Everett Sutton wants to make clear that he does not often sit in an aluminum chair when he greets arrivals at an early-voting site, day after day, for Marco Rubio.
“I’ve got one if I need it, but I stand and talk to virtually every person who walks into the polls,” Sutton said Friday.
That’s partly why he didn’t recognize himself when Rubio mentioned Sutton in Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate in Coral Gables.
“Let me tell you what this election is about for me,” said the Florida senator, whose must-win, home-state primary could be his last stand.
Never miss a local story.
“On Tuesday night, I didn’t do as well, obviously, as I wanted to. And I was a little disappointed when I got home. And my wife told me a story that night, which is the reason why I can get up the next day and keep fighting. There’s a gentleman here in South Florida who just got out of surgery. And his doctors told him he needs to be home resting. But every afternoon, he takes his little aluminum chair and he sits outside of an early polling center and holds a sign that says ‘Marco Rubio.’
“Because for him, I symbolize all the sacrifices that his generation made so their children could have a better life than themselves. That gentleman has not given up on me, and I am not going to give up on him.”
Sutton watched the debate — “Of course I did” — and went back to his post at the Coral Reef Branch Library on Friday morning without realizing his brief brush with political fame. Then a Rubio aide came by to offer thanks for his dedication, explaining that Sutton was the man Rubio had mentioned.
“I was very flattered,” said Sutton, a 69-year-old father of four from Pinecrest. He goes to the same church as Rubio — St. Louis in Pinecrest — and has seen him but never met him, he said.
I was very flattered.
Everett Sutton, on learning Marco Rubio had mentioned him at debate
Sutton thinks Rubio got word of his super volunteer because earlier in the week, after Sutton returned to the library from getting chemotherapy for his arthritis (he doesn’t have cancer), Rubio’s sister came by. “She told me, ‘You look kind of pale,’ and I said, ‘Well, I think I’ve got a right to!’ ”
His doctors did indeed tell him to stay home and rest. But Sutton, who used to build speedboats and worked chasing drug smugglers for customs enforcement during the “cocaine cowboys” days, said the election is too important. He’s been following politics since he was 8 or 9 years old, he said, dropping the names of Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower. In 2012, he said, he volunteered at early polls for Mitt Romney.
“This is not a campaign that the Republican Party or the Democratic Party should be proud of,” he said. He was speaking — a little out of breath — by telephone near the tree he stands next to at the library. He relies on a cane following a mild stroke years ago. Sometimes he doesn’t even break for lunch.
“I’m not a die-hard Republican by any stretch of the imagination,” said Sutton, who voted by mail weeks ago. “I think a lot of them ought to be in prison.”
But he likes Rubio’s message and finds him “sincere.”
“I know that his numbers are not there, but I’m a firm believer: when things get tough, the harder you work,” Sutton said. “The worse his numbers are, the harder I’m working for him.”