became friends.”
Jihan "Gigi" Soliman. Courtesy photo.
They bonded over some conservative issues such as gun rights. “Gun rights are gay rights,” Foster posted nearly five years ago on Instagram.
“I always agreed with him,” Soliman said. “No one can f--- you up if you have a gun.”
They split politically over Trump.
On Oct. 22, 2016 — two weeks before the presidential election — the national Log Cabin Republicans organization announced it would not endorse Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton: “As Mr. Trump spoke positively about the LGBT community in the United States, he concurrently surrounded himself with senior advisors with a record of opposing LGBT equality.”
A week later, Foster issued his own announcement: the Miami chapter defied national and endorsed Trump.
“It’s huge,” Foster told the Miami Herald on Oct. 31, 2016. “A lot of our members were upset. We were ready to risk everything and go our separate way to support our most supportive Republican presidential candidate for the LGBT community.”
Soliman and several other anti-Trump members departed Log Cabin Republicans. In time, so did Foster.
“I left the political ring a lot earlier than he did,” Soliman said. “I was very angry that they endorsed Trump. He respected the democratic process.”
Journalist Steve Rothaus covered LGBTQ issues for 22 years at the Miami Herald. @SteveRothaus on Twitter.