As a chiropractor, Jeffrey “Doc” Solomon knows a thing or two about bad breaks.
As a perennial candidate for public office — the Democrat has run unsuccessfully for State House three times since 2010 — doubly so.
But this go-round, hoping to finally get a chance to represent District 115, Solomon thinks he can benefit from the buzz that has built around Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor in Florida. Like Gillum, Solomon is pushing for universal healthcare, stricter gun laws and higher taxes for corporations and the wealthiest citizens.
“I was also counting on some degree that Obama, to some degree, would provide turnout,” the 58-year-old Democrat said of his narrow losses in 2010 and 2012. “This is my fourth. May the fourth be with me. I don’t give up. I am a persistent, determined character.”
The battle for District 115, a seat being vacated by term-limited Republican Rep. Michael Bileca, is among five House contests in the county that the state’s Democratic and Republican Party leaders have identified as competitive.
It pits Solomon, whose losing streak includes a 2015 loss for Pinecrest Village Council, against the younger Vance Aloupis, a Republican political newcomer who serves as the CEO of the Children’s Movement of Florida. Aloupis, 34, casts himself as a champion of early childhood education and healthcare, and through the Children’s Movement of Florida, he has spearheaded lobbying efforts to increase funding opportunities to the state’s youngest residents.
He supports “investing” in teachers and allocating more funding for public schools, while advocating for school choice. On the issue of gun violence, Aloupis said he approved of the guns and school safety bill passed in the wake of the Parkland shooting, calling it “an important step in an ongoing conversation.”
The bill, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in March, raises the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21, imposes a three-day waiting period for the purchase of all firearms and prohibits a person adjudicated as mentally defective from owning a firearm until a court rules otherwise.
“My commitment is to work toward keeping illegal firearms out of the hands of those who may seek to commit harm to others,” Aloupis said in an emailed statement to the Miami Herald. “Beyond the steps taken in last year’s legislation, I would also support increased funding for our school’s guidance counselors — many of whom are being asked to support twice as many students as is recommended by the American School Counselor Association.”
Aloupis won a competitive three-way primary in August to advance to the general election. In that race, Cuban-American attorney Jose Fernandez criticized Aloupis, who is not Hispanic and moved to Miami as a child, for a commercial in which Aloupis wears a guayabera shirt and plays dominoes while speaking Spanish. He is married with two children.
Solomon, who lost to Bileca twice in 2012 and 2016 but got close to 47 percent of the vote, said he has learned from each defeat and considers himself the best candidate to represent the district.
“There’s somewhat of a [blue] wave,” Solomon said, referring to the belief among Democrats that liberal candidates are poised to sweep elections this year. “This isn’t about riding the wave. I’ve got to be the wave.”
Among his policy proposals, Solomon wants to accelerate Florida’s conversion to renewable energy by investing in job creation and training, place a moratorium on charter-school expansion and make the criminal justice system and policing more equitable and fair.
Solomon considers himself an advocate for LGBTQ rights and said he wants to ban conversion therapy statewide. Solomon is married with four children.
“I support religious liberty and free speech [but] I do not support any individual or group using religion or free speech to justify discrimination,” he writes in his campaign platform.
Aloupis has raised $398,381 and spent $324,164 of it thus far. That puts him significantly ahead of Solomon, who has raised just $78,897 and spent $49,549.
Were he to be elected, Aloupis said he would carry through his vision under either Gillum or Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.
“Regardless of who is in the Governor’s Mansion, my commitment will be to work to support priorities that I believe are fundamentally in the best interest of our community — that is, investing in public education, promoting policies that protect and preserve our environment, addressing rising homeowner’s insurance and promoting affordable, high-quality and accessible healthcare,” he said.