Minutes after Rep. Alan Grayson’s (D-Fla.) controversial email comparing the tea party to the KKK hit the media, I sat at the loud, crowded Caribou Coffee on 17th Street in DC, with Jorge Bonilla — one of the Republicans vying to to replace him.
He’s a big guy, with sort of a Jeb Bush presence, and a navy blue and pink polka dotted tie. Over coffee, we talked his roots, his future, and his political aspirations. \
Bonilla was raised in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. He’s sure to point out that, years ago, his hometown wasn’t the charming bohemian hangout it is today. “It was a rough neighborhood back then,” he says.
His parents came to the mainland from Puerto Rico in pursuit of the American dream. As a young man, he often found himself translating mail and bills for his mom. This turned out to be good practice. After stints in the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy, Bonilla found a career as a bilingual court reporter.
During our discussion, Bonilla talked about how Hispanic media is in desperate need of a conservative voice, since the big Spanish-speaking stations like Univision essentially have a broadcasting monopoly.
“There’s a very limited presence of the right in Hispanic media,” Bonilla said. And this, he says, is what made Marco Rubio a real threat to them — “because he could communicate without a filter.”
Ousting any incumbent is difficult, and Bonilla will likely have to emerge from a Republican scrum just to get the chance. But if he can raise the money and build a capable campaign, one gets the sense that Alan Grayson might just have his hands full.
All he asks is that you and I don’t compare him to anyone else. So, who is Jorge Bonilla? The potential trailblazer exclaims: “I’m not the next Marco. I’m the first Jorge!”