WASHINGTON -- An exclusive Spectrum News 13 exclusive Decision 2018 poll found Hispanic voters are more likely to support incumbent Congressman Darren Soto over former Congressman Alan Grayson in the Florida House 9 Democratic primary this month.
- Democratic primary for Florida House District 9
- Alan Grayson vs. incumbent Darren Soto
- New Spectrum News 13 exclusive Decision 2018 poll shows Soto over Grayson
- WEDNESDAY: See the candidates in a LIVE debate on Spectrum News 13 at 7 p.m.
- DECISION 2018 VOTING GUIDE: Candidate information, FAQs, county resources, more
The poll found 54 percent of Hispanic voters are likely to support Rep. Darren Soto and 31 percent are likely to support Alan Grayson.
The contest in Florida's 9th Congressional District is heating up with both candidates targeting the Hispanic community, one of the key demographics in this district. Originally drawn to encompass a large part of Central Florida's Hispanic community, this bloc of voters is rapidly growing in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
"You have this long list of things that we’ve been working on and continue to work on," Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, said in an appearance on Spectrum's Political Connections. "I led the charge to make sure that water and food was not denied to the island," he said.
Soto is the first Florida congressman of Puerto Rican descent. He says he's been at the forefront of efforts to help Hurricane Maria evacuees by working to extend temporary housing and improve the island's power grid.
"Hurricane Maria then was a big wake up call. It led to the longest blackout in US history since we've had power," Rep. Soto said in testimony during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing in late July.
This year alone, the organization Mi Familia Vota registered 20 thousand Latinos-- Like Rosas to vote. More than half of those folks are of Puerto Rican descent, especially due to the influx of islanders who evacuated because of Hurricane Maria.
Esteban Garces,National Operations Director for Mi Familia Vota, said that influx will have an impact on the results of this election.
“From what we have been seeing in the community, it looks like the Puerto Rican vote is definitely lining themselves with congressman Soto, because they feel a representation with Congressman Soto that they don’t have with Congressman Grayson,” Garces said.
However, Alan Grayson, who once represented this district, frames Soto's involvement differently.
"There's been two tragedies for Puerto Rico this year. One has been the hurricane, and the other is the failure of certain leaders to do anything to make lives better," Grayson said in an interview on Spectrum's Political Connections in May.
Grayson says Soto could have done more in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria to secure federal funding.
“It took much longer for Congress, where Darren serves, to vote for aid for Puerto Rico than it did for Texas or for Florida. Who's fault is that?" he exclaimed.
Maria Pia Rosas, an undecided voter in Central Florida, said she will be casting her ballot for the candidate who better serves her community.
“I don't care if you’re Democrat or Republican -- I back up the candidate with a platform that encompasses the economy, wellbeing, sociability and security,” Rosas said.
The Spectrum News 13 Decision 2018 Congressional poll found Hispanic voters account for about 39 percent of the district's population and make up about 29 percent of likely voters in District 9. If Hispanic voters resonate with Grayson's "impeach Trump" rhetoric more than they resonate with the work Soto has done for Huricane Maria evacuees and Puerto Rico, Grayson may advance to the November election.
The two Democrats will face off in a Decision 2018 Congressional Debate on Spectrum News 13 at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday night.
Reporter Stephanie Bechara contributed to this report.