Carlos Lopez-Cantera was sworn in as the state of Florida’s first Hispanic lieutenant governor yesterday. Gov. Rick Scott believes that Lopez-Cantera’s appointment will help win him favor with Florida’s hispanic voters, but the new Lt. Gov.’s lack of known position brings into question whether he supports Hispanics or not.
Florida conservatives celebrated Lopez-Cantera’s appointment saying that it brought diversity to the party, and they exuded high hopes of winning Hispanic voters in the 2014 elections. Lopez-Cantera was born in Madrid, Spain to Cuban parents who immigrated to America early in his life. However, Lopez-Cantera has maintained a suspiciously tentative stance on the issue of immigration.
When HB 7089, Florida’s version of Arizona’s anti-immigration bill (SB 1070), was introduced in 2011, Lopez-Cantera, in a press release, announced support for the bill. The Lt. Gov. said in 2011 that he “look[ed] forward to watching this reasonable and effective approach to immigration reform work its way through the legislative process.”
Hispanic groups in the state have criticized Lopez-Cantera for “betraying Florida’s hispanics.” Lopez-Cantera never casted a vote on HB 7089, which could indicate his unwillingness to stand up for Hispanic immigrants. During yesterday’s appointment ceremony, the new Lt. Gov. refused to answer questions regarding his stance on immigration.
Lopez-Cantera is bilingual, which Scott’s camp thinks will help appeal to Hispanic voters, but he passed on the chance to engage Florida Spanish-speakers after being sworn in. On two occasions, Lopez-Cantera was asked to make a statement in Spanish. But decided he’d rather eat lunch with Gov. Scott instead, who has developed a poor reputation with Hispanic voters.
Hispanic voters, who are primarily Democratic constituents, were victims of Scott approved voter suppression tactics in order to secure the vote for Republicans during the 2012 elections. These laws weren’t perceived party politics, Florida Republicans admitted in 2012 that suppressing that minority vote was the goal.
Lopez-Cantera’s new, close association with the Scott administration is more evidence of his apparent anti-Hispanic stance. Scott implemented laws that targeted early voting, which most minorities do, shortening early voting days from 14 to eight. This tactic outraged several advocacy groups and prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to file a lawsuit against the Florida governor.
Scott also developed a list of “potential illegal voters” that would have to submit to further background checks in order to verify their eligibility to vote. The number of suspected people on the faulty list continually shrank from 182,000 to 198 because it consisted of people that shouldn’t have been on the list to begin in the first place. The effort was eventually abandoned by Florida state election officials.
Florida conservatives herald Lopez-Cantera and claim diversity while trying to win over hispanic voters. But the Scott Administration has been anything but friendly to the state’s Hispanic population. Lopez-Cantera, however, hasn’t seem interested in taking any solid position throughout his career. He has heritage to play to and, now, a staunchly conservative constituency as well.