Nobody can deny that both of the gubernatorial candidates in the current Florida race are doing extensive work to court the Latino vote -- including both choosing Latinos as their running mates.
That said, you don't have to look at the running mates of Florida Gov. Rick Scott or his challenger Charlie Crist to get a sense of the importance of Florida's Latino electorate in the upcoming November 4 elections. In the 2012 presidential elections, Hispanic voters accounted 17 percent of the state's electorate, voting for President Obama 60 percent to 39 percent and contributing significantly to his carrying the state -- and the general election -- over his opponent Mitt Romney.
Many Florida Latinos will head to the polls this November concerned about their health and the well-being of their families. Many of these voters will lack health insurance, a problem that they may very well attribute to the choices made by their governor when he resisted implementation of the Affordable Care Act in early 2013.
Latinos are one of America's most uninsured populations, making Gov. Scott's rejection of federal funds for Medicaid expansions deeply consequential for Florida's Hispanic community. Many of the 1.3 million uninsured Latinos who live in Florida, who would have benefited immensely from being able to purchase affordable health insurance, now fall into a "coverage gap" where they cannot afford private insurance plans and yet do not qualify for traditional Medicaid programs. If Florida had accepted federal funds for Medicaid expansion, 68 percent of uninsured Floridians would have gained access to affordable health care. Make no mistake: Gov. Scott's decision to play politics with his citizens' health is not one that uninsured voters will quickly forget.
Gov. Scott's rejection of Medicaid expansion has not been ignored by his challenger, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Crist has made Scott's decision a centerpiece of his campaign, and pledges to obtain around $50 billion in Medicaid expansion funds from the federal government if he is elected. Crist has clearly gotten the message sent by Gov. Scott's plummeting approval ratings among Florida voters: mess with someone's health care, and you will inevitably pay a steep price at the polls. But, this campaign promise will have to turn into a governing reality if Crist wants to maintain the trust of the Latino community.
It's really very simple. Latinos in Florida suffer from being unable to afford quality health insurance. When you actively work to undermine efforts to bring affordable coverage to Florida, you will inevitably alienate and antagonize the Latino electorate. Gov. Scott, you may want to reconsider your positions on this defining issue. And former Governor Crist -- if you win, you cannot play politics with the health of Latino families. The promise must be kept.