Photo: Oz Vazquez Campaign
Photo courtesy of the Oz Vazquez Campaign

Oz Vazquez wants to challenge key Florida issues amid a healthcare crisis

This election cycle is personal for Vazquez, as Florida grapples with a COVID-19 crisis that has disproportionately affected Latinos



Oz Vazquez is running in Florida’s 18th Congressional District as the only Democratic Latino candidate running as a challenger in the state. His district is one that has a history of switching parties during every presidential election.

Florida’s 18th congressional seat is currently held by Republican Brian Mast. Vazquez is looking to change that.

Florida, along with Texas and Arizona is one of the largest battleground states in the nation, and a large part of that label is rooted in the potential Latino vote.

All eyes are on Florida’s current leadership, and Florida’s abysmal COVID-19 response, especially Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s approval rating has taken a nosedive in recent weeks.

Latinx leaders like Vazquez are not staying silent, openly criticizing Florida’s COVID-19 response, as his demographic has been the hardest-hit on multiple fronts.

Healthcare in general has been a central focus of Vazquez’s campaign since it launched last year, and he quickly garnered the support from coalitions like the CHC BOLD PAC.

“The coronavirus has raised those stakes dramatically,” Vazquez told AL DÍA News.

“In my district, like in so many others, Hispanic and African-American families are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. And the economic cost is only increasing,” he continued.

Across the nation, Latinx families are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. As the U.S. death toll has surpassed 150,000, Latinos and Native Americans continue to be the most affected. 

Over 25,800 Latinos have been killed by the virus, and this doesn’t account for unreported tests and faulty tracking systems. The virus “now accounts for 1 out of every 5 deaths among Hispanics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Reports the Washington Post.

Vazquez knows the importance of healthcare, and the devastating cost — especially today, of not being able to get aid.

“My parents were immigrants — my mom from Colombia, and my dad from Cuba,” he said.. 

“Growing up here in Port Saint Lucie, my family relied on Medicare when my dad got sick. He drove a taxi and had to stop driving for health reasons. If it hadn’t been for Medicare (and Social Security), I would never have had the chance to live the American Dream,” Vazquez said.

He worked his way through high school and college, and eventually made his way to Harvard Law. But Vazquez says he will never forget his family and background that is at the root of it all.

“I'd be the first Colombian-American elected to Congress from Florida and only the second Cuban-American Democrat. I'd also be one of only a very few Representatives with first-hand experience living on a fixed income,” he said.

During these times, and especially more pertinent in Florida, Vazquez says people like him are needed who can contribute real-life perspectives to Congress.

“That’s why I’m running for Congress,” Vazquez said. “ I am determined to make sure everyone's family has access to quality, affordable care. I'll be an advocate for seniors and working families, for everyone struggling to get by, and communities whose voices have been ignored by current leadership.”

He will face fellow Democrat Pam Keith on Aug. 18, in the Democratic primary.


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