They talked about art, about community and their families’ decision to choose a charter school.
For students at Bonita Springs Charter School, it was a rare chance to bend the ear of a statewide elected official. But for Carlos Lopez-Cantera, it was a chance to talk about school choice and educational opportunities for Florida’s students.
Lopez-Cantera is one of five Republicans vying to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. He stopped at Bonita Springs Charter School on Wednesday as part of his campaign’s Florida First Tour: Making Florida First in Jobs, Education and Opportunity.
The visit coincided with National Charter Schools Week.
Lopez-Cantera is spending much of the week talking about school choice, and the visit to Bonita Springs Charter School — a kindergarten through eighth grade school located in Southwest Florida — was the second charter school the lieutenant governor visited this week. He was at the Renaissance Charter School of Doral on Tuesday.
“Experiences like this just give me a more perspective,” he said about his visit. “Just seeing the different approaches, even in the same system, is helpful.”
Lopez-Cantera said while he is focused on jobs and the economy, improving education options plays into that ultimate goal. He said he wants to make sure Florida students are “prepared to enter the work force and be successful” when the graduate.
“The K-12, or in this case K-8, system is a big part of that,” said Lopez-Cantera. “It’s laying the foundation for their high school years and then their college and post graduate (years).”
Lopez-Cantera faces Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox in the Aug. 30 primary. The Miami Republican has been campaigning across the state in hopes of boosting support for his Senate bid.
The U.S. Senate race has been largely ignored in recent months, drowned out by constant coverage of the presidential race. But with four months until the primary, Lopez-Cantera said it seems like Floridians are starting to pay more attention to the race.
According to a March 1 Public Policy Polling survey, Lopez-Cantera was in third place with 11 percent support. He trailed Jolly and DeSantis, who had 26 percent and 14 percent respectively. At the time, 47 percent of Republicans said they were undecided.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel great. I’ve seen the tide turn, especially in the last two to three weeks. Instead of some people telling me ‘oh, there’s a Senate race,’ I’ve encountered people that have already looked up the candidates and had decided to support me before I even met them.”
Lopez-Cantera said voters are telling him they want to see results, and he said he can get results by “rolling up my sleeves and getting down in the trenches and making things happen” like he said he did in the Florida House.
“When I was a freshman, I was able to get a constitutional amendment passed to lower the property taxes for seniors. No one taught me how to do it, I just did,” he said. “My business experience, the common sense I apply to my approach to government has been very helpful. It’s not about demagoguery. It’s not about headlines. It’s about results.”