A fall Miami election without a Regalado on the ballot or in office would have been odd.
And so, three months after a brutal November saw long-time Miami politician Tomás Regalado leave office and two of his children lose or back out of hotly contested races, former school board member and county mayoral runner-up Raquel Regalado is getting back into the scrum.
On Monday, the 43-year-old Republican will file to run for the Miami State Senate seat held by José Javier Rodríguez, a Democrat expected to resign his seat this spring in order to run for Congress. The seat is among those believed to be targeted as a possible flip by Senate Republicans, who hold a 23-15 edge in the more moderate chamber of the state Legislature heading into an election where pundits are predicting a Democratic groundswell.
“I’m a moderate and in this district I've always done well,” Regalado said in an interview. “It’s part of my school board district and I’ve always appealed to independents.”
Under current state law, Rodríguez could hold onto his post and run for the Congressional seat being vacated by the retiring Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. But a “resign-to-run” bill progressing through the Florida House and Senate is expected to pass, and Rodríguez has both voted in favor of the legislation and said he’d be “undeterred” in his plans to run for Congress if the bill becomes law.
Some believe Republicans are pushing the bill specifically to target Rodríguez’s seat, which represents a swing district previously represented by Republican centrist Miguel Diaz de la Portilla before Rodríguez beat him with some help from an anti-Trump 2016 wave. Democrats poured millions into the race to help Rodríguez win, and now it seems likely they’ll be forced to defend just two years into the Senator's four-year term.
With Republicans eager to take back the seat, it seems Regalado, a Cuban-American attorney and former Miami-Dade school board member who supports unions and believes climate change is a pressing issue, is their candidate.
“They reached out to me. They were looking for a candidate. And obviously I’ve lived in the district my entire life,” said Regalado, who dropped out of the race for Ros-Lehtinen’s Congressional seat in November after saying the federal Legislature had grown too polarized and dysfunctional. “It's a different conversation at the state level. They’re looking for a moderate. I was very candid about looking at what I want to do in the Senate. Everyone was very receptive.”
Regalado showed poor fundraising numbers in her run for Congress before she backed out. But she said she spoke to incoming Republican leader Bill Galvano, who is coordinating Florida's state Senate campaigns this season, and described the conversation as “positive.” She bristled when asked about whether she'll be able to raise the money needed to win a state Senate seat.
“I didn’t struggle to raise money. I decided not to raise money,” she said. “People will be very impressed. I have a lot of support. The money is not going to be an issue. I’m all in on this.”
Regalado, who’d spent time in Tallahassee this session as rumors of her candidacy spread, expects to hit Spanish radio Monday to promote her campaign. Regalado said she’s in for the seat in 2020 if Rodriguez chooses not to resign.