Florida’s senior U.S. Senator Bill Nelson paid a visit to San Juan, Puerto Rico yesterday and while there encouraged anyone relocating to Florida after Hurricane Maria to register to vote. Nelson could face a re-election challenge next year from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
The apparent campaigning by Nelson begins at around 10:30 in this video, which captures only audio from the senator’s press conference.
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Sen. Bill Nelson doesn’t know how many Puerto Ricans have made their way to Florida since Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean island on Sept. 20. And he doesn’t know how many plan to stay on the mainland as their home slowly recovers.
But if they plan to stick around the Sunshine State, the Florida Democrat wants them to go to the polls in 2018, when he’s up for reelection.
“If they will register to vote, which I’m certainly going to encourage, because I can tell you among the Puerto Rican community in the greater Orlando area, they have been very embracing of my public service,” he said at a San Juan news conference after Puerto Rican reporter asked him about the post-storm migration. “The question is how many will want to register, and how many will want to return.”
Standing next to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Nelson took pains to say he wasn’t encouraging Puerto Ricans to depart forever. Puerto Ricans worry an exodus of working professionals — on the heels of years of emigration during the island’s financial crisis — will only make it more difficult for the economy to get going again.