The Puerto Rican Leadership Council (PLC) is calling on the head of the Orange County Republican Party to resign, following some comments he made to our news partners at the Orlando Sentinel over the lack of new Republican voter registrations.
Lew Oliver was responding to why Republicans have fallen behind both Democrats and other/no party affiliation voters in registration numbers in the county. Oliver blamed an influx of people from other places run by Democrats, including Puerto Rico. He called the island's government a "basket case" and says the best that the people can hope for there is a government job.
Carlos Guzman is a Democrat who heads the PLC. He said, because of those comments, Oliver should step down.
"Immediately, I just thought 'What was he thinking about?' you know? The brand, I'm talking about the Republican brand, has been damaged like almost every day," said Guzman. "At least with the Hispanics, you know, they don't see how they can relate with the Republican Party at this moment."
Oliver said he has spoken with many Republicans and Hispanics in the county and he does not want to resign. He would prefer to explain his comments and hope it kick-starts a conversation with Hispanics in the community.
"If I have to apologize to the Hispanic community for offending them inadvertently, I am happy to do that."
Oliver says the comments do not reflect on the people of the island, but the conditions there, and other places where Democrats have been in charge for a long time.
"Those same voters have already voted pro-Republican and anti-Democrat with their feet and with their brains, because they moved here. They moved here from places like New York, and Illinois, and Chicago, and Puerto Rico, but also Philadelphia and Detroit and elsewhere, because their kids can't get a decent education in those systems, because they can't get a decent job, and because they don't see a future for themselves and their families," said Oliver. "The point I'm trying to make is, I want them to make that connection. I want them to understand: the decision they already made with their feet and their heads, they need to make with their hearts and in the voting booth."
Oliver has the backing of Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz.
"To tell you the truth, I don't think there was malice behind his comments," said Ortiz. "The question here is, who is the Puerto Rican Leadership Council? Who are they representing? Because a lot of these guys say they are representing the Puerto Rican community, and they're not representing the Puerto Rican community."
We will find out more on Friday about how much Guzman does speak for the Puerto Rican community. He is calling for a noon protest outside the headquarters of the Orange County GOP.
You can read the full comments Oliver made to the Sentinel by clicking here.