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Florida’s Junior Senator

PETER O’CONNOR
Contributing Columnist
oconnor@lbknews.com

Marco Rubio served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2008 and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. His committee assignments currently include Commerce, Science and Transportation; Foreign Relations; Intelligence; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He and his wife, Jeanette, have four young children and live in West Miami. (www.rubio.senate.gov)

Just over a year ago I read about our junior U.S. senator in his memoir.  I commented on that reading, and on my opinion as it changed  during my summer study.  A lot has developed in that passing year.  Certainly our senator has continued to command more of the news.  I’ll quote myself from last year for these pages to set the stage for this piece.

“While spending a lazy summer week in Massachusetts I finished Marco Rubio’s book. It is a memoir as advertised on its dust jacket. My earliest political comments for this column two years ago were positive on Rubio. I saw him early on at a Republican function in Sarasota. As I read of his life, I’ll admit my opinion faltered just a bit. His concentration on his Cuban roots may have turned me off. I read on, to be impressed again by our now junior senator. His is a compelling story of a modern American — perhaps a different American than we are used to. I suspect that we should all get used to the differences. As I wrote in that early piece for these pages we should keep an eye on Rubio.” (PO’C – LBK NEWS August 2012)

I’ve been following Rubio for a while now.  I was not surprised to see, and read a cover story locally on him recently.  The cover story in PARADE, distributed  with The Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Sunday  9/8/13 leads with a family photo and, “The Rubios Modern Family.  Senator Marco Rubio and his wife, Jeanette, are juggling four kids, a commuter marriage, and possible White House dreams.” Then inside,

“Meet the rising star of the Republican Party: a Cuban – American, Roman Catholic Gen Xer with four young kiids, a passion for football, and a powerful drive to advance what his parents couldn’t,” by Galina Espinoza.

Rubio, at 42, has moved from a Florida city commission to the U.S. Senate in 12 years.  Espinoza continues, “This spring Rubio took the biggest calculated risk of his political career when he helped steer comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate.  He was criticized  by his conservative base for flip-flopping on the issue (during his 2010 Senate run, he’d earned Tea Party support by opposing an earned path to citizenship), but Rubio defends his change of heart.

Despite Rubio’s leadership, the Senate bill failed to find support among many of his fellow Republicans in the House, and it’s unclear what will happen to immigration reform this fall.”

The Parade piece adds, “A Quinnipiac University ‘thermometer’ poll taken in August to measure voters’ attitudes toward the nation’s major political figures found the charismatic and youthful Rubio ranked third among Republican voters, after Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz.  The results make Rubio someone to watch as the 2016 presidential race shapes up.”

I recall writing this same thing here in the NEWS in 2010.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, points out that Rubio must convince non-Hispanics that he represents their issues, too; “Rubio won’t run as a Latino candidate, he’s going to run as an American.”  Hopefully, that says it all.

Ms. Espinoza continues, “ Rubio earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, then went on to the University of Miami School of Law.  After graduating with more than $100,000 in student loans, which he finally paid off in 2012, Rubio planned to become a really good lawyer and stayed engaged politically.  He was serving as a commissioner of his small city of West Miami (“He jokes it’s like a condominium board without the power”) when Florida called a special election for an empty seat in the House of Representatives in 2000.”

I like the condo board analogy.

“By 2006, Rubio became the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House, a distinction that caught the eye of top Republicans, including Jeb Bush, Florida’s governor at the time.”  Bush backed Rubio in his senate run.  These meteoric rises in Florida politics are, in my view, partially due to Florida’s term limits.

On language, Jeanette Rubio says that they are attempting to teach their children Spanish.  Although both Rubios grew up speaking it at home, they speak English to each other.  “It’s our first language now,” she says.

The Rubios have a 24-foot fishing boat, which they like to use for trips to the Florida Keys.  Their Miami home is on the market with the goal of moving to Washington.  Marco hopes to then be able to go home to his family at night.  “My most important job isn’t senator.  It’s father,” he says.

I was impressed with Marco Rubio that hot day in a hall in Sarasota three years ago.  I said so then.  Florida can be the breeding ground of a President.  We’ll see.

No US Presidents (nor Vice Presidents) were born in Florida. No US presidents have held office in Florida nor had Florida as their primary residence but John Kennedy’s family had a winter home in Florida and he spent time down there while he was growing up and later. There has never even been a major party candidate from Florida so far.         (WikiAnswers)

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