Fresh off Puerto Rico win, Marco Rubio pushing for Florida’s Puerto Ricans
Luis Martinez, Dennis Freytas and Diane Velazquez stump for Marco Rubio.

Dennis Freytas

Fresh from his resounding win in Puerto Rico and in need of an even bigger prize, Marco Rubio‘s campaign has turned to appeal to Florida’s Puerto Rican community to help make a difference on March 15.

The Rubio campaign rolled out four prominent Central Florida Puerto Rican Republican surrogates Monday, Daisy Lopez-Cid, Dennis Freytas, Luis Martinez and Apopka City Commissioner Diane Velazquez, to spread the word that Rubio is their best choice in Florida.

Rubio was the only Republican candidate left among the four hopefuls to visit Puerto Rico, which he did last week. A landslide victory there followed on Sunday as he took 71 percent of the vote and all 23 delegates.

It may have been his only win of the weekend, but the triumph raised new hopes that he could break through and appeal to the Central Florida Puerto Rican community, which numbers more than 300,000. It has many Republicans who had preferred former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush before he dropped out, and among which Rubio’s appeal had been waning.

That all changed, Freytas and the others said Monday. Rubio, Freytas said, has pledged to help Puerto Rico out of its financial crisis, but insists that the government of Puerto Rico needs to reform its policies first.

“He stands for equality for all U.S. citizens including the U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico,” Freytas said. “I can tell you the people in Puerto Rico want equality. Rubio is behind Puerto Rico.”

Donald Trump‘s anti-immigration platform too often has sounded like an anti-Hispanic platform, and has offended Puerto Ricans even though they are not immigrants, Lopez-Cid said.

“He calls Hispanics ‘those people,’ ” she said. “He claims he has ‘those people’s’ votes for him. I think otherwise.”

Freytas agreed, adding that he considers U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also unelectable by Puerto Ricans.

“Cruz is too much to one side. He is not gong to win the general elections. Trump, that guy will never win. I will never vote for Trump. He is pompous, he is disrespectful. He insults. He doesn’t have the presidential temperament,” Freytas said.

One problem: Central Florida’s Puerto Ricans have historically shown low voter turnouts. Velasquez said they must be convinced that Rubio will include them, which he evidenced with his trip to Puerto Rico.

“He has given them hope. I keep saying hope, that when he becomes president he will not forget them,” she said.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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