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Friday, Aug 29, 2014
South Tampa News

O’Neill: Gov. Scott’s flawed outreach to Hispanic voters

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BY JOE O’NEILL

Special correspondent

A pretty good argument can be made that the winner of November’s gubernatorial election will have won a decent share of the Hispanic vote. It’s about 15 percent of the electorate and growing faster than any other voting demographic.

So, it makes sense that Gov. Rick Scott’s deep-pocketed campaign would already be airing Spanish language commercials — titled “Oportunidad” — on television and online.

“Yo no soy experto en la política pero yo sé el valor de un trabajo,” says Scott, which means “I’m not an expert in politics, but I know how valuable a job is.”

To many Hispanics, this is what they’re hearing: “Mira, no soy hispano tampoco como Jan Brewer, pero sé alcahuetear como cualquier político, aunque no soy experto en la política. Y yo sé el valor de una estafa.”

As in: “Look, I’m about as Hispanic as Jan Brewer, but I can pander like any other politician, even though I’m no expert in politics. And I know the value of a con job.”

Scott’s approach to Hispanics, heretofore, has reinforced the reality that he’s more than an awkward, charisma-challenged politician. He has given the impression that he still doesn’t get the fact that it’s about more than Little Havana Republicans. That it’s about more than Cubans who enjoy special immigrant status.

What non-Cuban Hispanics — the Latino majority — recall is that before he was governor, Scott showed his stripes with his enthusiastic backing of an Arizona-esque, anti-illegal immigration bill.

And Hispanics, to be sure, were prominent among minorities obviously targeted by the Scott administration’s high-profile efforts at voter suppression in 2012.

And they surely have seen through the blatantly transparent role of Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Canterra.

Non-Cuban Hispanics also remember that shortly after being elected, Scott pandered to the Cuban-exile community by coming out for legislation that would have prohibited Florida governments from doing business with those who were doing business in Cuba. That would impact jobs, Scott’s raison d’être.

Speaking of economic impact and resultant jobs, no surprise that Scott has been supportive of the economic embargo with Cuba, especially since Charlie Crist is now against its continued, counterproductive existence.

But Little Havana still approves. Good enough.

And speaking of the South Florida vendetta-agenda crowd. Notice who it was who rallied in Scott’s behalf after Mike Fernández, Coral Gables billionaire and co-finance chairman of the Scott re-election campaign, very publicly quit amid allegations of poor Hispanic outreach and some insultingly anti-Hispanic behavior by Scott staffers. In addition to López-Canterra, the effort was led by the usual South Florida amigos: U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Díaz-Balart and former congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart.

No other Florida governor, including Bob Martínez, the first person of Spanish ancestry elected to that office, and the bilingual, married-to-a-Mexican Jeb Bush, has advertised so heavily in Spanish.

And it’s only April.

The ads are now running here — as well as in the media markets of Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers-Naples and Orlando.

But, no, don’t look for any Spanish voice-over ads featuring Scott and King Juan Carlos.

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A Plant High swimmer, Amy Donahue, just signed a national letter-of-intent to attend the University of Florida.

Donahue was a double winner at last fall’s state championship and has serious 2016 Olympic potential. And Florida is certainly a powerhouse in swimming.

Congratulations. Well-earned. Go, Amy. Go, Gators. Go for the gold.

But I have to admit to conflicting feelings on this one.

Still a junior, she will graduate early and forgo her senior year at Plant to train at a major swimming school.

Sure, being even better prepared for an Olympic shot is understandable, but so also is allowing a kid, however talented, to stay a kid a little bit longer and finish her high school years in, well, high school.

One more homecoming, one more prom, one more opportunity to max out on the only opportunity she’ll ever have to be a high school senior.

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