The importance of the Puerto Rican vote in the U.S. Senate race in Florida continues to be underscored by both sides in the contest. It was evident Tuesday morning as Gov. Rick Scott picked up the endorsement of Puerto Rico Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón. Meanwhile, Florida Democrats lashed out at Scott for what they call his “lack of action” to help Puerto Ricans who came to Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last fall.
Scott campaigned Tuesday with González-Colón in Kissimmee where she called Scott “a consistent leader, supporter and advocate for the Puerto Rican community.”
“He made a commitment to help our community even before Hurricane Maria made landfall and has truly followed through, which is something we need more of in Washington.” said González-Colón, a member of the Republican Party and the territory’s congressional representative. “They say that hard times will always reveal true friends, and I cannot think of a better friend to the American citizens of Puerto Rico than Governor Scott.”
González-Colón also endorsed and campaigned for Scott in his 2014 reelection bid for governor.
“It has been an honor to work alongside Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón on Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery and I have been proud to join her in fighting to make sure the families of Puerto Rico who are here in Florida have all the resources they need to succeed,” said Scott.
Democrats, speaking in support of incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, accused Scott of trying to benefit politically from the plight of Puerto Rican refugees — saying one thing, yet doing another. They point to the hundreds of Puerto Rican families who have been living in hotel rooms here in Florida and have nowhere to go, while Scott did nothing to stop the Legislature from cutting money from the state’s affordable housing trust fund.
“Rick Scott created a housing crisis by cutting affordable housing funds, and instead of advocating for Puerto Ricans, he caved to his friend Donald Trump who cut off assistance and turned his back on the island and fellow Americans” said U.S. Rep. Darren Soto from Central Florida.
The votes of Puerto Ricans who now make Florida home could play a role in the state’s election this November. President Donald Trump won Florida by 1 percentage point in 2016 in a year where the Hispanic turnout was lower than expected.
Susan McManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, told the Associated Press Monday that the votes of Puerto Ricans are potentially valuable in upcoming congressional and statewide races.
“The bottom line is that mobilizing and getting out the vote of the Puerto Ricans is going to be critical,” she said.
Both parties have been targeting the Puerto Rican community here in Florida with voter registration drives. While the influence of voters from Puerto Rico in this fall’s election might not be as great as some had speculated a few months ago, it’s clear its still an important voting block for both sides.