POLL/PHOTOS: Marco Rubio touts free enterprise at Coconut Point in Estero

Art Garrison of Naples hangs a Rubio 2010 sign before Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio spoke during his Reclaim America TownHall on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at Pagelli's Italiano in Estero.

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Art Garrison of Naples hangs a Rubio 2010 sign before Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio spoke during his Reclaim America TownHall on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at Pagelli's Italiano in Estero.

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— More than 200 people cheerfully welcomed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio to Estero on Saturday.

Rubio told the crowd at Pagelli’s Italiano at Coconut Point mall the November election is much more than a choice of competing candidates.

“This election is literally a referendum of our identity as a people and our identity as a country,” Rubio said.

The crowd cheered.

Rubio, who served as the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, said this election is about moving forward. Rubio affirmed his stance to reclaim America’s future by supporting America’s free enterprise and entrepreneurs, not what he referred to as the anti-job creation economic policies coming out of Washington.

Rubio said more people need to understand big corporations don’t need big government.

“Big government hurts the people that are trying to make it,” Rubio said.

After a 15-minute speech, Rubio received a standing ovation and cheers.

“We are excited about coming out today,” Dave Lyons, 72, said.

“I think this Senate race in Florida might be one of the most important in the country this November.”

Lyons said Rubio has been consistent with what he stands for, including Rubio’s stance on health care and smaller government and he believes Rubio will truly represent the people of Florida.

Fort Myers resident Lyons attended the event with his wife, Georgine, 70. Saturday was the first time they met Rubio in person. The Republican couple said they could trust Rubio in office.

Among other voters who arrived early to assure a good seat were Cape Coral residents Nancy Johnson and her daughter, Tracey Cook.

“I just think that we need some new blood and he is the best choice,” Johnson, 71, said.

Johnson added that she likes that Rubio is young with a lot of energy and a conservative, similar to her.

Both Johnson and Cook plan to vote for Rubio in November.

The meet-and-greet town hall meeting at Pagelli’s Italiano was Rubio’s second stop of the day. He had been in Broward County earlier Saturday and was scheduled to visit a gun show in Lee Civic Center in Fort Myers after Estero.

Rubio is squaring off against Gov. Charlie Crist, an independent, and Kendrick Meek, a Democrat.

Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel/

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