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ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) – Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello endorsed incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for governor on Monday.
Gov. Rossello said at a news conference that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott “are two great people running for office.” He called it a tough decision between two supporters of the island during a challenging year.
But Rossello said he’s going with Nelson because of the senator’s longstanding support for Puerto Rican equality when it comes to federal benefits, and his support for statehood for the island.
Rossello’s endorsement could sway some of the tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have moved to Florida in the year since Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
Later in the day, Rossello endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in his race against Republican U.S. Rep. Ron SeDantis.
Rossello said that he is impressed with Gillum’s energy and his support for Puerto Rican equality when it comes to getting federal benefits.
Both Nelson and Scott have courted the votes of Puerto Ricans, and Rossello said he was grateful for Scott’s visits and aid to the island.
“In no way, should one take this as a negative toward somebody. It’s a positive for somebody,” said Rossello after the news conference in Orlando. “This might fall on deaf ears but we need to steer away from, in every contest, to see who the villain is and who the superhero is. In many cases, we have fine folks running for office.”
About 20 Puerto Rican supporters of Scott protested outside in Orlando, waving Puerto Rican flags and signs that said, “Rossello Ungrateful” and “Do Nothing Nelson.”
Miriam Ramirez, a former senator in Puerto Rico who is a Republican, said Rossello should have stayed neutral in the race. She is backing Scott.
“I’m very, very disturbed our governor is now supporting a Democrat publicly,” Ramirez said. “He had promised he wouldn’t get involved. He’s gotten involved so we’re getting involved.”
Also, former President Barack Obama endorsed Gillum and Nelson through a tweet:
Today, I’m proud to endorse even more Democratic candidates who aren’t just running against something, but for something—to expand opportunity for all of us and to restore dignity, honor, and compassion to public service. They deserve your vote: pic.twitter.com/NO5jnhX3XD
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 1, 2018
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)