Monthly Archives: September 2016

8 posts

Elections Race for Puerto Rican Voters

Puerto Rican voters were attracted to this 2014 elections caravana traveling through Orange and Osceola counties. /Maria Padilla

The race to appeal to the hearts and minds of Puerto Rican voters in the 2016 presidential elections is off and running.

For months Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has wooed Puerto Ricans in Central Florida, among whom he is not that popular (see previous stories in Orlando Latino). This week his re-election campaign launched a “Puerto Ricans for Marco” group, boasting several hundred members.

Now also comes a coalition with a get-out-the-vote effort titled, “Que Vote Mi Gente,” which roughly translates to “Vote, people!”

Que Vote Mi Gente

The ad hoc group includes New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi and New York City Council President Melisa Mark Viverito – all Democrats. The coalition plans a series of community events, including candidate forums, caravanas (car rallies), public service announcements and a digital campaign focused on Puerto Ricans and other Latinos.

At stake is the looming October 11 deadline for registering to vote in the November elections. The Puerto Rican vote is a lucrative one. In each of the last five years about 60,000 or so Puerto Ricans have left the island. Most have landed in Florida. That figure does not include Puerto Rican migrants from the Northeast and Midwest.

100 Percent Increase in Puerto Ricans

The upshot is, Florida’s Puerto Rican population has soared nearly 100 percent since 2000, topping 1 million today, about equal to the Cuban population. Because Puerto Ricans are born U.S. citizens, they can vote.

“Those sheer numbers … [are] a powerful indicator of how great their impact will be in November,” said Beatriz López, communications director for the Center for American Progress Action Fund and a member of the Que Vote Mi Gente coalition in a press release following a press conference. “If candidates and elected leaders aren’t paying attention to this voting bloc now, they are making a very big mistake.”

The 60,000 question is, will Puerto Ricans vote?

Apparently, neither Rubio or Que Vote Mi Gente is taking any chances. Puerto Rican voters have to be appealed to directly. A one-size-fits-all doesn’t work. That’s one reason Rubio started his group (not to mention his high-profile pushes for Zika funding and appointment to an economic task force on Puerto Rico, among other things).

Knocking on Doors

Meanwhile, Que Vote Mi Gente organizers plan to knock on more than 100,000 doors in the I-4 corridor. The coalition states that nearly 1,000 voters have already requested mail-in ballots. It plans to hold caravanas and cafecitos, an approach aimed at boosting voter enthusiasm and which Puerto Ricans like.

For instance, caravanas are popular in Osceola County, home to the greatest concentration of Puerto Ricans in all of Florida. Democrats organized a caravan last week highlighting their candidates, especially State Sen. Darren Soto, who has an excellent shot at becoming the first Puerto Rican congressman from Florida.

“Florida’s Puerto Rican community will determine who becomes the next president of the United States,” boasts José Calderón, president of the Hispanic Federation.

A little hyperbole? Maybe, maybe not.

But, rest assured, neither Democrats or Republicans want to be on the losing end of the Puerto Rican vote in the battleground state of Florida.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Miss Universo vs. Donald Trump

Former Miss Universo Alicia Machado holds up her American passport in a photo she posted on Twitter.

The world may have long forgotten Alicia Machado, but the Latinoverse knows exactly who she is. !Miss Universo!

Miss Universo is serious stuff. It’s a hotly coveted title among Spanish-speaking countries, particularly Venezuela and Puerto Rico, which have won the most crowns. The Latinoverse stops when Miss Universo comes to the boob tube. Ask any Hispanic. Por fa.

The Latinoverse remembers all too well how Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hounded 1996 Miss Universo Machado, who is Venezuelan, calling her out and humiliating her publicly, because she gained 55 pounds during her beauty reign.

None of this would be important – it’s a beauty pageant, for crying out loud!  Women parade in bikinis and call it an accomplishment – except it does speak to Trump’s treatment of women.

According to Buzzfeed News, Trump laughed during a Howard Stern interview as Stern “viciously mocked Machado for gaining weight. Trump called her an ‘eating machine’ and said ‘she ate a lot of everything.’ ”

He could have handled the Machado issue in a lawyerly way, quietly pointing out through intermediaries that her contract stipulates this or that. But nooo, he did his blustery best to control her and shame her  – publicly. That’s what’s at issue.

It’s Donald Trump as Fred Flintstone grabbing Wilma by the hair.

With Trump it all boils down to shouting and figuratively shoving women – as he did during the debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton, interrupting and shouting over her dozens of times.

Now Trump is miffed – not about his dismal performance during the first presidential primary but at Machado, who is now a foot soldier in Clinton’s campaign. Machado earned American citizenship and  taped a campaign ad for Clinton.

In the ad, Machado tells how Trump called her “Miss Piggy” because of her weight gain and “Miss Housekeeping” ostensibly because she’s Hispanic. (It’s well known that a shapelier, fuller figure is a Latino standard of beauty. Machado later lost weight and visited El Sentinel  in 2004 when I was editor showing off her slim self and promoting a music CD titled “Alicia Machado,” which the Latinoverse has long forgotten.)

Trump singled out this debate exchange over more substantive ones on Fox TV because tiara territory is a topic Trump understands and knows well. After all, he owned  the Miss Universe pageant in 1996 when Machado won the beauty crown. He has implied that this experience with the pageant gave him insight into how to seek world peace, to paraphrase a line in the 2000 film Miss Congeniality.

What’s got Trump all totaled is that Alicia Machado had the gall to call him out. How dare she? She’s a woman. That is the world according to Trump.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Debate: Clinton – 1, Trump – 0


Democrat Hillary Clinton won the first presidential debate against Republican Donald Trump and will likely get a bump in the polls. /Media pool photo

It’s pretty clear who won the first presidential debate: Hillary Clinton. She’s likely to get a bump in the polls for her substantive performance.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, started off calm – he even looked a bit tranquilized – then became unhinged. As soon as he started gesticulating with his hands the gig was up. Trump will blame others – the moderator, the microphone, his sniffles. But the bottom line is he was, and is, totally unprepared to be president.

My prediction: Trump will attempt to back away from the remaining debates.

I watched the debate at Valencia College West Campus as part of an Orlando Sentinel debate watch panel discussion with moderator Paul Owens and fellow panelists Earnest DeLoach, Chris Carmody and Tara Tedrow, all members of the Sentinel’s Central Florida 100. Catch my tweets at @orlandolatino.

In a split-screen television debate, Trump could not hold a poker face. He was fuming. His disdain for Clinton – or perhaps it as having to debate a woman – was on full display as he interrupted and attempted – no, succeeded – in talking over her many times.

Early on in the debate, I tweeted, “Trump does what many men do in conversation with women: interrupt.”   Not good.

Most people watched the debate. Not going to rehash it here. But will point out:

• The debate’s race segment was on point because it was not just an aside, as is often the case. Trump doubled down on his support for the unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy. He said he had come to know the African American community for “a little while,” which sounds ridiculous except that it’s probably true for most Americans, who know the black community only “a little” or not at all. Clinton rightly pointed out that “communities need to come together and restore trust” and that police need more training.

Trump also claimed “blacks and Hispanics are living in hell,” a gross generalization or stereotype he has repeated in the past. Not all blacks and Hispanics live in poor areas. In fact, the black middle class has grown substantially over the past 50 years.

• There was little talk of immigration. Trump didn’t repeat his call for “a wall that Mexico will pay for,” very likely because it doesn’t poll well with Latinos, particularly in Florida, a swing state Trump needs to win.

Trump painted gangbangers as immigrants. In fact, many immigrant gangbangers have been deported, mostly to their native El Salvador and other Central American countries, causing deep conflict there.

Trump’s boast that he is smart for not paying taxes will haunt him. It will not earn him points with the middle class, which he professes to support, most of whom don’t get the same tax relief. Clinton’s zinger will resonate: Maybe the country would be better off if Trump paid taxes.

•  Why did Trump bring up the temperament issue? That was bad advice and it cleared the way for Clinton to talk about his thin skin. The Orlando Sentinel debate watch party erupted in guffaws when he said that. No doubt, so did the rest of the universe.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Marco Rubio Courts Puerto Rican Voters

Republican Senator Marco Rubio meets with Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla in Rubio’s Capitol Hill office. /Marco Rubio Facebook

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is paying a lot of attention to Puerto Ricans in Central Florida for his re-election campaign.

During the August 30 primaries, he held his campaign victory party in Osceola, which is the heart of Central Florida’s significant Puerto Rican community. Rubio has been out front on the Zika virus issue, which is affecting not only Florida but also Puerto Rico, home to the most Zika cases – over 16,000 and counting. (His fellow Republicans sabotaged an initial bill by zeroing out a family planning clinic in Puerto Rico). The Republican senator also was appointed to an economic task force to make recommendations to boost Puerto Rico’s economy, which may be a blessing or a curse. Sen. Bill Nelson also is on the task force.

And no doubt he will be at next month’s Orlando ceremony honoring Puerto Rico’s Borinqueneer Army regiment, one of the most decorated of the Korean War.

Shoring Up Puerto Rican Vote

Rubio, a Cuban-American whose home district is Miami-Dade, may shielded in part from  a potential Donald Trump down-ballot draft. Still, Trump is anathema to Hispanic voters. Rubio knows he has to shore up the Puerto Rican vote in Central Florida, who are important to his re-election chances for several reasons.

First, the Puerto Rican population in Florida now numbers 1 million – nearly even with  the Cuban population, Rubio’s natural base.

Second, Puerto Ricans lean Democrat and provide a counterweight to the South Florida Cuban-Republican vote. During the August primaries, Trump trounced Rubio whose map of support went dark; only Miami-Dade provided a ray of light.

Third, many Puerto Ricans are new to Florida.

Murphy Missing in Action

The good news for Rubio is that Democratic rival Patrick Murphy is missing in action. Murphy was a no-show for two primary debates with Democratic rival Alan Grayson, whose sharp tongue surely would have been lethal.

However, a Rubio-Murphy debate is scheduled for October, and no doubt Murphy can’t escape this one. (Full disclosure: I am a political analyst for WFTV-Channel 9,  a debate sponsor.)

Rubio is a good debater, but his talking points have become stale and he is in need of new ones. But sizing up Murphy is difficult because he hasn’t been around much.

Frankly, many people, including Democrats, are comparing Murphy to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who was a Republican, then an independent and now is a Democrat. Crist has been shopping for elected office for a while; he is now running for Congress from St. Petersburg, his home district. The comparison is not a good one for Murphy.

For Rubio, but more so for Murphy, the path to the U.S. Senate is through Central Florida.

Puerto Ricans Are Miffed

But Puerto Ricans are miffed at Rubio for supporting bankruptcy protection for the island, which is in the throes of a financial crisis, and then changing his mind under hedge-fund pressure. And people still remember that Rubio, then in the throes of his Senate race, voiced opposition to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, implying she is a “judicial activist.” Sotomayor is revered in the Puerto Rican community.

His support of the Borinqueneers is genuine – during the Congressional
Gold Medal ceremony in the nation’s capital he lamented it took so long to recognize the bravery of the Puerto Rican soldiers, who are now in their 80s and 90s.

Support of the Borinqueneers, however, has taken on a partisan flair, as if Republicans owned the veterans. I have attended several Borinqueneer events where the Democrats in attendance were few. Is that deliberate or do Democrats not care?

Rubio Doesn’t Know Puerto Ricans

But the main reason Rubio must beef up his presence among Puerto Ricans is that they don’t know him. Rubio has been running for president for most of his first term as U.S. senator.

More important, Rubio doesn’t know Puerto Ricans. Since 2000, the Puerto Rican population in Florida has soared nearly 100 percent. About 60,000 Puerto Ricans migrate from the island each year due to a financial crisis. Most settle in Florida.

Rubio certainly has his homework cut out for him. Central Florida is a good place to start.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor