Democrat Andrew Korge is a third-generation Miamian with Greek roots. But he’s running for a Florida state Senate district where the majority of voters are Hispanic.
So Korge seized on a Spanish-language radio interview this week to show off his Latino cred. He introduced himself in Spanish, saying he speaks only “a little” of the language, “but I love Hispanics and Latinos.” He Hispanicized his last name, pronouncing it “CORE-hay.” He claimed his friends call him “El Gordo.”
And then he dropped the name of his Republican opponent, Sen. Anitere Flores, in the same sentence as “Arizona-style immigration bill” and “Donald Trump.”
“She proposed an Arizona-style immigration bill in 2011. Donald Trump supports that bill,” Korge told Zeta 92.3 FM’s Ahora con Oscar Haza on Monday, noting his mother immigrated to the U.S from Greece. “Whether you are a Latino or griego, that is a crazy bill that no one should ever propose.”
But Korge is distorting Flores’ record. While it’s true she sponsored a 2011 Senate immigration bill, it was well-known at the time that she did so to make sure the legislation would not be like the Arizona crackdown that allowed cops to ask for papers.
Flores’ position so upset then-Senate President Mike Haridopolos that he ended up yanking the bill from her hands. She ultimately voted against it.
“I have no problem defending my record. I do have a problem with people distorting my record and in this case saying something that is a blatant lie,” Flores said. “Had it not been me the one that was involved in this issue in the beginning, we would have maybe ended up with an Arizona law. The reason we didn’t is we said no, we’re going to deal with this issue delicately.”
All that did was give Senate Republicans cover to say their immigration proposal was fair because a Hispanic was behind it, Korge countered.
"It sounds like political spin to me,” he said. “She knows she was wrong.”
Haridopolos planned to run for the U.S. Senate in 2012 and wanted a tea-party back immigration bill like the one that Republican Gov. Rick Scott had endorsed during his 2010 campaign. When Flores didn’t deliver, Haridopolos made JD Alexander, the Senate budget chief, sponsor a similar version of the House bill on the Senate floor instead.
“I remember sitting in his office and telling him, 'Listen, Mike, the Senate bill as is as comfortable as I feel going. Anything more that we do will have the incredibly negative effect of giving people around the country the idea that we are anti-immigrant, which we knew at the time meant menat solely anti-Hispanic, and I can't be a part of that,’” Flores said. “The bill was unceremoniously removed from me."
After an emotional debate, all three Miami Republicans – Flores and Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami and René García of Hialeah – voted against it. In another surprising move, so did Alexander. The bill failed.
But explaining in politics means losing, and even in 2011, Flores drew attack ads suggesting she was “anti-Hispanic” for taking part in the legislation. Korge is repeating that claim.
“To say I’m anti-Hispanic is not just insulting – I think it’s a sad sign of how he’s going to run a campaign,” said Flores, who is facing a competitive re-election race in a newly redrawn, Democratic-leaning district. “He’s saying that he’s an immigrant? I mean, come on. Let’s not play that card. Let’s not play this game.”