South Florida Sun-Sentinel
September 29, 2004

Democratic advocacy group wooing Miami's Cuban vote

By Tania Valdemoro
Miami Bureau

Miami · A nationwide Democratic Party advocacy group on Tuesday announced the launch of several television ads aimed at Cuban-Americans, considered a pivotal voting bloc in Florida.

The ads, part of a $1 million effort, begin airing in Miami this week on the Telemundo and Univision Spanish-language networks and aim to speak Cuban-Americans about jobs, health insurance and prescription drugs -- key issues identified by the New Democrat Network. A separate Internet ad critical of President Bush's policies will also be launched this week.

In a community where local, state and national elections have long focused on the political situation in Cuba, the discussion of domestic issues rather than U.S.-Cuba relations is intended to show Cuban-Americans the Democrats can address their needs.

"The truth is, Cuban-Americans are tremendously important for this election," said Joe Garcia, the group's senior adviser in Florida. "This is a huge group that is looking for solutions. The Democratic Party has to put them out there so it can be a competitive majority party for this cycle."

Sharon Castillo, a spokeswoman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said the president has a strong presence in the Cuban-American community based on "his principled and consistent work on behalf of the people of Cuba and the peaceful transition to democracy."

Castillo also said the Bush campaign was addressing other issues. "We are talking to all Floridians about Medicare, national security, economic security and tax relief for families," she said, noting that campaign has spent $3.5 million on television and radio ads in Spanish, including ones that will be launched in Florida this week.

The Democratic ads resonated with Julian Martinez, 63, a Democrat from Kendall and retired Army veteran, who complained that medicine was costly and his veteran benefits had been cut.

Sixto Gonzalez, 59, an undecided Republican from Miami, said he thought the ads might convince Cuban-Americans to consider voting for the Democrats.

"We need a lot of things here done for the people," Gonzalez said. "The Republicans also talk about job creation and better health insurance on television. But there is hardly no change from four years ago that I see. I want change, either from Bush or Kerry."

Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, who has appeared in earlier ads launched by the New Democrat Network, said it was time for Cuban-Americans to acknowledge how Democrats have helped them.

"Those social programs and all those centers, those are the creations of the Democratic Party," he said. "Do not be afraid to tell people who you are going to vote for if you are going to vote for a Democrat."

Tania Valdemoro can be reached at or 305-810-5006.

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