Add Rep. Juan Zapata to the list of Miami state legislators interested in the Congressional seat that Mario Diaz Balart is leaving to run for his brother Lincoln Diaz-Balart's seat. So far, it looks like Senate Republican leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla is going to run. Miami Rep. David Rivera is strongly considering it.
What makes Zapata different: He isn't Cuban-American, he's of Colombian descent. Big parts of District 25 are known as "Little Colombia." Also, Zapata might not run as a Republican at all. Zapata said, however, that he still hasn't decided whether to seek the Congressional office. One consultant familiar with the district said Zapata is force to be reckoned with because he's known for working hard in his legislative district.
Zapata said "the extreme right wing" of the Republican Party is becoming so anti-immigrant that it makes it tough for conservatives like him to stay in the party.
"I'm a fiscal conservative, a social moderate and I'm not anti-immigrant," Zapata said. "If the angry wing of my party gets involved because of that, I might have no choice. This district is one of the largest non-Cuban Hispanic districts in the state. There are many independents. And they're not happy with some of the rhetoric that comes out of the party."
Yes, Zapata said, he supports counting "undocumented" residents in the census. And no, he doesn't support building an anti-immigrant wall out West. "I'm a Ronald Reagan conservative. Remember, he actually supported an amnesty program and I don't support blanket amnesty. Wasn't it Reagan who told Gorbachev 'tear down this wall,' but now 20 years later we're building one?"