Candidate John Ward is running in the GOP primary for Florida's 6th Congressional District, and is drawing scrutiny over comments he made in a video uploaded by an opponent's campaign last week.
Uh-oh. What'd he say?
In the clip, the two candidates are asked by a voter to explain how they would respond to the Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria who have "moved either temporarily or permanently to Florida, when they say that they need more help and that the aid to Puerto Rico is not enough."
Ward responded, "First of all, I don't think they should be allowed to register to vote. It's not lost me on that, I think, the Democrat party's really hoping that they can change the voting registers in a lot of counties and districts, and I don't think they should be allowed to do that."
He continued, "we should be looking to put the Puerto Ricans back in their homes. The idea that they can come to the mainland United States, I don't necessarily have a problem with that, but I think we should be thinking about it in terms of getting them back home and providing the capital and resources to build Puerto Rico, which is, I honestly think, is where they belong."
So, how'd that go over?
The other candidate, Fred Costello, responded that he "absolutely disagree(d)" with Ward, saying, "Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States of America. They have a right to go anywhere in the United States.
Ward took heat from other members of the GOP once his comments were made public. The current 6th District Representative, Ron DeSantis (R), issued a statement on Monday in response to Ward's comments, saying, "Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and any suggestion that they should be treated differently than other Americans is beyond the pale.
"These are our fellow Americans and candidates running for office as Republicans need to be committed to equal treatment under the law for all of our citizens."
Any final words?
In an emailed statement on Tuesday, Ward said, "I stand by what I said. I do not believe the Democrat Party should be able to take advantage of Puerto Rican evacuees fleeing a natural disaster, here on a temporary basis, in order to manipulate voter registration rolls in the run up to the 2018 elections.
"I would welcome any Puerto Rican who wants to permanently resettle in Florida to register to vote here. We're all American citizens together. That said, if a natural disaster displaced me from Florida to some other state temporarily, I'd still want to vote by absentee in FL, my home community and voter registration, and not elsewhere."