Q&A: Senate candidate Marco Rubio
Rubio talks about why he is running, ...
Rubio sounds off
■ On immigration - “I don’t believe that the Republican Party should be the anti-illegal immigration party. They should be the pro-legal immigration party. ... We have an illegal immigration problem. ... Step one is giving the American people assurance that the boarder is secure. Our visa program is also broken. A majority of people who are here illegally entered legally.”
■ On the stimulus and jobs: “The people creating jobs are not senators or congressmen, but government is discouraging the people who are small business owners to do it, with talks of health care mandates, cap and trade laws,” he said. “Who would want to expand their business with that uncertainty looming over them?”
■ On offshore drilling: “I believe we can safely drill without harming the environment. But this question really goes to energy policy. And the fact is, we need to be energy independent. ... We need to invest in new technology that will make us energy independent. And that means having the opportunity to access all of our energy resources.”
■ On Afghanistan: “I do not believe in withdrawing our troops. I believe we need to continue the fight in Afghanistan. We need to provide a level of security so that the tribal leaders will help us. We need to garner support through the locals.”
■ On health care: “We need a vibrant health care market where people can purchase the health care they want at a price they can afford independent of their employers. ... Why shouldn’t we be able to purchase our health insurance like we purchase our auto insurance?
NAPLES — Republican senatorial candidate Marco Rubio thinks the title of senator sounds nice.
But that’s not why he’s running.
He wants to serve.
“I chose to run for this office because I believe the American people are headed in the wrong direction,” he said. “And I think I am the only candidate out there that is offering a viable alternative.”
Rubio spent his first major campaign swing through Naples on Monday spreading this message to everyone from children to veterans during stops as diverse as The Community School of Naples, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and VFW Post 7721.
“There are easier things to do than run against the incumbent governor of your own party from your state,” he said to laughs at the VFW. “I am glad that you are here today. I am glad that you are supporting me. It inspires me greatly.”
Rubio, the former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, is seeking the Republican nomination for the seat held by Mel Martinez, who is stepping down. In the primary, he is running against Gov. Charlie Crist, who is overwhelmingly beating Rubio in statewide polls and money-raising.
But the contest is drawing national attention as the highest-profile example of the moderate vs. conservative battle within the GOP.
Rubio said he believes that is true, but also believes there is a deeper analysis to be made.
“There is a debate going on in the Republican party in America,” he said. “Some believe it should be more like the Democratic Party. I don’t think we need two Democratic parties. We need a viable alternative to the Democrats in Washington.”
Still, he relishes the competition with Crist.
“The essence of this race ... is to send people to Washington that you can count on. ... Everyone I am running against has supported (President Barack Obama’s) agenda in one way or another. And I have the pictures to prove it,” he said to laughs at the VFW.
John Knowles, director of external affairs at Ave Maria School of Law, said he sees Rubio as the promise of a new generation of Republican leaders for the state and the nation.
“There are rare leadership qualities that he possesses,” said Knowles, who organized a meet and greet for Rubio at Sam Snead’s Tavern in North Naples. “He is the son of immigrants. ... He worked to pass bold initiatives in the House. He is just a stand-out. He is bold, he is courageous.”
When asked why he would speak to a crowd of Community School of Naples students, Rubio said the students are the core and essence of what he is talking about.
“The consequences of all of this deficit spending are going to come to light when you are my age. When I go out and talk about that, I am talking about you,” he said. “If we don’t address some of the issues we’re facing now, you will be the first Americans to inherit a diminished country.”
Rubio said he hopes his message resonates with voters in Southwest Florida and across the state.
“At the end of the day, I hope you never have to vote for me because you dislike the other person. I am not running this race because I think other people are evil or mean,” he said. “I am running because I know I can stand up to this agenda.”