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Profile: Eddie Diaz, Congressional Candidate

March 1, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

In the birth records of his home town of Santurce, Puerto Rico, he is listed as Edward Amaury Diaz. To his neighbors in Winter Park, Florida, he is known as Eddie, a medically retired Orlando police hero and a 31-year-old aspirant for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The "neighbor" label encompasses Eddie’s family; his wife Nancy, a dog (Ben), two cats and a rabbit. The "hero" moniker is explained by the statement issued by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, when they named Diaz "Officer of the Month" for August of 2001.

The citation states that "in the early morning of February 3, 2000, Officer Diaz and his partner, George DeSalvio, stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation, unaware that the driver was wanted for armed robbery. Before the officers could handcuff the suspect, he drew a pistol, firing upon the officers at point blank range. Eight hollow-point rounds entered Officer Diaz’s skull, back and shoulders. Still conscious, but partially paralyzed, Officer Diaz was able to radio for help and the suspect was apprehended several hours later. Unfortunately, Officer DeSalvio’s wounds were fatal and Eddie was left to mourn the death of his partner and friend." The assailant has been convicted of murder and is now serving a life term in a Florida prison.

In an interview with The Herald, Mr. Diaz explained that he is not sure who his competition will be in a Democratic primary or exactly who he would represent if elected. Florida is reforming its Congressional boundaries to add two seats to its present allocation of 23, picked up as a result of the Y-2000 census. He is sure, however, that one of those districts will be carved out of Central Florida, one of the fastest growing areas of the state. "In the last decade, over 782,000 persons moved into Central Florida and since the population base of each congressional district is 660,000 inhabitants, I think it likely that the new district will encompass east Orange and Seminole Counties and a piece of Osceola County just south of Orange County."

Although Diaz does not consider himself to be an "Hispanic candidate," he is Central Florida’s first Hispanic American to seek election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Diaz estimates that there are over 85,000 Hispanics living within the lines of the probable new congressional district. The I-4 Corridor that cuts an east-west swath through Central Florida is the estimated home for some 350,000 Hispanic Americans.

According to press reports, Eddie Diaz was the apple of the eye of both major political parties, because of his notoriety and ethnicity. After recuperating from his wounds, he toured the State speaking at churches, schools and civic organizations projecting a message of forgiveness and personal responsibility. He now says that he is "very comfortable" with his status as a Democrat, proclaiming that his political role model is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. "I respect him for his policies, especially the social security system, and I admire the way he was able to overcome his physical disabilities to be elected as President four times."

Eddie Diaz justifies his candidacy by his varied experience in a relatively short span of years - and on fate. "There has to be a reason why I survived eight bullets in my body and am still left with the ability to walk with the help of a cane when my doctors predicted that I would be paralyzed for life," he says. "I think that I was spared to put my ideas and experience to the service of the people of Florida." Before his career on the Orlando Police Force was made tragically short by the assailant’s bullets, Diaz had earned his BA in business administration at Florida State University in 1997. Before that he did a hitch in the U.S. Navy as a medical corpsman, seeing service with a marine unit in the Gulf War. He was honorably discharged in 1992 with three Bronze Stars.

His political platform will be supported by four legs; education, health care, crime and economic development.

According to Diaz, Florida takes a "hands off" approach when it comes to funding public education which he wants to see changed. He points out that, "Florida’s record in public education is sadly in need of improvement. Its per- pupil spending on education rates 49th of the 50 U.S. States and this is reflected in the poor high school graduation rates, also in 49th position, nationally." Additionally, the state’s lack of a financial commitment to education results in low teacher pay and substandard facilities. For example, in Orange County, constituting a part of his voter base, 59% of students in K through 3rd grade are housed in portable classrooms. Diaz says that he hears of the problems of public education first hand over the dinner table. His wife, Nancy, is a high school science teacher in Seminole County.

Candidate Diaz will advocate public policies vesting medical decisions in the hands of patients and their doctors. Although he favors the death penalty for capital crimes, he will advocate increased crime prevention strategies and skills training for youths at risk. He sees himself as "a candidate for the working family" and will craft a message responsive to their needs. Diaz told The Herald that he wants to correct recent press speculation that his Congressional race is merely a warm-up for a run for a state electoral office. "I am not running for the Florida State Legislature," he told a reporter, "I am putting my full effort into representing the people of Central Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives."

Eddie Diaz says that he stays close to his Puerto Rican roots, traveling to the island frequently to visit with his father, step-mother and many cousins. It is also a time for him to catch up with his high school classmates from the American Military Academy in Guaynabo where he graduated in 1988. "Puerto Rico is such a beautiful place," he reminisced, "you can’t stay away for very long."


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