Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden firmed up his front-runner status in Florida even more Friday with an endorsement from Rep. Darren Soto, who could influence a large portion of the state’s Puerto Rican community’s voters.
Soto, Florida’s only member of Congress of Puerto Rican heritage, represents southern Orange County, Osceola County, and eastern Polk County, the heart of Florida’s Puerto Rican community. That rapidly-growing community long has been viewed as a potentially major, but thus-far perennially underperforming, bloc of Democratic voters in Florida.
“Vice President Joe Biden is the unity candidate that can rally the American people to victory in November and finally address the major issues affecting our nation,” Soto declared in a news release issued by the Biden campaign Friday. “I trust Joe to heal our nation’s hurtful division and tackle issues like addressing climate change, protecting our healthcare, raising wages, preserving Florida’s environment, passing a major infrastructure package, and supporting Puerto Rico disaster recovery.”
Biden heads toward a March 17 showdown with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with a lion’s share of major endorsements and a commanding lead in the most recent Florida poll. Earlier this week a St. Pete Polls survey found Biden had 61% support among Florida’s Democrats, and Sanders just 12%. The poll was conducted before former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the contest. Bloomberg, who had 14% in that poll, endorsed Biden, while Warren has not made a choice. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also still is an active Democratic candidate.
Soto joins what is now an overwhelming portion of Florida’s federal lawmakers who have endorsed Biden, including former Senators Bill Nelson and Bob Graham, and Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.
Soto, of Kissimmee, is running for a third term to represent Florida’s 9th Congressional District.