In April, Florida congressional candidate John Ward said that he didn’t believe that Puerto Rican hurricane evacuees should be allowed to register to vote in Florida. After these comments resulted in controversy, Ward clarified that he believes Puerto Ricans are U.S. Citizens (they are) and that they should be allowed to vote in Florida if they register there as permanent residents (they can). A former Green Beret named Michael Waltz is running for the same congressional seat and has repeatedly condemned Ward; Waltz is now calling for him to withdraw from the race.
At the April 23rd event at the Mount Dora Republican Club, Ward and fellow GOP candidate Fred Costello were queried: “A lot of Puerto Ricans have moved either temporarily or permanently to Florida. How do you respond to them when they say that they need more help and that the aid to Puerto Rico is not enough?” Ward started his response by saying “First of all, I don’t think they should be allowed to register to vote. And it’s not lost on me that, I think, the Democratic Party is really hoping that they can change the voting in a lot of counties and districts. And I don’t think they should be allowed to do that.”
Mike Waltz, who is also running against Ward and Costello to replace Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, has again voiced his opinion that Ward should withdraw from the race. “There is no place for politician John Ward in this or any campaign and that’s why I’m calling on him to withdraw his candidacy immediately. I urge fellow Republicans to join the chorus of conservative leaders in Florida to do the same.”
Mike Waltz added, “As a Green Beret Commander who served multiple combat tours overseas, it’s outrageous to me that politician John Ward would say certain American citizens shouldn’t be able to vote in our country.”
Both Ward and Waltz are military veterans, with Ward serving in Naval Intelligence and Waltz serving as a Special Forces officer in the United States Army. Waltz called this out in his condemnation of Ward’s comments when he said “In combat, no matter where we came from, we all served under the same flag and fought to ensure we all had the same rights. For John Ward to suggest otherwise makes him unfit to serve.”
“Candidates running for office as Republicans need to be committed to equal treatment under the law for all of our citizens,” said Republican Representative Ron DeSantis
For his part, Ward stands by his original comments. In a statement, he wrote “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 Florida, my home community and voter registration, and not elsewhere.”