ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A woman who fled Puerto Rico after the earthquakes. An independent pharmacist. A Hong Kong democracy activist. They are just a few of the people invited to accompany members of Florida’s congressional delegation to the State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Members of the House and Senate often send a message through their choice of a guest for the speech — though sometimes the invitee just happens to be a lucky friend or family member.
Here’s a look at who members of Florida’s congressional delegation invited and the message they say they wanted to send. If a Congress member isn’t listed, he or she didn’t respond to an inquiry.
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was bringing Florida Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nunez and Uyghur human rights activist Rushan Abbas, who has raised awareness about the plight of Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China.
Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott invited Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law, the founding chair of a youth activist group and a former Hong Kong lawmaker currently in graduate school at Yale. Scott called Law “an inspiration in the fight for freedom.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho of Gainesville was hosting a longtime friend. Irvin Gleim, a University of Florida emeritus professor, wrote a popular CPA prep book and has also written pilot training books.
Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz of northeast Florida was taking his 15-year-old daughter, Anderson.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy invited 17-year-old high school student Mimi Chen, who won an essay contest sponsored by the central Florida congresswoman about the importance of youth civic engagement.
Without wanting to identify the staffer, a spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey said the Space Coast congressman was inviting “a longtime employee of House of Representatives who has loyally served members of both sides for many years.” The House staffer had never attended a State of the Union address, despite his years working at the Capitol.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto invited Jessica Carrillo, a woman who fled to central Florida after the recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico. The Orlando-area congressman said he had asked Carrillo “as a reminder that our fellow Americans are relying on us to do better.”
Saying she wanted to focus on health care costs, Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando invited Orlando City Commissioner Bakari Burns, who runs a community health center for homeless people.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg invited 19-year-old diabetes advocate Taylor McKenny. Crist wants to highlight legislation that would cut the price of insulin for patients with diabetes.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa said she wanted to stand with a champion of the environment and invited former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy, now the CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Two Sarasota-area lawmakers were bringing their spouses. Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Steube was taking his wife, Jennifer, and Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan invited his wife, Sandy.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach said she asked Annette Mayer, who works at a local independent pharmacy, to be her guest in order to highlight “skyrocketing” prescription drug costs.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from South Florida, invited 15-year-old Emily Kaufman, who has diabetes. The congresswoman wanted to spotlight legislation that would try to reduce the costs of drugs by getting rid of a ban on Medicare negotiating directly with drug companies.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton invited Alan Brown, a quadriplegic who has been an advocate for medical care for people living with paralysis.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell said she was inviting 16-year-old student researcher Marsella Munoz. The South Florida congresswoman said the 11th-grade diver-in-training from Key West represented the hope for the future and the need to face climate change.
Reaching across the party divide, Democratic U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala invited the former congresswoman who previously held her South Florida seat, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
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