Jennifer Gutierrez is finally old enough to vote, and she doesn't want to waste it. She has studied the issues, weighed the candidates' personalities and leadership abilities, and come to the conclusion that this voting stuff is hard. But Gov. Bob Martinez is Hispanic and so is she, and that counts for something in a city where English is fast becoming a second language.
"I was told I couldn't be elected governor because my name ended in "e-z,"' Martinez said, speaking to a group of young Hispanics in Miami on Monday afternoon. Barbara Bush, here to show Republican support for Martinez, sat at his side. "But there aren't many hurdles you can't get over if you try."
Several young Hispanics took that to heart.
"I will vote for Gov. Bob Martinez," said Miss Gutierrez. "I think a lot of Hispanics in Miami will vote the same way, because they are much closer to his beliefs, and because he is one of them."
Martinez and the wife of the president stopped first at the Miami headquarters of ASPIRA, a counseling and development center for Puerto Rican, Latin and other minority youths, then moved on to a national Girl Scouts convention on Miami Beach.
It was at ASPIRA headquarters that Martinez and Mrs. Bush met Miss Gutierrez and several other young Hispanics. Martinez didn't talk much politics during his round-table discussion with the young people, and neither did Mrs. Bush. But people in the audience understood why the two were here in this vote-rich city at a critical time in the campaign.
Miss Gutierrez said such special appearances help Martinez, because they show that national Republican leaders are solidly behind him.
That carries a lot of weight here. A boulevard named for Ronald Reagan cuts through the Hispanic heart of the city.
Fernando Figueredo, an executive with a South Florida utility, said he doesn't know how Hispanics in other parts of the state feel about the race between Martinez and Lawton Chiles, but Miamians will vote for Martinez.
He doesn't think it will be a blind vote on ethnic loyalty. He thinks most Hispanics in South Florida will give Martinez a vote of confidence for a job well done, even though Martinez himself has conceded that he has disappointed some voters.
"He is respected here," Figueredo said.