Post-María Voters, Latina Wave and More Election Thoughts

Maribel Gómez Cordero will represent Orange County Commission District 4, one of three Latinas to be county commissioners. Half of commissioners will be Latinas. / Facebook

It’s not looking as if the 2018 midterm elections produced a wave of post-María Puerto Rican voters. Preliminary election data show that counties with a large Puerto Ricans population, such as – and especially–  Osceola, underperformed the rest of the state.

Voter turnout was very high, about 62 percent for all of Florida, according to the state Division of Elections. In Osceola County, where Puerto Ricans make up 54 percent of all Latinos, turnout was woefully below the state average, only 53 percent or 10 points below,  a significant statistical difference. In fact, counties with high numbers of Latinos experienced lower turnout. In Miami-Dade, voter participation did not crack the 60 percent mark, coming in at 57 percent. Broward was as lackluster, with 58 percent. Broward hasn’t finished counting mail-in, early, provisional and overseas ballots, indicating more disorganized than other counties.

About 55,000  post-Maria survivors fled Puerto Rico for Florida in the months after the hurricane. In personal interviews before the election many acknowledged they were confused about Florida elections, political parties and candidates. They also were fatigued and stressed from the hurricane. Nevertheless, political organizations pushed hard to increase voter participation among evacuees. Puerto Ricans, once they cross the pond, as the island saying goes, tend to lose interest in politics, experiencing lower voter turnout, compared with Puerto Rico. Midterm elections are particularly problematic, since no such thing exists on the island. Perhaps a post-election poll of Puerto Rican voters, specifically, may tell what really happened.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has some kiss-and-make-up to do. The governor, who is a Democrat, endorsed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson over Florida Gov. Rick Scott, angering Orlando-area GOP Hispanics, who said Rosselló demonstrated a lack of gratitude for Scott’s help after Hurricane María.

Latina Wave

Orange County produced a Latina wave. The county’s 60 percent elections turnout that boosted the prospects of many Latinas.  Two Latinas will take seats on the Orange County Commission: Mayra Uribe in District 3 and  Maribel Gómez Cordero in District 4. They will join Emily Bonilla of District 5, for a total of three Latinas, a first. The six commissioners will be all female, also a first. And half of the commission will be made up of Latinas, a first there too.  If there was any wave, it had a Latina and brown tint to it.

Mayra Uribe, District 3 commissioner

There are other key points to be made here. First, Uribe and Cordero have run for office before – unsuccessfully, I might add.  But they kept coming back. Cordero has run for District 4 at least once before, in 2014. And Uribe previously ran for District 4 as well.  In addition, the Latina wave comes after a hard-fought but ultimately unsuccessful Orange County redistricting court battle  in which Districts 3 and 4 played key roles. The gist: some Hispanic groups wanted  a majority Latino district, which didn’t materialize.

Johanna López, OC School Board member

And continuing the Latina Wave,  Johanna López, a former Teacher of the Year, won a seat at the Orange County School Board table.  She ran a solid campaign , refreshingly made up of many students.

State House District 30

Incumbent Republican Bob Cortés lost a bid for a third term in large part due to changing political demographics of the district, which is split between Orange and Seminole counties. Orange is a blue county, but heretofore reliably red Seminole is turning blue as well. Cortés, majority whip from 2016 – 2018,  lost in both counties. “It is said that in a battle there are always ‘casualties of war.’  I became one of those ‘casualties,’ as we came up short in our reelection bid,” he wrote on Twitter.

The fact that Seminole is turning blue is Big News. It voted for Sen. Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum for governor, and saw no reason to boot Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy from her post, which was contested by former State Rep. Mike Miller, considered a popular guy.

New Sheriff in Town

Tuesday’s elections showed that former Orlando Police Chief John Mina, who won election to Orange County Sheriff, was more vulnerable than previously thought. He nabbed only 45 percent of the vote versus 41 percent for rival Daryl Sheppard, who was  neither trustworthy nor even credible. He lied about endorsements, for example, angering former Cong. Val Demings, who said he wasn’t worthy of being elected dogcatcher. But adding Sheppard’s vote count to the 14 percent of votes that went to Joe López, more people voted against Mina than voted for him.  Had Sheppard been a credible candidate, Mina likely would have been defeated.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor


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