In what is already a contentious presidential contest, solar energy might actually become Florida’s hottest battleground in 2016.
With the involvement of energy companies, environmentalists, and politicians – not to mention competing solar power constitutional amendments — nearly everyone in the Sunshine State will take a side.
At the center of the debate is Tory Perfetti, the founder of Floridians for Solar Choice, one of Florida’s most divisive and polarizing figures, spreading inflammatory rhetoric that actually insults many of the same voters he is trying to persuade.
Floridians for Solar Choice is seeking to include a solar energy amendment on the 2016 ballot. The effort has gained enough signatures for the Supreme Court review the measure’s language, but not enough yet to have the measure on the ballot.
Opponents believe that the proposal threatens the state’s network of safe, reliable electric power. They argue the proposed measure addresses more than one subject, something not permitted on voter-initiated amendments. That will be one of many obstacles the high court will need to address during language review.
But solar energy is far from the only controversy encompassing Perfetti, an outspoken former Republican House candidate who lost to state Rep. Peter Nehr in the 2012 GOP primary.
During his campaign, Perfetti, a self-described “true conservative,” took a drastic stance on another major issue – immigration. His campaign platform was decidedly anti-immigrant, included saying immigrants “drag down” Florida’s economy, and offers solutions that some observers considered extremist.
“They don’t belong here. They don’t exist,” Perfetti told a meeting of the South Pinellas 9.12 Patriots in January 2012.
As the Tampa Bay Times reported, Perfetti doesn’t stop there: “We have to remove them from society. I’m a full supporter of checking in school, police pulling them over — the whole nine yards. Alabama, Arizona (immigration legislation laws) go farther. We have got to remove them from this state.”
Radical comments are not uncommon in the heat of a campaign, and many candidates eventually tone down the bombast in the wake of an electoral loss.
But not Perfetti.
While rallying support for Floridians for Solar Choice, Perfetti is busy on Twitter making his immigration stance perfectly clear.
Here are some samples:
“Republican Leadership getting ready to sell out their voters and this Nation again on immigration. The betrayal is staggering, No Amnesty,” Perfetti said in a tweet on Dec. 4.
“Amnesty is often said to be bad in many ways, but it is rarely mentioned how awful illegal immigrants are to American’s wages, hint, its bad,” he said on March 25.
“Apparently there is a steady stream of illegals flowing in over the border,” came another in April. “I guess promising Amnesty increases illegals, shocking.”
“The continual importation of cheap labor through both legal and illegal immigration will only keep American wages down,” Perfetti followed up on May 4.
Clearly, disruptive statements like those, particularly coming from a high-profile statewide initiative leader, is bound to create a commotion.
And that is exactly what is happening.
Fabio Andrade, an influential leader and founder of the non-profit Americas Community Center, sent a letter to Perfetti about his “repeated anti-immigrant statements” that are “insulting and damaging to Florida’s immigrant community.”
Americas Community Center is an organization that provides outreach programs to Hispanic immigrants in South Florida, working primarily with small business owners.
In the letter, dated Tuesday, Andrade called for Perfetti to resign, or risk losing support of Hispanic voters, nearly one-fourth of the electorate:
We work with numerous Hispanic small business owners in Florida who greatly contribute to the job creation and economic prosperity of Florida.
I’m writing you on behalf of our organization and the members of Florida’s Hispanic community that we assist to request that you publicly apologize and retract your repeated anti-immigrant statements, or step down from your position as the Chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice.
The history of the United States and of Florida are deeply rooted in the contributions made my immigrants from throughout the world. Your repeated anti-‐immigrant statements are most insulting and damaging to Florida’s immigrant community and are unacceptable. This is especially true from you – someone holding himself out as a leader of a statewide initiative that contends it wants the support of all Floridians, of which nearly one-‐fourth are Hispanic.
Americas Business Networking, an entity of the Americas Community Center, advocates and defends the interests of immigrants who are working hard to succeed and contribute to the cultural and economic prosperity of our state. I appreciate a prompt reply to this request.
Regardless of where one stands on the solar energy issue – while pushing to change Florida’s Constitution, Perfetti’s tactic of insulting a significant bloc of voters is a questionable political strategy, at best.