Eva Longoria endorses former Gov. Charlie Crist

Longoria's PAC endorses Crist and Miami's Rep. Joe Garcia

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From left, Henry Munoz III, actress Eva Longoria and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, launch the Latino Victory Project’s political action committee. (Charles Dharapak, AP)

MIAMI - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist flaunted actress Eva Longoria's endorsement Tuesday, as he runs for his former office against Gov. Rick Scott.

Longoria was at restaurant Salt and Pepper in Miami Thursday with her millionaire boyfriend Jose Antonio Baston. On Monday, the Desperate Housewives star and Devious Maids producer was in Washington, D.C., to talk about the Latino Victory project, a political action committee close to raising about $5 million this cycle.

"Blessed to receive the endorsement of Eva Longoria and the Latino Victory Project," Crist tweeted Tuesday morning. "Welcome to  Team Charlie, Eva."

Longoria's PAC also endorsed Cuban-American U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., who Vice president Joe Biden visited in Miami Saturday. Garcia defeated former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla., in 2012. Rivera, who is under federal investigation, wants to run against him again.

FLIP-FLOP POLITICS

Crist is a former Republican who is running as a Democrat. Scott said he no longer shares his party's stance on how undocumented  high school graduates should be treated -- at least when it comes to college tuition.

Undocumented high school graduates admitted to college are asked to pay out-of-state tuition in Florida, but Scott promised to sign a bill that could change that.

No one knows how many undocumented students are affected. The American Immigration Council estimates that in Florida there were about 106,000 DREAMers -- the undocumented migrants ages 15-30, who entered the country before they turned 16, haven't left and have not been convicted of a felony.

Scott had previously promised to pursue tough measures dealing with immigration and in 2011 he said he "completely" opposed  changing tuition policy. Crist supporters said he was using Latino students as a political pawn.

"We've got to give these children the same opportunity as all children," Scott said late April. "Whatever country you are born in, whatever family or zip code, you ought to have the chance to live the dream. Part of that dream is being able to afford education."

The One and Only Local 10 News's Michael Putney said that although some very conservative GOP state legislators were opposed to in-state tuition for DREAMers, it was a conservative Republican who championed the in-state college tuition bill.

House Speaker Will Weatherford championed the bill. Sen. Don Gaetz, the Florida Senate president, was the leader of the opposition. Putney said Gaetz relented after Weatherford held some of his bills hostage.

The bill passed the Florida Senate on Labor Day. It heads next to the Florida House and Scott is expected to sign it.

Scott has even been trying to speak Spanish. In April, Scott was in Miami's Little Havana appealing to Cuban "abuelitos" with childhood pictures and an advertisement in Spanish.

RISING POLITICAL POWER

The One and Only Local 10 News' Glenna Milberg said Longoria's endorsement was not a surprise since the Hollywood star's PAC endorsed several Democratic candidates.

In 2012, Longoria joined forces with the Democratic National Committee's finance chairman Henry Munoz III. Their Futuro Fund raised about $32 million from Latino donors supporting President Barack Obama's re-election. This year, they joined forces again.

The Latino representation in Congress is weak --  28 members of the House and four senators. The 2012 Latino community donations were "just the tip of the iceberg," Longoria said. "We are not tapping into the full potential yet."

Experts said the actress is growing into a powerful political force.

"Soon Longoria may be more famous for her political action on behalf of Latinos than for her role as a Desperate Housewife," Milberg said.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Politics in Florida

ON TWITTER: For more about Florida politics, follow the One and Only Local 10 News' Glenna Milberg.

SAVE THIS LINK: For more about Florida politics, watch the One and Only Local 10 News' Michael Putney join Milberg for a full hour of This Week in South Florida.

ON THE WEB: For more about Florida politics read Putney's editorial contributions to The Miami Herald.

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