In another sign of how political consultants view Puerto Rico as vital in Florida’s elections, the state Republican Party is setting aside time for the issue at its upcoming Sunshine Summit.
The two-day party event in Orlando will include a panel discussion called “Puerto Rico Rising” to “discuss the island’s recovery progress and its plans for fiscal responsibility and integrity.”
“We look forward to an engaging discussion with these incredible Puerto Rican champions and solidifying our commitment to aiding our fellow citizens on and off the island,” state Republican Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a prepared statement.
Not mentioned in a party news release was the fight over Puerto Rican voters, ranging from those who fled the island after Hurricane Maria to the more than 1 million Floridians who identify as Puerto Rican.
The GOP’s announcement followed more volleys in the U.S. Senate campaign over just who cares more about people from the hurricane-ravaged island.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who has become an ally of Scott, urged residents to return to the island as temporary federal assistance for emergency shelter comes to an end. The comment came after Scott last week made his sixth visit to the island and this week gave 25 Florida Highway Patrol vehicles to Puerto Rico police.
Rossello’s comment drew immediate scorn from Democratic lawmakers and candidates in Florida.
“The federal government, under President Trump’s leadership, has failed to provide the necessary resources to rebuild Puerto Rico so that residents can return to their homes,” state Sen. Victor Torres, the Orlando Democrat, said in a statement. “Calling on residents now safe in Florida to return to Puerto Rico while conditions remain treacherous puts their lives at risk all over again.”
Meanwhile, to tout his Puerto Rican recovery cred, Sen. Bill Nelson this week rolled out an endorsement from Pedro Rosselló, who served as Puerto Rico’s governor from 1993 to 2000.