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Worshipping the White Working Class

2016 is the year during which we rediscovered the white working class.


I will not genuflect at the altar of the white working class. I will not pray to this new god.

For I am the daughter of a woman who at age 14 strapped on high heels and slapped on lipstick so she could appear older and find work in New York City. I am the daughter of a man who bought the bulldog edition of the newspaper at 11 p.m. so he could get a jumpstart on the next day’s employment classifieds. So he could work in a box factory and other lines of thrilling work. Day after day.

People like me know what it’s like to be laid off. We keep going. It’s not just about the white working class. Ain’t we deserving, too? Had the drug and employment crises hit black and Latino communities hardest, would the response be the same?

Oh wait, these problems usually hit us hardest. “Get back on your feet” and “Pull yourselves up” are the common responses.

Get Back

Each time someone utters this new mantra about the white working class I hear,  “Get to the back of the bus.” Or, “Get back to where you once belonged.” Or, “We’ve been paying too much attention to you.” Or, “It’s time to move on.”

Do you hear what I hear?

That’s a lie. A big, boldfaced lie. Let LL Cool J tell it:

I’m sick and tired of the stories that you always tell
Shakespeare couldn’t tell a story that well
See, you’re the largest liar that was ever created 
You and Pinocchio are brotherly related
Full of criss-crossed fits, you lie all the time
Your tongue should be embarrassed, you’re a threat to mankind
That’s a lie

I cannot help construct this new altar for the coalition of the know-nothings who think they can explain it all after the fact, except they cannot because they still know nada. They suffer from a poverty of ideas and cannot contain the thought of you and me in their heads at the same time.

The Poorest Counties

Empathy has its rightful place in a society of thinking and feeling people. Where’s everybody been? It’s not like the white working class lacks political capital or representation at local, state and federal levels.

The poorest counties in the United States in median household income are nearly all in the ascendant South, growing in population and Republicans. Surely, there is power in that.

They are counties like Wilcox County, Ala., population 11,000, 72 percent is black. Half the population reports household income either above or below $23,750, according to the census. It has 0 percent foreign born. Republicans Jeff Sessions (nominated to be attorney general) and Richard Shelby represent Wilcox in the Senate. In the House, that responsibility falls to Democrat Terri Sewell. Where have they been?

Kentucky, in particular, dominates the list of poor counties, claiming three of the top five. Owsley County is the third poorest in the nation. Population 4,460. Median household income $20,985. It’s 98 percent non Hispanic white, foreign born 0.3 percent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, both Republicans, represent Owsley in the Senate. Its Congressman Hal Rogers is the “longest serving Kentucky Republican ever elected” – currently in his 18th term. What’s he been doing all?

In the 2016 elections, Kentucky “became a Republican trifecta” or single-party government, much like Florida, according to Ballotpedia.


Closer to home, Putnam appears to be the poorest county in Florida – over 72,000 people, 77 percent non Hispanic white, 4 percent foreign born. Median income: $31,700. Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) represent  Putnam, while Ron DeSantis, a Republican who was just re-elected by 63 percent of the vote, speaks for Putnam in Congress.

Why haven’t elected officials advocated for their voters? They are not blind but they may be blinded by politics and cultural wars that place only scraps on the table. They have been busy raising money so they can win re-election or run for another elected office.

Help for the White Working Class

Now we hear,  “Oh, snap! We have to help the white working class.”

If I hear that from the lips of a person I helped elect, I will never vote for that person again.

And to you whom I hardly know – and who hardly knows me: Go ahead. Build your altar.

I am going to save the wear and tear my knees.

˜˜Maria T. Padilla, Editor

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

Good Primary Elections for Latinos

Soto and Cortes
It was a good primary election for John Cortés (l) and Darren Soto, shown campaigning together in Kissimmee before the election. / Soto-Facebook

It was a good primary elections for many Hispanic candidates in Central Florida. From Osceola to Seminole counties,  Hispanic candidates established “firsts” for the Latino community in a sign that the Florida Supreme Court-imposed congressional redistricting evened the political playing field.

Florida voter turnout of nearly 24 percent also was good, higher than the 21 percent recorded in 2012, also a presidential election year. However, Central Florida  turnout was lower than the state average. Seminole came closest with a 22.6 percent primary turnout, followed by Osceola (20.8 percent). In an unusual move, Orange County trailed both with an 18 percent turnout.

No details yet on the Hispanic voter turnout, which often is low for primary and mid-term elections.

Here’s an analysis of how Hispanic candidates fared.

U.S. Senate

Republican incumbent Marco Rubio won handily against millionaire Carlos Beruff, a Donald Trump acolyte, proving that there is only one Donald Trump and imitators need not apply.  Rubio deserves mention as well because he is seriously courting Central Florida Latinos – he celebrated his win in Puerto Rican-heavy Osceola. Many  Puerto Ricans are turned off by Rubio’s vote against Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, his on-again, off-again immigration reform and flip flopping on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. But Rubio needs to win the I-4 corridor in November.

Finally tally: Rubio won by 74 percent in Orange and 71 percent in Osceola, two Democratic counties – well ahead of Beruff as well as the man who would be his Democratic rival Cong. Alan Grayson, who in turn lost the primary to Patrick Murphy.  Grayson proved unpopular even on his home turf.

Congressional District 9

State Sen. Darren Soto was the big winner in a crowded Democratic field that included Dena Minning Grayson, wife of current Cong. Grayson; as well as Grayson’s former district director Susannah Randolph. However, Dena Grayson and Randolph appeared to cancel each other out, opening the way for Soto, who was financially competitive and campaigned hard among Latinos.

Interesting aside, a big loser is Osceola County Commissioner Viviana Janer, the first Latina and Puerto Rican on the County Commission who endorsed Randolph over Soto. Janer didn’t prove to have any coattails for Randolph to ride.

Soto is nearly assured a win in November against Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in a district drawn to favor Democrats, potentially becoming the first Puerto Rican from Florida to go to Congress.

Final tally: Soto won 44 percent of the vote in Osceola – about double that of Grayson and Randolph – and 38 percent in Orange, or five points ahead of Randolph and 15 points ahead of Grayson.

A note about Val Demings, the resounding winner (57 percent) of the Democratic primary in Congressional District 10. This redrawn district contains about an equal ratio of black (25 percent) and Hispanics ( 21 percent). It bears watching for Latinos as well.


State Senate District 15-State House District 48

Father-daughter team of State. Rep. Víctor Torres and Amy Mercado won their respective primary races for State Senate District 15 (includes parts of Orange and Osceola) and State House District 48 (Orange), respectively. A November win, which is likely in these two Democratic districts, would make the duo the first father-daughter legislators in Florida.

Final tally: Torres won 67.7 percent of Orange and 56 percent of Osceola, while Mercado earned 60 percent in Orange.

State House District 43

Meanwhile, John Cortés easily held onto State House District 43 against the man who once held the seat, Ricardo Rangel, despite old allegations of a domestic dispute between Cortés and his daughter. This proves that Cortés’s overwhelming win over Rangel in 2014 was no fluke. Osceola doesn’t like Rangel. Cortés is a likely shoo-in in November in this Democratic district.

Final tally: Cortés 42 percent, Rangel 29 percent.

Osceola Clerk

Incumbent Armando Ramírez managed to hold onto to the Osceola Clerk of the Court, despite some stumbles and bad publicity early in his term, including charges of nepotism and the firing of employees, proving that either Ramirez has righted his ship or Osceola likes Ramírez.

Final tally: Ramirez 42.4 percent vs. 37 percent for John Overstreet.

Kissimmee Mayor

The battle for who will be the first Hispanic mayor of Kissimmee spilled into the November election, as Kissimmee Commissioners José Alvarez and Art Otero head for a runoff. This guarantees an already ugly battle will get more vicious. Otero is attempting to disqualify Alvarez from the race and reminds voters that he is the Puerto Rican candidate. Alvarez is Cuban-American.

Final tally:  Alvarez 45.7 percent, Otero 41.6 percent.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Political Hits Keep Coming

Randolph - Soto
Susannah Randolph and State Sen. Darren Soto, Democratic rivals for Congressional District 9.

The political hits just keep on coming.  It seems that Susannah Randolph’s campaign for Congressional  District 9 is imploding with bad publicity. Then the data dump of Florida Democratic  Party documents is chock-a- block with unsavory details about some local Democrats.

First, to Susannah Randolph, who in the last month is scoring  0-4, a development that in large part benefits her Democratic rival State Sen. Darren Soto.

This week, a former Randolph mentee Holly Fussell issued a thunderclap against Randolph heard across Central Florida. In a Facebook post,  Fussell accused Randolph of “being no champion of women” – as her campaign states – because Randolph was not supportive of Fussell’s allegations of sexual harassment from an unknown assailant while under Randolph’s tutelage. Fussell urged her followers not to vote for Randolph.

No word yet from Randolph.

In addition, Randolph earlier got it embarrassingly wrong about Soto and the 43 Days Initiative legislation to extend the reporting time for sexual assaults, approved by the Legislature. He co-sponsored the bill; she stated in a mailer that he opposed it. Victims’ rights advocate Danielle Sullivan later did a promo for Soto.

Then the Orlando Sentinel endorsed Soto, saying in part that Randolph is too partisan and wouldn’t do well in Congress.

Congressional District 9, which leans Democrat and is 40 percent or more Hispanic, is being hotly contested by four Democrats – Soto, Randolph,  Dena Minning Grayson and Valleri Crabtree – who face off in the August 30 primary. The Democratic winner very likely will be the next representative in Congress.

The seat currently is held by Alan Grayson, who is running for the U. S. Senate against fellow Democrat Patrick Murphy.

And finally, Florida Democratic Party data that was hacked earlier was made public this week.

It includes internal profiles of Randolph, Bob Poe and his investor relationship with Grayson, as well as Geraldine Thompson’s dubious financial dealings.

Poe and Thompson are Democratic rivals for Congressional District 10, which is over 20 percent Latino.

The info, which is not necessarily new, is likely to make oppo fodder.

–Maria Padilla, Editor