Remember 2011 in Tallahassee? It was the first session after the GOP tsunami of 2010 that saw the Republican Party of Florida turn even more conservative, fueled by the Tea Party phenomenon.
2011 was the year that the Legislature debated (but failed to pass) a punitive immigration bill that mirrored Arizona's notoriously tough law, a law that became all the rage in several states GOP-dominated legislatures across the country. And in Florida that legislation was strongly supported by Governor Rick Scott.
So a day after Scott chose former state legislator Carlos Lopez-Cantera to be his Lieutenant Governor as he heads into re-election season, Florida Democrats are bringing to light Lopez-Cantera's support for that controversial legislation, which the majority of Florida Republicans seem to have run away from since those halcyon days in 2011.
"Rather than stand against Rick Scott's thinly veiled racial profiling, Lopez-Cantera supported Scott’s anti-immigrant agenda," Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said today. "For three years, Hispanics have seen Rick Scott cut funding to the programs important to their communities, repeatedly threaten their right to vote, and advocate for discriminatory immigration laws. In November, Florida’s Hispanic families will hold him accountable."
As the Florida Democrats note in their press release, HB 7089 was opposed by two Miami Republicans, and GOP state Senator René García and Florida Hispanic Legislative Caucus Chair, said it would “lead to distrust” and "animosity".
Among the more controversial provisions in that bill was that it allowed for warrantless arrest when a law enforcement officer has "probable cause " to believe that a person was unlawfully in the country.
State Democrats and their allies have been critical of the selection of Lopez-Cantera, whose Hispanic background might be considered a plus for a governor in a tough re-election bid.
“It’s a cynical act to pander to Latino voters,” said Marcos Vilar of Florida New Majority. “Lopez-Cantera will be a rubber stamp for Scott’s anti-Latino agenda.”
Tabitha Frazier, the second Vice-Chair Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida, said in a statement that Scott's veto of an immigrant driver's license bill and cuts to the state's Bright Futures scholarships will mean more to Latino voters this November than his LG selection, saying, "If people review the trends, historically, Cuban Americans tended to be Republican. But there's a generation lag. You can look at things like: Cuban Americans under the age of 40 are leaning Democrat because they see what's happening here in America and the Republican Party is not advocating for the Hispanic community."