The importance of the Latino vote in a Florida statewide election has never been more apparent than in this year's gubernatorial contest. Two weeks ago Charlie Crist chose Miami-Dade County Democratic chairwoman Annette Taddeo to be his running mate if he wins next month's Democratic Party primary against Nan Rich. That follows the decision by Rick Scott months earlier to name former Miami-Dade state lawmaker Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Cuban-American, to become his Lieutenant Governor.
This afternoon Taddeo was actively working the Hispanic vote, coming to the Latin-rich West Tampa area to press the flesh with voters, many who appeared to only speak Spanish, in her first solo campaign appearance since being asked to join the Crist campaign.
At her first stop at La Pequeña Colombia on Armenia Avenue, Taddeo said she was "shocked" when she received a call initially from Crist campaign manager Omar Khan that she was being considered to be the choice for LG, but was ready to say yes when Crist himself called her just two days before he made it official earlier this month.
When asked if immigration was an issue in the contest, she said Rick Scott made it one when he supported an Arizona-style immigration bill when he first ran for office in 2010, and then vetoed a bill last year that the GOP-led Legislature had nearly unanimously approved that would have allowed children of illegal immigrants to get temporary Florida driver's licenses.
"You've got to give people an opportunity to succeed. That's what this country was built on, with everybody getting a fair shot, and that's not what we have with Rick Scott right now," Taddeo said. A native of Colombia who came to Miami when she was 18 years, she said that Scott administration's stance on immigration had "sort of seen the light" this year, but said voters need to be wary about such a timely election-year conversion. That was a reference to Scott's signing of a bill this year that would grant children of undocumented immigrants and even those high school students who are undocumented themselves to qualify for in-state tuition rates to Florida universities.
Taddeo told CL that she hadn't forgotten the now months-old story regarding Rick Scott's former co-finance chairman Mike Fernandez, who dramatically quit his position in the campaign amid stories that he was disgusted by two campaign aides' attitudes about Hispanics. "It's that culture of insensitivity of not understanding us as a community," she said, before adding that African-Americans and Hispanics had also been hurt by Scott's presiding over cuts to the Bright Futures college scholarship program.
Taddeo spoke sympathetically about the border humanitarian crisis, where thousands of unaccompanied Central American children have made the journey to the southern border, saying as a mom (of an eight-year-old daughter with her husband Dr. Eric Goldstein) that "it's heart-wrenching that somebody would have to put their kids in that situation because the situation in their country is so bad."
She told CL that she agrees with Charlie Crist that the economic embargo against Cuba isn't working and needs to be scrapped, though the Miami-Dade resident stressed that was "very sensitive" to the human rights violations that have occurred on the Communist island. She said Americans need to hear more from the likes of Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, who Taddeo says she personally helped get meetings with Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) last year when the activist visited the States.
"This is not a Democratic or Republican issue," Taddeo said about the situation in Cuba. "This should be an issue of all of us coming together and coming to a solution. After 50 years (of sanctions) we should be talking about it! We shouldn't be afraid to talk about it, afraid to think of solutions, afraid to listen to people like Yoani Sanchez."
After her appearance at La Pequeña Colombia, the Taddeo entourage (which included Tampa Democratic Representative Janet Cruz, whose district encompasses Armenia Avenue) was to hit the traditional campaign stop over at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop.