U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a New York Democrat with a high profile in her native Puerto Rico, has joined Stephanie Murphy for the closing days of her campaign to help her mobilize votes in Florida’s 7th Congressional District’s sizable Puerto Rican communities.
Murphy, a Democrat from Winter Park, is trying to unseat Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica in a district that, since redrawn, is about 20 percent Hispanic, with a preponderance of that population being people of Puerto Rican background.
Enter Velazquez, who’s got her own election to win in New York City — but she said she’s going to stick around Orlando for a few days to help Murphy. This afternoon the pair were meeting people at the Lechonera El Jibarito Restaurant on Semoran Boulevard.
CD 7 covers Seminole County and much of north-central and northeast Orange County. Within that, the corridor between State Roads 436 and 417 has a significant and growing Hispanic population, fueled mainly by the very strong-flowing migration from Puerto Rico to Central Florida.
“I am here today. I will be here every single day. I will be knocking on doors. I will be making phone calls, to make sure that they know her record and her desire to do right by Puerto Ricans,” Velazquez said. “This is too important. I am fine. The margin of victory could be defined here by the Hispanic vote, particularly the Puerto Rican vote. And I need for them to understand that this, for them, the presidential election, and who will be their representative, is the most important election.”
Murphy said the issues are largely the same for Puerto Rican voters, though they also have the additional issues of wishing to see more federal attention and assistance for the island’s fiscal crisis, the Zika crisis, and the islanders’ desire to have its longterm status — territory, 51st state, or independence — taken seriously. Mostly, she said, Puerto Rican voters want to be heard.
“When I am around this district and I speak to members of the Puerto Rican community, they express to me their disappointment that they continue to be treated as second-class citizens. They need a representative who’s going to fight to make sure they are treated equally and [with] parity,” Murphy said. “Obviously, the economy, and jobs, and education; all of those things are important for all Americans. But first and foremost for the Puerto Rican community, we need to make sure they are treated as equals.”
In recent weeks, Murphy’s campaign has stepped up its outreach to the Hispanic community. Two weeks ago they held a Puerto Rican-style caravana. Earlier this week they announced the endorsement of former Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock. About a quarter to a third of the Democrats’ paid campaign staff working the Murphy campaign speak Spanish, and focus phone and canvassing campaigning in Spanish, according to campaign officials.
“It’s very important for us to reach out to them because they are a community that has felt underrepresented by the incumbent,” she asserted.