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Intersection: The Importance Of Latino Voters In Florida

Photo: Erik Hersman, Flickr.
Photo: Erik Hersman, Flickr.

Latino voters in Florida turned out this election- but they may not have voted the way some pollsters and pundits were expecting. 

Democrats were hoping to turn out Latino voters in Florida and deliver the sunshine state for former vice president Joe Biden and his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris. 

Instead, Florida went for President Trump- and by a bigger margin than he won the state four years ago. 

On this episode of Intersection, host Matthew Peddie discusses the assumptions and misconceptions about Latino voters in Florida- and their importance in the Florida electorate. 

Joining the show: Professor Luis Martinez-Fernandez, with UCF’s Puerto Rican research hub, and El Sentinel editor Jennifer Marcial

We also hear from Democratic congressman Darren Soto, and Republican state representative Rene Plasencia

Martinez-Fernandez says the Democratic party needs to examine why the Biden-Harris ticket did not appeal to more Latino voters.

"Remember, back in 2012, when the Republican Party had its own autopsy, because it did so poorly among minorities and women? Well, the Democratic party should have at least a biopsy to see what went wrong in terms of less support for the Democratic presidential candidate this time around," he says.

Martinez-Fernandez says the Biden campaign did not spend as much time in Florida as it needed to. And he says the Democratic party likes to "count Latinos as part of the winning coalition."

"But at the time of serving the cake, we- basically Latinos, Hispanics-  don't get much of a slice. And some of us are keeping an eye on the decisions of Biden in terms of the members of his of his cabinet."

Marcial says it's a misconception to think of the Latino vote as a single entity.

"It's so much more complicated than what we see in the headline, just saying, like, Latinos voted for Biden," says Marcial.

'Who are these Latinos? Like, it really depends whether it's a Puerto Rican, or if it's even like a Puerto Rican who moved after Hurricane Maria, or a Puerto Rican who was born here, or a Puerto Rican has been living here for 20 plus years. It's very different from the Cubans, or the Cubans that live in Central Florida versus the Cubans that live in Miami, in Hialeah."

Marcial says voters she and the reporters at El Sentinel talked to wanted to hear specifics from candidates about how they plan to address issues in their communities.

"What are you really trying to do for the Latino community- for the Puerto Rican in specific, for the Colombians, for the Cubans. As I was mentioning to you, it's kind of like an onion, and every layer, it's a different culture."

Darren Soto, who won re-election in Florida's 9th congressional district, says he's pushing for more Latino appointments in president-elect Biden's cabinet.

"Even though Florida's Hispanic vote didn't deliver the presidency for Biden, the Pennsylvania Hispanic vote was a huge part of his win. So we have areas of leverage that we will be pressing to the maximum. And I believe we'll have a willing partner in President-elect Biden."

As for the Biden campaign's strategy in Florida, Soto says the main focus of the campaign was in the Midwest and Arizona.

"And unfortunately, we had to be sacrificed. Unfortunately."

State rep. Rene Plasencia, who won re-election in Florida's district 50, says the success of his fellow Republicans up and down the ticket was due to "a concerted effort and a very aggressive effort to engage with Hispanic community here in the state of Florida, in a big way for the Republican Party, as opposed to the Democrat Party."

Plasencia says Latino voters will continue to be a force in the next election cycle, and candidates can't afford to ignore them.

"They're going to be important. They're they were important this cycle, and they were important in previous cycles. You know I would not be elected right now, had it not been for the Latino vote."

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