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Politics / Issues

Some Latinos in Tampa Agree with Republican Ideals

The I-4 corridor is the main hub of swing voters in Florida. It also has a strong Hispanic presence - a majority of whom tend to support Democrats.

But some Latinos from Tampa are on board with the Republican agenda.

One of those Latinos is Ed Gonzalez. He's a pediatric dentist in Tampa with Italian and Spanish roots. It's a fairly common combination in a city where many people are descendants of immigrant cigar makers who came here in the late 1800's.

Gonzalez says that when he first began his practice 37 years ago, he received a piece of advice from an older dentist that helps paint a picture of his political beliefs.

"He says, 'In all the years that  I've been a pediatric dentist I've never found that my business was diminished as a result of the economy because people would always be able to do for their kids before they did for themselves.' "

Gonzalez saw that to be true until the recession hit in 2009. That’s when he saw parents having difficulties bringing their children in to his office.

Gonzalez says there's a basic difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to spending.

"I think that like any business man, you can't pay for something, you cut,'' he says. "You don’t raise your fees to your patients, you cut your overhead. And that’s what I see the difference being."

"In the Republican party, we’re trying to cut the overhead,'' Gonzalez says. "In the Democratic party, they’re trying to raise the fees. So that’s why I’m going to be voting Republican this year."

Tampa resident Evelio 'E.J.' Otero agrees with this viewpoint. Otero is Cuban-Puerto Rican and a retired Air Force colonel.

"I believe in living within your means, spend the money that you have. We would like to promise our children a Ferrari in the driveway, but you can’t - you have to live within your means," he says, "The same thing should be applied to the government."

Otero is running for a U.S. Congress seat this year*. He says after he retired, he started to see the problems that exist in Tampa's Latino and African-American communities.

"It is not that you can put all the blame on the president,'' Otero says. "It has been depressed for 30 years. There hasn’t been any growth. And when I look at the congressional dollars that have been coming to Tampa, total mismanagement. There is no oversight and I think it’s irresponsible."

Tampa was hit hard when the housing bubble burst. The construction and real estate industries haven’t recovered.  Tourism, small businesses and service jobs are the base of the economy and the unemployment rate still is slightly higher than the national average.

Otero says Tampa has the resources to turn itself around. One of those resources is the people themselves - a vibrant mixture of Latino cultures.

"You do have the Cuban -- absolutely, you have the Puerto Rican -- absolutely, almost even, but you also have a very rich participation of Colombian, Nicaraguan, Salvadorian, Mexican, Guatemalan, everything," he says.

"It is more of a microcosm of the country of the Hispanic representation across the country," says Otero, who believes the Republican National Convention will be an economic boon to Tampa - though a temporary one.

As for Gonzalez, he has canceled all appointments in his Tampa office for now; convention traffic will make it too difficult for his employees to get there.

*Previous version incorrectly stated Otero is running for state legislature.