Florida's first Cuban-American House speaker-designate elected

Republicans elected Rep. Marco Rubio as the Florida House's first Cuban-American speaker-designate in a ceremony broadcast live to Cuba over U.S.-government-backed Radio Marti. The 34-year-old Miami lawyer described Cuban President Fidel Castro as a "thug" who forced his parents to flee their homeland before he was born.

"It's hard to be apolitical when you grow up in a community of political exiles," Rubio said in his acceptance speech Tuesday. Rubio was elected by a unanimous vote in the House Republican caucus. H e will succeed Rep. Allan Bense as speaker for two years in November 2006 if Republicans retain their House majority as expected. Republicans now outnumber Democrats 84 to 36.

Rubio will not be the first Cuban-American to serve as speaker of a state legislative body. New Jersey Assembly Speaker Albio Sires, a Democrat, was elected to that post in 2002, AP reported/

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