Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rick Scott courts Hispanic voters in South Florida

Gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott stopped in Little Havana on Thursday at the popular Versailles restaurant to grab a café cubano and chat up the locals — in English.

The GOP hopeful doesn't speak much Spanish and admitted he had never had Cuban coffee, but he said he's going to step up his courting of Hispanic voters with more campaign stops and soon-to-air Spanish-language television ads.

"I plan to spend a lot of time in Miami, go to places like Versailles," Scott said. "I'm going to listen to and try to address all their issues."

That may be easier said than done in Florida, where Hispanics represent a diverse bloc of voters.

Consider the controversial Arizona law, which Scott supports and wants approved in Tallahassee. Polls shows most Hispanics in Florida oppose the law, though Cubans — at least those he met at Versailles — support it.

"As an immigrant, I had to go through the steps of legalizing," said Jose Guerra, 67, a Cuban native who said he would likely vote for Scott. "If you come here as an illegal, you should be sent back. Everyone should go by the same rules. The Arizona law should be continued all over the country, including in this state."

Gonzalo Lopez said he, too, liked Scott's stance on immigration, but wanted to hear more about the candidate's position on Cuba. Scott favors keeping the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

Scott, a billionaire from Naples, is positioning himself as an outsider candidate with working-class roots, but the former CEO of hospital chain Columbia/HCA is not a household political name. Yet in the six weeks since announcing his candidacy, he's spent over $11 million on television and radio ads.

The ad barrage has been effective. Polls show he's just 14 percentage points behind Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, the frontrunner in the Republican primary.

In trying to connect with Hispanic voters, who make up 12 percent of all registered state voters, Scott said he doesn't think his position on the Arizona immigration law would hurt him.

The controversial law makes being an illegal immigrant a state crime and requires legal immigrants to carry papers that confirm their legal status. Opponents charge it will lead to racial profiling, while proponents said a person would have to do something illegal before law enforcement questions their immigration status.

In Florida, the law has become a hot campaign issue, with McCollum announcing his support for the measure two weeks ago after he had first denounced it.

Polls show that 58 percent of Floridians support the Arizona immigration law.

"People believe in compliance with the law," Scott said. "They believe in secure borders."

The Little Havana campaign stop wasn't without hiccups. At 8 a.m., Scott arrived but left after about 10 minutes, perplexing locals who said he didn't even say hello. He returned an hour later to the restaurant to speak to Willi Alvarez, a local activist. Scott explained that he wanted to interview some residents away from local television cameras, though his campaign had issued a press release inviting media to the event.

Afterward, Scott passed out campaign bumper stickers to restaurant patrons — who had expected to sip coffee with a politician. But Scott rallied some fans to his campaign.

Among them: Carlos Guillama, 39, the son of Cuban immigrants, quickly introduced himself and pledged that he would "do whatever it takes to help you, sir."

Rick Scott courts Hispanic voters in South Florida 06/03/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 3, 2010 6:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case

    Crime

    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  2. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.
  3. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also has top-9 wing on his wish list

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Much has been made about the Lightning's interest in bolstering its blue line, even after last week's acquisition of defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101
  4. Hernando sheriff: Orlando mother turns in 18-year-old son in pawn shop burglary

    Crime

    Times Staff Writer

    SPRING HILL — Hernando deputies have arrested a fourth person in connection with a pawn shop burglary, but they really didn't have to do anything to find him.

    Elijah Pickard, 18, of Orlando, was turned in by his own mother in connection with a pawn shop burglary, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office [Courtesy of Hernando County Sheriff's Office]