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Florida political parties respond to request for bilingual spokesperson

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Earlier this month, a group of Spanish-language journalists and community leaders sent a letter to the respective chairs of the Florida Republican and Democratic parties, calling on them to hire a bilingual spokesperson to “successfully relay your message to the Latino media.”

“Our intent here is to convince you that Hispanic engagement is crucial, no matter the political persuasion,” wrote over 40 members of United Hispanics/Latinos of Florida. “Latino voters are the future of the American electorate. Do not pass up the opportunity to engage with our community in meaningful ways.”

The message was coordinated by Evelyn Perez-Verdia, creator of the website politicalpasion, and a former Democratic Party political consultant in Hillsborough County who worked for former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis as well as the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office at one time (She’s now registered as Non-Party-Affiliated).

Perez-Verdi has sent reporters the responses from Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant and GOP head Blaise Ingoglia, and the answers are somewhat ambiguous.

Last Friday, Ingoglia responded that, “As we build our team and carry out our strategic plan for the coming election cycle, we will certainly make sure that engaging the Hispanic media is a top priority for our communications team. We understand that outreach and engagement with all communities in Florida requires specialized skills, and I have tasked my staff with finding the best candidates for every open position.”

And on Tuesday Tant wrote back that Democrats have hired bilingual Hispanic outreach staff in South Florida and Central Florida, adding that the Florida Democratic Party spent over $3 million in Spanish language radio and TV in 2014.

“Through a combination of Party and campaign efforts, we aim to have Spanish-fluent staff working in communities across Florida and with journalists for the 2016 election,” she wrote. “I agree with you wholeheartedly that Florida’s future depends on the future of our Hispanic community, and reaching those voters is one of my top priorities.”

In other words — we care a lot, but we’ll do the hiring.

Perez-Verdia responded back via email after our story was published earlier on Wednesday.

“Both political parties in Florida seem committed to supporting Hispanic issues and we are thankful,” she writes. “However, as one supporter noted, neither response was translated into Spanish.  Once again, media in Spanish will need to find someone to translate Chairwoman Tant’s and Chairman Ingoglia’s letters, and for media who do not have the time to translate, they will not end up covering this story.  Once again, the Hispanic community and the Spanish speakers will not know what is happening in Florida.  The point is, Hispanics are passionate about politics.  However, the media in Spanish is not receiving information from the parties.  Sometimes many say that they do not even receive it in English.   It is time for both the Florida Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Florida to start practicing what they are preaching.   We appreciate the effort, the question is: when do you plan to give us someone permanent?  Every day matters.”

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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