Val Demings Tours Cuban-American Businesses, Connects with Latino Voters in Tampa

TAMPA – On Saturday, Rep. Val Demings, former Orlando Police Chief and candidate for the U.S. Senate, visited Tampa. Rep. Demings toured Cuban-American-owned businesses in West Tampa, talked to Latino voters, and serenaded a patron on her 93rd birthday.

Here’s what they’re saying about Val Demings’ visit to Tampa…

Florida Politics: Val Demings stops by West Tampa Cuban cafe, talks Latino vote, sings happy birthday, By Daniel Figueroa IV

Bella Canasi has had a lot of birthdays. Saturday was her 93rd.

And like most Saturdays, the Cuban-born Canasi who’s lived in Tampa since 1961, sat a long table in West Tampa’s Arco Iris Restaurant & Cafe with her family, sometimes five generations of them, for some cafe con leche, tostada cubano, huevos con salchicha and maybe a few plantanos.

But this year, she got a special serenade as well. “All right, are we doing this?” Orlando-area U.S. Representative and Democratic Senate candidate Val Demings asked. “We’re doing this together.”

Then, Demings and state Sen. Janet Cruz, standing just behind her, leaned into Canasi and sang the Happy Birthday song as the great-great grandmother looked up smiling.

​​The Arco Iris stop was Demings’ first in West Tampa and part of a day spent in the Bay Area that featured planned meetings with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Mayor-elect of St. Petersburg Ken Welch. The trip culminated in an evening campaign event for Cruz.

But Demings said she’s confident she can reach the oft-socialist wary Cubans and Venezuelans who’ve moved further right, along with the more moderate, left leaning Latino groups like Puerto Ricans. Demings said her experience as a social worker and law enforcement officer for 27 years allowed her to learn how to communicate with varied communities.

And as far as Canasi is concerned, Demings can count on at least one vote from a Cuban.

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