Alan Grayson’s math just got a little harder
posted at 12:44 pm on April 4, 2012 by Jorge Bonilla
Kissimmee (FL) Republican John Quiñones is a former state Representative, current Chairman of the Osceola County Commission, and has just announced his intent to run for the newly-created 9th Congressional District of Florida, which runs to the south and east of Orlando.
Alan Grayson is the only candidate to announce for the Democrats. His national fame (or infamy) has given him a natural fundraising advantage, which translates to about $2 million to date according to Sunshine State News. His finances, the 9th District’s demographics, and his access to the Obama machine would make him a nigh-unstoppable candidate in any other cycle, and against any other opponent. But, perhaps, not this one.
FL-9 covers southeasternOrangeCounty, all of Osceola county, and a sliver of Polk County known as Poinciana. Those who know Central Florida know that this part of town is heavily Hispanic, and that half of that Hispanic population is of Puerto Rican origin. This is where Democrat math begins to crack up.
About 40% of FL-9’s voting-age residents are Hispanic, and it’s no secret that Hispanic voters tend to favor Democrats, more so, Puerto Rican voters. However, most ofCentral Florida’s Hispanics are registered independents, and tend to swing-vote. Quiñones has a proven track record of appealing to these voters, and has won multiple elections on what is otherwise hostile ground for Republicans. With a Puerto Rican on the ballot (especially one with Quiñones’ profile), I am hard-pressed to believe that Grayson (who does not currently live in FL-9 but owns a home there) can get the overwhelming majority of Hispanic votes that he’d need in order to return to Congress.
The mere possibility of a fifth Puerto Rican in Congress (along with Serrano, Velázquez, Gutiérrez, and Labrador) would potentially dry up any fundraising on the island, and would spook any local politicians looking to come over and stump for Grayson (as did Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi last cycle). For many Puerto Ricans, ethnic identity trumps political affiliation (Exhibit A: Sonia Sotomayor), and they tend to coalesce around “one of their own”, right or wrong.
A Quiñones run in FL-9 could throw a wrench into national electoral calculations, as well. Quiñones would likely affect Hispanic outreach and turnout all along the vaunted I-4 corridor, and could well help oust both President Barack Obama and Senator Bill Nelson.
Marco Rubio’s rise to the Senate proved that (A) Florida is a unique electoral market, and (B) that its Hispanics do not readily respond to Democrat national messaging. Quiñones’ candidacy would necessarily focus the debate on Grayson, and hog-tie his record to Obama’s, and would rob Democrats of the opportunity to raise the specter of Hispanic racial grievance within the I-4 corridor.
For generations, Democrats have lived by the sword of racial polarization and grievance, and I am thrilled at the prospect that they may now die by it. If I’m either the RNC, the RNCC, the Florida GOP, or Mitt Romney’s people…I’d look into wrapping my arms (and checkbook) around this guy yesterday.