President Jimmy Carter's ineptitude made a big impression on 10-year-old Ray Rodrigues.
All his Georgia classmates were solidly in the president's re-election corner, Rodrigues remembers, and gave him a lot of guff for going for the Gipper instead.
"Ronald Reagan spoke to me," Rodrigues said. "Jimmy Carter seemed to be talking about a country that was past its greatness."
Thus a little Republican was born and he's blossomed into a force on the Lee County scene holding powerful posts such as vice chairman of the Lee County Republican Party and Lee County Housing Authority commissioner.
But being kingmaker (a phrase Rodrigues said he would never use) for the GOP is different than running for office, he readily admits. Here's his pitch for Boca Grande voters:
QUESTION: Why run?
RAY RODRIGUES at a glance
Birth date: April 17, 1970
Occupation: budget manager, Florida Gulf Coast University
Family: married 20 years with one son
Education: Berry College in Rome, Ga.
Deacon: Gulf Coast Church of Christ
Member: Florida Farm Bureau, Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, Estero Chamber of Commerce, Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce, NRA.
Financing: $17,524 plus a $5,000 loan and $7,890 in-kind
Qualified: June 7 by petition
Contact: (239) 222-8521
SOURCE: Florida Department of State Division of Elections
ANSWER: I look at it as an opportunity to give back to the community. I've lived here the past 18 years.
Q: What would you do first if elected?
A: Three things I think we should focus on: efforts to improve private sector job creation, diversify our local economy and keep local government transparent and accountable.
Q: When was the moment you knew you were going to run?
A: I'm not sure if there was an exact moment. I've been looking at it for a little while. My wife is politically active and I've been vice chairman of the Lee County Republican Party and Lee County Housing Authority commissioner.
Q: What sets you apart from your two GOP rivals for this seat?
A: If you look at former state Rep. Michael Grant we both share political experiences. The difference is he served in Tallahassee and I served locally. I understand our community and the challenges our community is facing because I've been here dealing with them. As for the third candidate, I have political experience and (Chauncey Solinger) doesn't,
Q: What are the most pressing hardships facing your constituents?
A: I'm going door to door and the concern I'm hearing is out-of-control government spending. There is a serious desire to cut spending.
Q: What are some other top-of-mind issues?
A: You hear folks talk about creating jobs and typically it's about bringing large businesses here. But studies show most jobs are from small businesses. If we can create an environment that encourages entrepreneurs, the job creation would take care of itself. It's amazing the hoops our government makes business owners jump through. I heard one owner say the only government handout he wants is for the government to get its hand out of his pocket.
Q: Who is your role model?
A: My political hero is Ronald Reagan. I saw in him a candidate who believes in America. Even as a 10-year-old, with our class studying the Jimmy Carter race against Ronald Reagan in south Georgia, I was literally the only kid in my class that voted for Reagan. I took a lot of razzing until the election. To me what that election came down to is the headline "American Held Hostage." Ronald Reagan said what the military could and should do to prevent that from happening. I heard his campaign speech, and I didn't even know what "malaise" meant. I had to look it up in the dictionary, but even as a 10-yar-old it was clear to me what side to be on.
Q: What's your opinion of Gov. Rick Scott's performance?
A:. He's done a good job. He's done what he said he would do, which should be the benchmark for political candidates. Some people don't support that because they didn't support his political platform. But he's stuck true to what he'd said he would do.
Q: Presidential preference?
A: I'm definitely going with Mitt Romney. Under President Barack Obama, spending is out of control. We can't borrow 40 percent of every dollar. We can't keep going down that path or we'll either go bankrupt or into socialism and neither of those is acceptable.
Q: Why should you lead?
A:. I'm going door to door and getting a great response. I have a record of advocating on issues according to the values of this district. I want smaller and more limited government. These are more than words. They are values. I'm committed to the community as only a man who has lived here 18 years can be.