Jeanette Núñez, Florida’s first female Cuban American lieutenant governor who was once an anti-Trumper, spoke to the Republican National Convention Tuesday as one of the leaders of Latinos for Trump with a speech designed to underscore the party’s anti-socialism agenda.
Núñez, 48, who co-chairs the national Latinos for Trump coalition, spoke live from the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. She spoke about how her parents fled Cuba because of Fidel Castro in 1959 “when the Castro regime abolished religious freedom.”
“My fellow Americans, the fabric of our nation is in peril, daily,” Núñez said in her five-minute speech. “The radical left systematically chisels away at the freedoms we cherish. They peddle dangerous ideologies, tower to global progressives and normalize socialism to dismantle our Constitution.”
As with all speakers Tuesday before her, Núñez, made no mention of the coronavirus and the resulting economic decline but said the president’s “pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda has ushered in historically low unemployment, record job creation, higher wages and rising home ownership.”
Núñez was the second Miami-Dade Cuban American to win a prime-time spot on the RNC roster. South Florida businessman Maximo Alvarez gave an emotional speech during the opening night of the Republican National Convention on Monday.
Alvarez, president of Sunshine Gasoline Distributors and a benefactor to the campaigns of Núñez, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Trump, also used his speech to invoke fears of socialist extremism from “the far left.”
“I’m speaking to you today because I’ve seen people like this before,’' said Alvarez, whose family fled Fidel Castro’s oppressive government when he was a child. “I’ve seen movements like this before. I’ve seen ideas like this before and I’m here to tell you, we cannot let them take over our country.”
Núñez, who also shared the live podium at Mellon Auditorium in Washington Tuesday with fellow Floridian, former Attorney General Pam Bondi, warned that Democratic policy goals mirror the socialism and communism of Cuba and framed it as America’s choice between “chaos and government control” or “freedom and opportunity.”
“We must continue to support our commander in chief who has a bold agenda that safeguards the rights and freedoms protected under our Constitution today more than ever,’' she said. “That means supporting our men and women in law enforcement and our heroes in uniform. And in fighting to provide the best quality education by empowering parents and preserving school choice. And it means rejecting the socialist takeover of our nation.”
The mother of three, Núñez spent eight years in the Florida House of Representatives, representing a sprawling district that stretched from Doral to Naples. Throughout her tenure, she sponsored legislation that in many ways contradicted the anti-immigrant policy goals of many others in the president’s administration.
In 2014, she sponsored a high-profile bill allowing children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. The bill passed the House with 33 Republicans opposed, including then-state Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is a close ally of both Trump and DeSantis.
Lt. Gov. Núñez uses RNC speech to hit ‘anti-socialist’ chord
During her RNC address, Núñez also hit on the partisan chords important to the party’s conservative base.
“President Donald Trump has put America first. His pro growth, pro jobs agenda has ushered in historically low unemployment record job creation, higher wages and rising home ownership,’' she said. “The president is fighting to rescue American jobs and industries for places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico, jobs that were needlessly shipped overseas.”
Núñez’s comments are a stark contrast to a 2016 Tweet in which she derided Trump as a fake and a racist.
“Wake-up Florida voters, Trump is the biggest con-man there is,” Núñez wrote, in a tweet that was removed from her account by the time she ran as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ running mate in 2018.
At that time, Núñez was a state representative and supporter Rubio who was then running against Trump for the Republican nomination, and she also accused Trump of having “#nosubstance,” of being “#anti-Israel” and of supporting the Ku Klux Klan.
In January 2016, she joined House leadership in a bipartisan statement to reject Trump’s comments about Haitians being from “sh--hole countries.”
But, in a testament to the fleeting potency of political rhetoric, Núñez ultimately backed Trump’s nomination in 2016 and became one of Florida’s 99 delegates to the GOP convention. She said then it would be a “disservice to voters” in the state if she didn’t endorse Trump.
“I was not an early Donald Trump supporter,” she said in an interview with CBS’s “Facing South Florida” in Miami in 2016 before she endorsed Trump at the 2016 convention. “In all honesty, he wasn’t my pick. He wasn’t, probably, my second or third choice.”
When DeSantis introduced Núñez publicly at an Orlando rally, she told reporters: “Elections are elections. It is what it is,” she said. “It’s no secret that I was a strong Marco Rubio supporter, but that election is done.”
On the largest stage of her career on Tuesday, Núñez added a coda: “Let’s ensure four more years for President Donald J. Trump, so that he can continue protecting our republic,’' she said. “And so one day, our children can proudly tell the story of what our generation did to defend the values of faith, family, and freedom.”