ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Even before Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, there was a steady influx of those from the island leaving for places like Orlando and Miami.
Nearly 70,000 Puerto Ricans have relocated to Florida since Hurricane Maria, joining more than a million already living in the Sunshine State.
They make up nearly five percent of the population, which is enough to swing a national election.
Their impact on the 2018 governor's race and 2020 presidential election could be substantial.
“There's some estimates that up to half a million Puerto Ricans will find residence in the state of Florida by 2020,” 10News political expert Dr. Lars Hafner said. “Puerto Ricans coming to register to vote, and voting as democrats in Orlando, can be akin to the Cubans who came to Miami back in the 1960s after the Bay of Pigs. They are life long Republicans and have changed the dynamics of the state for many years. Now, the Puerto Ricans have an issue that will likewise change the dynamics of the state and take us from a purple state to a light blue state.”
Florida has had razor thin voting margins:
- President Barack Obama won the state in 2014 by only 74,000 votes.
- President Donald Trump won the state by over 100,000.
By the time President Trump is up for re-election, there may be enough Democratic-voting Puerto Ricans to turn the tide.
His response to Hurricane Maria will absolutely be an issue for Puerto Ricans in Florida.