Election Season Heats Up

The election season is heating up as we close in on the August primaries and march toward the November election, which is less than three months away.

Campaign developments are coming fast and furious. Here are some local, state and national campaign notes that caught my eye.

Florida GOP Spokesman Resigns

Wadi Gaitan

Wadi Gaitán left the state GOP, taking issue with Donald Trump’s stand on immigration and other issues. / photo Wadi Gaitán-Twitter

Wadi Gaitán, communications director of the Florida Republican Party, left his post this week over differences of opinion with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. He has joined the LIBRE Initiative, a Koch brothers-led effort to attract more Hispanics to the conservative cause.

It’s big news because it indicates the GOP daily defections from Trump occurring on the national level is giving permission – and cover – to state officials to do the same without major pushback from the Republican Party.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Gaitán said he “was avoiding efforts that support Trump.”

The LIBRE Initiative, Gaitán’s new employer, disagrees with Trump too, especially on immigration. Executive Director Dan Garza had a sharp exchange with party leaders on national public television over immigration during the Republican National Convention. LIBRE favors a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, among other policies. Trump does not, pushing instead for deportation and building a wall along the Mexican border.

Gaitán had been Florida GOP communications director since 2015.

Earlier this year, some Central Florida Hispanic Republicans complained to Orlando Latino that the state GOP had dismantled outreach to the Hispanic community. Gaitán’s resignation completes the circle.

Fellow blogger Evelyn Pérez Verdía of Political Pasión makes an excellent point: While the state Republican Party lost their Hispanic spokesperson, the Florida Democratic Party never hired one.

Clinton Addresses Puerto Rico Issues

Hill in Kissimmee 2016

Hillary Clinton at the Kissimmee rally. /Facebook

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton visited Kissimmee this week, talking up Puerto Rico issues, although that angle was not heavily played in the press.

Osceola County has the highest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the state and it  makes sense for her to address the island’s ongoing economic woes, which is sending tens of thousands of migrants to Florida each year.

In a 28-minute speech Clinton talked about investing in infrastructure – the only infrastructure Trump plans to build is the wall along the Mexican border, she said – and creating jobs. About 19.5 minutes into the speech, Clinton said she wanted “to say a special word about Puerto Rico,” generating audience applause.

Clinton said she paid a lot of attention to Puerto Rico when she was U.S. senator from New York, which also has a large Puerto Rican population. (New York and Florida are neck-in-neck with over 1 million Puerto Ricans each. However, Florida is likely to surpass New York due to a significantly faster growth rate here among Puerto Ricans.)

She proposed giving Puerto Rico “the support it needs” because Puerto Ricans are American citizens and disproportionately represented in the military.

“I want to do everything I can to get Puerto Rico back on a path to prosperity,” she said, after noting that islanders cannot vote for their commander in chief. “I want to make sure that I do everything I can that they are not left out and left behind, because they are part of our family.”

Three minutes total – but three minutes that spoke to a big concern among local Puerto Ricans.

A word about the father of the Pulse nightclub shooter: He was visible in the audience behind Clinton only occasionally when she stepped away from the podium. He raised his “Stronger Together” sign when she spoke about gun safety.

Soto Challenges Randolph’s Assertions

State Rep. Darren Soto aggressively pushed back Democratic rival Susannah Randolph‘s claim in a mailer to voters of Congressional District 9 that he had worked to lower the time period in which sexual assault survivors have to report the crime.

It was a giant misstep for Randolph.

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Sexual assault survivor Danielle Sullivan worked with Soto to extend the period of time such a crime may be reported in Florida. Soto, who was a co-sponsor of the bill, scored a coup when Sullivan publicly defended him.

“I am disgusted that my initiative, the cause so close to my heart, has been used as fodder for a political smear campaign,” said Sullivan, who founded the 43 Days Initiative to extend the reporting time period. “The statement made by Susannah Randolph for Congress to Florida Congressional District 9 constituents and all of Central Florida is completely untrue, and a bold faced lie. I’d like an apology from Susannah.”

Catch an audio of Sullivan speaking against Randolph here.

Sullivan spoke eloquently about her assault and comeback before the Orange County Commission before the 2015 legislative session began to get the commission to support her efforts.

Soto and Randolph are in a heated race to succeed Rep. Alan Grayson in Congressional District 9, which includes parts of Orange, Osceola and Polk counties.  Grayson’s wife Dena Minning also is in the primary race. The district has a large chunk of Latino voters.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

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