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Crist kicks off Hispanic outreach tour in Tampa

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is making another bid for Florida governor.
Charlie Crist, candidate for governor of Florida, speaks during a barbecue event held by the Century Village Democratic club on Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Deerfield Beach.
Charlie Crist, candidate for governor of Florida, speaks during a barbecue event held by the Century Village Democratic club on Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Deerfield Beach.
Published Aug. 9, 2021|Updated Aug. 9, 2021

In a kickoff to a weeklong Hispanic outreach tour throughout the state, Democratic U.S. Rep Charlie Crist announced Monday his plan, if elected governor, to create an office dedicated to helping new residents moving into the Sunshine State.

The Office for New Floridians, Crist said, would be a centralized place to help new residents avoid bureaucratic red tape. The initiative would help immigrants from across the globe as well as people moving from other states, Crist said, adding that a number of people coming to Florida are Hispanic or Latino.

The office would serve as a hub to connect people with social services and information needed to transition, like how to get driver’s licenses and find educational opportunities, Crist said at an announcement in Ybor City.

“These days Florida doesn’t make it easy enough to become a new Floridian,” Crist said.

Crist said the office would also help professionals with certifications outside of Florida, like cosmetology or construction, transition them for use within the state.

The office would implement a confidential hotline in several languages, according to a press release from the campaign, and would work with existing community organizations to better provide resources.

Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011, is running as a Democrat against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the 2022 gubernatorial primary.

His weeklong “Oportunidad Para Todos/Opportunity for All” outreach tour, which will stop in cities like Weston, Kissimmee and Immokalee, is meant to be a chance to listen to the issues that matter most to Hispanic residents in Florida, according to a news release from his campaign.

After making the announcement, Crist headed to West Tampa Sandwich Shop for a roundtable on Cuban American issues. Amid the sound of ringing phones and cutlery clinking, he listened to the eight guests, including Cuban exile Rene Hernandez and state Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, talk about what they feel is needed after the most recent protests on the island.

Zoila Lahera, a Cuban American, spoke about the need for internet access on the island. She said she sent her family members videos of demonstrations in Florida but they weren’t able to open them.

Along with open lines of communication, Lahera talked to Crist about the need for humanitarian aid and the release of political prisoners swept up during the protests.

After listening to the group, Crist said the recent protests showed that socialism and communism were “failed” ideas.

Related: Florida politicians respond to protests in Cuba, show support

He emphasized that there needed to be open lines of communication with people in Cuba and to ensure that aid wasn’t siphoned through the island’s government. Last month, days after the protests broke out in Cuba, Crist called for President Joe Biden to send humanitarian aid directly to the Cuban people.

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