How a Surge in Puerto Rican Voters Is Changing Florida Politics

Luisita Lopez Torregrosa, Yahoo! News, October 20, 2014

The road to political victory in Florida is not just a metaphor, it’s a place: Interstate 4, the busy highway that cuts across the vote-heavy heart of the state from Tampa to Daytona Beach.

And the I-4 corridor, as it’s called, now runs through a swing-vote region undergoing significant demographic change.

Puerto Ricans have been migrating by the thousands to the area–part of the largest exodus from their island territory to the mainland since World War II. They currently make up about 10 percent of Central Florida’s population, and their numbers continue to grow.

A Pew Research Center report released in August shows that Orange County alone was home to nearly 150,000 Puerto Ricans in 2010, up from 86,583 a decade earlier, out of a total population of 1.4 million. The surge pushed it to No. 3 in a ranking of U.S. counties according to Puerto Rican population; only Brooklyn and the Bronx ranked higher.

“The I-4 corridor is the key to winning Florida: Win the area and you win the election,” says Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, pointing out that roughly 45 percent of the state’s registered voters live in the Tampa and Orlando media markets.

Yet some Floridians, including politicians, are still trying to figure out how to talk about the newcomers. Because many Puerto Ricans work at Disney World, Floridians dub them “Disney Ricans” or “Mickey Ricans,” labels they don’t find amusing.

And it didn’t go unnoticed when the chairman of the Orange County Republican Executive Committee, Lew Oliver, blamed the “Puerto Rican influx” for a decline in registered Republicans and called the island territory “semisocialist” and a “basket case.” Under fire from various groups, Oliver issued an apology, saying his words were taken out of context.

The episode highlights the struggle the GOP faces in Central Florida, where more than 300,000 Puerto Ricans are concentrated in a region of 3 million to 4 million people. Though Republicans can still rely on the Cuban vote in South Florida, they’re falling behind in the vital I-4 corridor.

The change is part of a broader shift in the Hispanic politics of the Sunshine State. Historically, Cubans in the Miami area have been the majority of the state’s Hispanics and have leaned Republican. But that dominance is slowly eroding. Younger Cubans are increasingly turning Democratic, and the swelling Puerto Rican population seems to lean Democratic, too.

Puerto Ricans now number nearly 1 million statewide and represent 28 percent of Hispanic registered voters–closing in on a Cuban population of 1.3 million that comprises 32 percent of Hispanic voters.


“No question, the influx of Puerto Ricans has had an impact,” says Steve Schale, a Tallahassee strategist who was a senior adviser in President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign and is an adviser to Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign. “Until a few years ago, Central Florida was reliably Republican. No more.”

The Puerto Rican vote could make a decisive difference in the upcoming presidential election. It may have already done so in 2012, when Obama won the state by 50.1 percent to Mitt Romney’s 49.13 percent. The difference was only 74,000 votes, the slimmest margin in the country.

Yet the Puerto Rican vote is no sure thing for the Democrats.

“It’s an up-for-grabs community,” says Andres W. Lopez, a Harvard-trained lawyer and national Democratic Party fundraiser who lives in San Juan and commutes often to Florida and Washington.

Puerto Ricans who have lived for long periods in the United States tend to register as Democrats, but those who came from the island recently are likely to be more independent and unaffiliated.


“Puerto Rican communities in Orlando, Miami and Tampa differ substantially from their counterparts in New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia,” says Jorge Duany, an anthropologist at the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. In his research study “Mickey Ricans? The Recent Puerto Rican Diaspora to Florida,” Duany finds that the Puerto Rican migrants of the 21st century have more financial resources and are better educated than their predecessors. They tend to live in middle-class and high-end suburban settings, like Coral Gables and Doral in Miami. “The current Puerto Rican experience in Florida is largely unprecedented,” he says.

The GOP believes these new immigrants could be its kind of people.

“No party has a lock on Hispanics,” says Alex Garcia, the Republican Hispanic Initiatives field director for Florida, speaking specifically about Puerto Ricans. Hispanics favored Republican Jeb Bush in earlier elections, Garcia points out.

In this election cycle, both Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his challenger, Charlie Crist, have Hispanic running mates. Scott recently made his first Spanish-language TV commercial, and the first televised debate between the two candidates–a fractious tit-for-tat on Oct. 10–was hosted by the Spanish-language Telemundo network.

Both candidates have tried to tailor their message to Hispanic voters. Scott pitches jobs, low taxes and social conservatism (he’s against equal marriage and abortion rights, stands that likely appeal to Hispanic social conservatives). Crist emphasizes issues that, according to surveys, rank high with Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics: health care, Medicaid expansion, increasing the minimum wage, immigration reform.



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  • Adolf Verloc

    Puerto Rico – the worst booby prize a country ever received for a war.

    • TXCriollo

      I will second that

      • DLRisVH


        • IstvanIN

          Motion carried.

  • JackKrak

    If these Ricans are so “educated” and have more “financial resources”, then why is PR such a hellhole? Why is working at Disney World preferable to staying in their own country?

    And, yes, I know that PR is not exactly a country, which leads to the most important questions of all – Why can’t PR stand on its own two dirty feet?

    • Adolf Verloc

      Puerto Rico has been self-governing for eons, has received vast piles of Federal dollars and enjoys a great variety of tax breaks to encourage US industry to locate there. It’s pretty hard to see how whitey is to blame for their predicament.

      • dmxinc

        It is a tax free haven now.

        • SentryattheGate

          About 2/3rds of Puerto Rico is on welfare. They want to become the 51st state, but refuse to accept English as their official language, yet they’ll gladly accept our money!

          • The Worlds Scapegoat

            …and the idiots in Washington are glad to give them YOUR money.



          • bilderbuster

            Mr.Republican Revolution Gingrich tried his best to push Puerto Rican statehood as speaker of the house.

      • bilderbuster

        Since when did that matter.
        The more important question is when will Whites start forcefully rejecting the blame?

    • bilderbuster

      That’s easy.
      Because it’s populated by Puerto Ricans.

  • Frank_DeScushin

    “The episode highlights the struggle the GOP faces in Central Florida”

    The struggle the GOP faces in Central Florida highlights the struggle the GOP faces in America.

    • bilderbuster

      The Republican who made those comments about Puerto Ricans was correct about what he said about them except he was wrong to blame them for the decline in registered Republicans.
      The Republicans did that one all by themselves.

  • SouthernReality

    Wellllll doggies…. “The GOP believes these new immigrants could be its kind of people.” Having lived in the I-4 corridor for 35 years I never realized the Republicans were looking for burglars, rapists, heroin aficionados, and gang members! It sure has changed the ‘flavor’ of the areas around there – there aren’t words to describe policing the back yard to pick up the heroin syringes daily, the murder down the formerly quiet street, the low riders careening down the roads, graffiti everywhere, the precipitous drop in home values…. yes, they ARE the kind of people the GOP needs!
    Of course, the GOP is obviously not the people I need!!

    • phorning

      Jeb Bush says those are acts of love.

    • SentryattheGate

      A Rican impregnated my (white) niece and abandoned them w/o child support. He has 2 (or more?) other illegitimate kids, both with white women. He left them too. It irritates me that the kid carries his Hispanic last name—being counted as yet another Hispanic! UGH!

      • pcmustgo

        Did the kid come out looking white?

        • SentryattheGate

          Yes, she looks white. But now her mommy has a (Hispanic-looking) son by a Columbian! My niece has never dated a white guy!

          • The Worlds Scapegoat

            White are stupid.

            Any group who is dumb enough to give away everything they have to their lessers, and let them run all over them, don’t deserve to survive.


          • bilderbuster

            And won’t if this continues.
            Nature cares not.

          • SentryattheGate

            Don’t paint us all with that broad brush! My nieces were dumbed-down by gov’t. school, media and popular culture, which makes interracial dating/mating seem “cool” and that also portrays non-whites as “exotic”. I now have ZERO interest in my nieces and their kids.

          • Northern American-Nationalist

            She will be expunged alongside her colonists offspring and the other racial traitors when the time comes. She’ll eventually have all the Hispanics she could possibly want and little else, and she’ll have deserved what comes to that “puta” for rejecting our nation.

          • SentryattheGate

            Sadly, I don’t know IF that time will come, but I agree with the rest of what you say. I have looked up info. on Latinos; Puerto Ricans have the highest rate of illegitimate offspring of ALL Latinos! And to hear that they will control central Florida politics is disgusting; because they will be even more of a drain on the taxpayer than most Latinos! Check out this Latino site, bragging about their own culture, yet the comments below (click on) are mostly negative, esp. from the whites married to them! http://www.latinoopinion(DOT)com/category/cultural-traits/

    • Capt. Bryant

      Kissimmee sure has changed! I remember when it was cow town with the silver spurs rodeo. Now the Ricans have it sowed up.

      • SouthernReality

        Captain…do you remember Boots & Jeans? Ah…. the good old days! Kissimmee was ruined by a ‘diversity agenda’. It’s a sad spot now. A barrio.

    • De’Ontavious Jizzaiah Jones

      I just moved out of Orlando. At first I thought PRs were an issue to monitor. Then later when blacks started moving into my zip code after real estate crash, I realized I was wrong. I Prefer PRs to blacks any day.

      • Michael Robert Ryan

        Yes, pretty much any Hispanics are far preferable to blacks. I used to live in an area with lots of blacks but then moved to an area with minimal blacks but with lots of Mexicans, which is where I still reside. So I know whereof I speak.

        • SentryattheGate

          Yes, BUT when they become a majority, it will be like south Florida—for THEM ONLY! Whites are excluded in south Florida and now in central FL too! The Hispanics are proud of that; they don’t intend on being tolerant to other groups!

  • While PRs don’t have to worry about immigration as a legal issue, they will vote heavily Democrat for the welfare and giveaway issues.

    • bilderbuster

      The Cubans in Miami voted for Obama twice.
      They didn’t like it when Castro was goring their ox but they don’t mind it when Obama does it to (White) Americans.

    • SentryattheGate

      Puerto Ricans have the highest illegitimate birthrate of ALL Latinos! Therefore, their “right” to welfare and give-aways!

  • All nonwhite ethnic groups see whites as hosts for them to parasite on. When the host dies, as it is doing, the parasites will die too. But they don’t see the long term because their thurd world brains are stuck in the short run: “Gibsmedat! NOW!”

    • SentryattheGate

      “…thurd world brains are stuck in the short run”. Studies have shown that there is a strong link between delayed gratification and intelligence.

  • If you’re playing poker with five other people, and they are combined among them holding all twenty aces in the deck, there’s only one thing you can do.

    Throw over the table.

  • Atheist Realist

    Orlando was once the most republican part of the state. Now they elect Alan Grayson who is one of the worst demagogues in congress.

  • Jeff Traube

    Puerto Ricans obtained citizenship before US entry into World War 1 – which meant they could be drafted, and therefore fewer Continental Americans would become casualties. A classic case of short-sightedness due to Woodrow Wilson, who also botched the Peace – if he wanted an enduring Peace, US would have had to be Neutral.


      “Enduring Peace” <- Please friend, Woodrow Wilson's number one goal at that time was the establishment of "The League Of Nations" in the NAME of an enduring peace. Not an actual enduring peace.

      • SentryattheGate

        Our Congress back then was smart enough not to vote to join the League of nations—which would have given away some of our sovereignty. But later, we did join the UN, which we should have never done! It’s the source of our main problems!

  • The Worlds Scapegoat

    Giving everyone, especially non-whites, in this country the right to vote was one of the most idiotic things the politicians did. Starting the Federal Reserve, Snivel Rights, and welfare were three others.


  • George Costanza

    OH BOY!!! Here’s a little history lesson..

    During the late 40’s in NYC before East Harlem became the was home to the largest concentration of Italian Americans, that’s until a communist sympathizing politician named Vito Marc Antonio(full Italian) sold the Italians out by building the projects for black and PR’s, that were originally meant for the Italians who were living in conditions WORSE than the blacks and Puerto ricans.

    After that Marc Antonio began to lose popularity, in his desperationhe began to flood East Harlem with puerto ricans exploiting them for VOTES. Marc Antonio also supported puerto rican nationalist who NOT SURPRISINGLY try to assassinate then president Harry S. Truman!!…

    But eventually the Italians left East harlem…and the balck and PR’s moved in…by the 70’s east Harlem became a cesspool of drugs and violence…today Harlem has the largest concentration of people with AIDS living there!! YUCK!!

    unfortunately Vito Marc Antonio never lived to see his east Harlem ROT…that POS Died of a heart attack in 1950, you can look this guy up and see how the lefty’s in NYC are trying really hard to make this guy look like a saint.

  • Luca

    Puerto Rico reminds me of a life boat being towed and supplied by a luxury ocean liner.

    I say cut the rope and let them drift off into the sunset.

    • SentryattheGate

      Except that about half of them are here on the mainland, esp. Florida.

  • Augustus3709

    Politics is a result of the people who live in a nation. Dry political arguments by themselves miss the bigger picture. For example:

    White Socialism = Paradise

    Brown Socialism = Failed State

    And Multicultural Socialism = “people of color” exploiting and dragging down the White created system until it is eventually ruined beyond repair.

  • WR_the_realist

    Puerto Rico should be handed back to Spain. “It’s yours now, suckers!”

  • John Ambrose

    Too bad we didn’t give that island it’s independence way back in the fifties after Puerto Rican nationalists tried to assassinate President Truman and went on a shooting spree at the US capitol. All the ruined neighborhoods in so many Northern cities could’ve been spared most of the destruction Ricans began to inflict to them back then and continue to do so to this day.