Rally of Republican candidates draws thousands, Senator Marco Rubio featured as keynote speaker

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) — Thousands of Republicans hoping for a red wave this fall are motivated to vote with a rally of Republican candidates held in Sarasota on Saturday.

The rally, held at Robarts Arena, featured dozens of local GOP candidates from Sarasota and Manatee counties, as well as some notable speakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Congressman Vern Buchanan.

ABC7 asked voters at the rally what is driving them to the polls for the 2022 midterm elections. Some of them cited issues including inflation, illegal immigration, education and government spending .

Rubio, Saturday’s keynote speaker, addressed many of those concerns when he took the stage and insisted there was a lot at stake this year.

“I can’t remember a time in modern history where the choice was as stark and dramatic as the one we have now,” he told the crowd.

The Florida senator railed against the Biden administration, calling them “radical liberals” responsible for rising gas prices and inflation.

“This is a program controlled by wealthy radical liberals who frankly violate common sense and hurt our country,” Rubio told ABC7 in an exclusive interview after his speech. “They don’t have to deal with the consequences of high gas prices and things like that, but the rest of the country does and we have to reject that.”

Rubio also took aim at cultural clashes, saying Democrats are too zealous in pushing dangerous ideas about race and gender in public schools.

“That it’s a systematically evil and racist country and that the most important thing for each of us is the color of our skin,” Rubio said. “It’s not American and we need to stop using our schools to divide people in this way.”

Congressman Vern Buchanan also took the stage, echoing many of the same concerns.

Buchanan insisted that Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats must be removed from office. He also pledged to fight tax hikes, efforts to defund policing and bolster border security.

“If President Trump was here, those borders would be closed,” Buchanan said. “You lose your country if you can’t control your borders.”

After the rally, ABC7 reached out to Daniel Kuether, the first vice president of Sarasota’s Democratic Party. In our conversation held via zoom call, he pushed back against claims made by Republicans at the rally.

He said Biden is doing his best to heal our economy, but he points out that American businesses and consumers face an uphill battle coming back from the pandemic.

“We are hustling here,” he said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly much better than it could be, and we could certainly be in much worse shape coming out of the Trump administration.”

On other burning issues, like sex and race education and illegal immigration, Kuether said he doesn’t believe these are real issues affecting Floridians. He points out that critical race theory is not a widespread tool in Florida schools and that the state does not receive large influxes of immigrants because our borders are mostly coastal.

Instead, he said Republicans were exaggerating the issues and he thought some of their tactics could be harmful.

Republicans at the rally disagree, insisting that many of the ideological positions of top Democrats should be at the forefront of voters’ minds when they cast their ballots.

The rally lasted four hours, but local Democrats said they did not plan to hold one.

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