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Puerto Ricans of Both Parties in Florida Primary Elections Today

Although there are more than 900,000 people of Puerto Rican origin in Florida, few hold elective office because many have only relatively recently moved from the territory of Puerto Rico to the State.

A record number, however, are seeking party nominations for office in primary elections today. Most are considered long shots but some are expected to win.

Businesswoman Elizabeth Cuevas Neunder is one of two Republicans challenging Governor Rick Scott for their party’s nomination. Scott’s predecessor, Charlie Crist, is the favorite in the race, but the former Republican governor is running as a Democrat.

Three men of Puerto Rican origin hope to replace Alan Grayson representing Florida’s District 9 in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes the area around Orlando and Kissimmee, the area of the largest concentration of people of Puerto Rican origin. College professor Nicholas Ruis III is challenging the outspoken Grayson in the primary for the Democratic nomination. Court interpreter Jorge Bonilla and community activist Peter Vivaldi are seeking the Republican Party candidacy.

District 9 is one of the districts being reconsidered by Judge Terry Lewis in a gerrymandering case. Some oppose the current District 9 because it dilutes the effect of Hispanic and African American votes in other districts, while others support it because it gives minority voters a chance to be in the majority in at least in one congressional district in the area. One of the redistricting proposals now being considered would create two mostly-minority districts.

Radio show host Juan Eliel Garcia is one of two people seeking the Republican nomination to face incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, in District 23, north of Miami.

Puerto Rico would be entitled to five votes in the House of Representatives based on its population of 3.6 million but the Commonwealth, as a territory, only has one representation who can only vote in committees to which he or she is assigned. Statehood party President Pedro Pierluisi (D) is the current Resident Commissioner, which is also the Commonwealth’s representative to the Federal government as a whole.

There are four Representatives of States in the U.S. House: Jose Serrano (D-New York) is the most senior. Raúl Labrador of Idaho is the lone Republican. The others are Nydia Velazquez (D-New York) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois).

Three individuals of Puerto Rican origin are seeking re-election to the State legislature: Senator Darren Soto (Kissimmee) and Representatives Victor Torres (D-Orlando) and David James (R-Deltona).

A Republican seeking to enter the State House of Representatives is Robert Cortés, a town of Longwood commissioner.

Several people of Puerto Rican origin are running for local offices. They include Republican John Quiñones, a former State House member, who is seeking re-election as Osceola County Commissioner. And Democrat Cerrud Euri is making a bid to be a Commissioner in Orange County.

The number of people of Puerto Rican origin running for office in Florida as Republicans reinforces the evidence that the hundreds of thousands of people who have voted for statehood for themselves by moving to the State from the territory cannot be counted on to be Democrats.  The major political parties in the territory are the statehood and “Commonwealth” parties. There is also a small Independence Party.

There are Democratic and Republican Parties in Puerto Rico but the only candidates who run as Democrats or Republicans in the territory are candidates for president of the United States. The Commonwealth cannot have votes in the election of the president but the national Democratic and Republican Parties allow Puerto Ricans to vote in the presidential nominating process. Most Puerto Ricans do not but as many as a quarter of Puerto Rican voters have.



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