Juan Gutierrez says he has about 70 people signed up for his Marco Rubio 2016 presidential campaign fundraiser scheduled next month at his Colts Neck home, but Rubio’s not the only politician with a Cuban background the Republican contractor from New Jersey wants to prevail.
“I met Marco Rubio 10-12 years ago when he was a state representative in Florida,” Gutierrez, a Cuban immigrant, told PolitickerNJ.
The two men connected fast. Their shared Cuban roots played a big role. Gutierrez was one of 14,000 children who came to this country as exiles in 1962. Leaving barbaric conditions, shipped to New York, the young Gutierrez made his way to Paterson, where he lived before moving to Toms River.
Since their first meeting, Rubio and Gutierrez have kept contact with each other. Gutierrez did another fundraiser for Rubio in 2010, and the senator calls his friend routinely. Last December he notified Gutierrez that he planned to run for president in 2016.
A proud Republican, Gutierrez has supported two Democrats over the years: U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8). That financial support for his fellow Cuban Americans continued until the two Democrats voted for Obamacare. Then he withdrew his support for their political campaigns. Gutierrez, however, out of loyalty and friendship, has donated to Menendez’s defense fund.
“Obama comes from Chicago,” said Gutierrez. “He’s a vicious politician. There’s no doubt in my mind that what Bob [Menendez] is going through is a consequence of political payback. Bob is a progressive guy on domestic issues, but he’s more conservative on foreign policy, and I think Obama knew Bob would stand in the way of policy initiatives on Iran and Cuba, and so…”
Menendez was indicted on corruption charges earlier this year.
“Bob will survive it,” Gutierrez said.
In the meantime, the GOP fundraiser focuses on Rubio. “We’re three weeks away from the Aug. 13th fundraiser,” he said. “We have 70 people now and I think we will have over 100.”
A former mayor of Colts Neck is among those committed to attending the event.
Convinced of Rubio’s communications skills, leadership ability, intelligence and commitment to the country, the presidential candidate also has undeniable charisma, Gutierrez argues. “On that level at this point you need to be Hollywood,” he said.
As for his organizing in a state institutionally mostly dominated (with at least one other exception) by Gov. Chris Christie, Gutierrez said it’s nothing personal. “I like Chris,” he said of the governor. “But Marco is my candidate.”
As for Rubio possibly getting politically tangled up with fellow Floridian former Governor Jeb Bush, Gutierrez said he talked to the senator about that and Rubio told him he won’t attack Bush. The two men will keep their discourse civil.