Florida's swelling Puerto Rican population, and its traditional Democratic lean, could soon reach parity with state's staunchly Republican Cuban population in voting influence, the New York Times reported.
According to the Times, the number of Puerto Ricans who come to the Orlando, Florida area after fleeing their hurricane-ravaged homes could surge to more than 100,000 in the coming months. They join Florida's current 1 million Puerto Rican residents — double the number there were in 2001.
"This is a defining moment," Esteban Garces, state director of Mi Familia Vota, told the Times. "Historically Cubans have always been thought of as the political powerhouse in Florida, but over the years their concentration has been decreasing. Now, there are almost more Puerto Ricans than Cubans, which will create a dynamic shift in how the Latino vote in Florida goes."
In Central Florida, home to more than 350,000 Puerto Ricans, their political impact has already been felt with the election last year of Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., the first member of Congress of Puerto Rican descent elected from Florida, the Times reported.
"What's clear is that this is going to be a more powerful swing group," Orlando lawyer Anthony Suarez told the Times. "Just like everybody has to go to Miami and stop in Versailles to have coffee to court the Cuban community, that is going to start happening here."
Still, Republicans say Puerto Ricans in Florida, unlike those in New York who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, can be a swing vote on many issues.
"We are not a monolith," Suarez conceded.
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