Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló endorses Florida Democrats Nelson, Gillum

Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló endorsed Senator Bill Nelson (D.Fla.) for re-election and Florida’s gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Monday, giving both Democrats a boost as they court the state’s growing Puerto Rican population.

The announcements took place in Orlando and Kissimmee respectively, regions that are considered the heart of the state’s Puerto Rican communities.

“I am proud to say that I am endorsing Bill Nelson for, once again, being the senator of Florida and helping represent the people of Puerto Rico,” said Rosselló at Nelson’s campaign office in Orlando.

 
 

Rosselló referenced Nelson’s work to help Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program avoid bankruptcy, his efforts to secure additional funding for the island’s recovery after Hurricane Maria through the Community Development Block Grant program and other federal food assistance programs in the wake of the storm.

Rosselló’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.

Nearly two hours after endorsing Senator Nelson in Orlando, Rosselló headed to Kissimmee to endorse Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, for his gubernatorial race against Republican U.S. Rep. Ron SeDantis. Gillum would be the state’s first African American governor.

 

“Truly honored to have Ricardo Rosselló’s endorsement in this race,” Gillum tweeted.

During his endorsement message in Orlando, Rosselló did not talk down Nelson’s opponent Florida Governor Rick Scott (R. Fla) who in the wake of Hurricane Maria assisted Puerto Rico with relief efforts and programs to help the thousands of Puerto Ricans that were consequently displaced to Florida after Maria.

“This was a tough decision for us,” said Rosselló. “Governor Scott has also been a friend.”

But Rosselló said, “I believe in Bill Nelson.”

 

After Rosselló’s endorsement of Nelson, Scott touted his own support from the Puerto Rican community, saying that “helping Puerto Rico has never been about politics — it is about helping the island recover and ensuring every family displaced to Florida has the resources they need to succeed.”

He also called Rosselló “a friend” and pledged his commitment to “continue to work with him in any way I can to support Puerto Rican families both in Florida and on the island.”

Scott also counts with the endorsement of other Puerto Rican officials such as Jenniffer González Colón, Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress, and the island’s secretary of state Luis G. Rivera Marín.

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.”

Other current and former Puerto Rican officials such as former Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and Rosselló’s father, former Governor Pedro Rosselló endorsed Senator Nelson for his re-election.

 

More than 1.1 million Puerto Ricans already live in Florida and, according to POLITICO, as many as 500,000 of them could already be registered to vote.

Over 56,000 Puerto Ricans relocated to Florida following Hurricane Maria, according to the most recent data from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York. Many settled in Central Florida, mainly in the Orlando area.

A judge recently ordered 32 Florida counties to provide election materials and assistance to Spanish-speaking voters ahead of the midterm elections in November, particularly Puerto Rican voters who have moved from the island and can register to vote since they are born U.S. citizens.

 

This article originally appeared on  NBC