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Little Consensus Among Central Florida Voters As Presidential Primary Looms

Patricia Sove plans to vote for Bernie Sanders in Florida's presidential primary. Photo by Amy Green

This week 90.7 News is talking with central Florida voters before the state’s presidential primary March 15.

Central Florida is the swing region of this swing state, sandwiched between a Republican north Florida and Democratic south Florida.

90.7’s Amy Green ventured into the outdoors to hear from voters at Wekiwa Springs State Park.

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Northwest of Orlando at the headwaters of the Wekiva River, Wekiwa Springs State Park is an oasis of urban central Florida.

Children splash and laugh. Tourists gawk at snakes and squirrels.

Freddy Zapata (zah-PAH-tah) leans on one elbow on a sunny bank of the water. He is here with his wife, Belkis.

“Wekiwa Springs at least what I’m looking at, it’s like the fountain of youth,” he says. “We’re athletes so this is our playground, and we come here to swim and to run and to bike and do all of those things, and this is just paradise.”

The couple are from the Dominican Republic but are American citizens and registered to vote. They are concerned about immigration and the environment. But they don’t plan on participating in Florida’s presidential primary.

“I’m a Democrat, and you know the last time around the last two cycles we voted for Barack Obama, yet Congress and the Senate, it’s all the opposite party,” Zapata says. “And it really doesn’t matter what the president says if the Congress is not with it they don’t let him do anything. So it’s like, what’s the point?”

A church group of Brazilian-Americans sings before a baptism.

Anna Costa is among them. She left Brazil 28 years ago and now is an American citizen. She plans on voting for a Democrat in the primary but doesn’t want to name the candidate.

I love this country, she says with a thick accent. Her eyes well up as she explains why she believes voting is important. Her family lost nearly everything before leaving Brazil. Here she has found opportunity.

“I know I’m only one, but if you go one by one you can have a million,” she says.

Kevin Simmons climbs the steps out of the springs. He’s training for a triathlon.

Simmons is a Republican leaning toward voting for Marco Rubio in the primary. He believes Donald Trump is benefitting from American anger with Washington but ultimately won’t be electable. He values Rubio’s fiscal conservatism and is attracted to his biography.

“Rubio is in my mind kind of a quintessential American story. Parents were immigrants from Cuba. His father worked in a bar,” he says.

Nearby Patricia Sove reads in the shade.

“I’m definitely in favor of Bernie Sanders,” she says.

Sove is retired and likes that Sanders doesn’t plan on cutting or privatizing Social Security. She also is concerned about the environment and economy.

“I think that he speaks for the people. I always get the feeling that he’s very, very truthful and honest. I like the fact that he doesn’t seem like a politician. I don’t ever have that feeling like he’s lying, you know?” she asks.

On this mild Saturday voters here at Wekiwa Springs State Park feel strongly about candidates on both sides. That is what makes Central Florida closely watched as the swing region of this swing state.


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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment for 90.7 News. She is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a regular contributor for NPR, PEOPLE, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor and many other top news organizations. Her in-progress book on the Everglades is under contract with Johns ... Read Full Bio »

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