Victor-Torres
Image via Desirée Tapia

As a Floricua, Torres is aware of the issues affecting Boricuas and Latinos in the state. He lists “the lack of good paying jobs, finding affordable housing and health care, and getting kids a good education,” as some of the reasons to “change who is the governor in 2022.”

According to the great Black educator Booker T. Washington, “character is power.” That sentiment is even more relevant in Florida’s political arena, when so much is on the line, from voting rights to racial equity. But apart from election season hoopla and the hyperbole associated with political campaigns, what do you know about the character of the people running for office?

In the case of Sen. Victor (Vic) Torres, Jr., a Boricua Democrat representing south Orange and north Osceola counties, you need to look no further than the facts of his life.

A COMMITTED FAMILY ADVOCATE

Torres, the son of a Greyhound employee and a factory worker, is a retired police detective from New York City. He is also a Marine Corps veteran who worked as a school bus driver in Central Florida before deciding to run for the state house. Married for over 25 years to wife Carmen, with whom he has five children, Torres, who hails from Ponce, says his activism in community affairs got him into politics. “Florida families need a champion who understands their struggles and puts them first,” is his motto. That is, he said, “because I never forgot where I came from.”

And this is no mere political rhetoric. When Progress Florida and Florida Watch unveiled the 2021 “People First” Report Card grading lawmakers on many of the most prominent floor votes cast during the 2021 legislative session, which considered votes on affordable housing, health care, public schools, voting rights, reproductive freedom, and clean energy and water, Torres was one of a group of Florida House and Senate members earning an “A” for his pro-family voting record.

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A VOICE FOR FLORICUAS AND LATINOS

As a Floricua himself, Torres is keenly aware of the issues affecting Floricuas and Latinos in the state. He listed “the lack of good paying jobs, finding affordable housing, finding health care, getting kids a good education,” among them. And these, Torres told Floricua, are not being addressed by the current state administration.

“I feel that the leadership in this state has done one thing, and that is to prevent our community from growing more,” he said. “The mentality is ‘Tú eres hispano’. They don’t realize that as Puerto Ricans, we are Americans.”

According to Torres, this is not new.  “This is 20 years of Republican control. It’s all about power, about who controls the budget. The governor has a large leeway on how he uses these funds. We have agencies that are overworked, understaffed, and underpaid, who can’t do the job [because they are not getting the funds]. It’s depriving our communities from the help they need.”

This is of paramount importance to Floridians, said Torres, because “there are billions of federal dollars that are going to be coming into Florida from Biden’s Build Back Better plan, and [state Republicans] are going to control it. How is that money going to trickle into our counties, cities, and schools to improve the lives of everyday Floridians, especially in our Hispanic communities?” questions Torres, who has been working for almost a decade for Medicaid expansion, which the state has not accepted. “Yo lo dudo.”

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His advice to the people: “Look to see what [money] is coming from the White House, from the Congress.” As an example, he cites that the state of Florida has 46 billion dollars to help those facing evictions. “But last time I looked, it had only used 2%.”

To those who ignore these facts, it appears as if the Biden administration is not taking care of the people, while, in reality, it is the state which withholds the money meant to alleviate Floridians by providing affordable housing, expanding Medicaid, providing a good education, and raising unemployment benefits, among other issues affecting Floridians.

‘UNIDOS SOMOS MÁS FUERTES’

To counter this, Torres said Floridians need to understand that “en la unión está la fuerza.”

“We need to get together. Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Costa Ricans, Venezuelans… Todos los latinos. We need to stand together. We need to vote. Vote with your heart, with compassion. We can change who is the governor in 2022. We have that power,” said Torres, who is running for reelection in 2022.

“You need to vote out the people who are making your life miserable, who are making your life tough. I’m here to represent you. I’m here to fight for you.”