Daniel Perez won a special Republican primary in a GOP-leaning Miami state House district Tuesday — meaning the attorney and political newcomer is now the heavy favorite to head to Tallahassee in a few months.
Perez defeated brewery owner Jose Mallea in the race for House District 116, a Southwest Miami-Dade County seat that is unlikely to switch to Democratic hands. Perez will nonetheless face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudón, herself a first-time legislative candidate, in the Sept. 26 general election.
“I’m very humbled, and I’m very thankful, that the residents of District 116 have trust in me, as one of their own, to represent not only the Republican Party but the district moving forward,” Perez told the Miami Herald. He was leading Mallea by 55-45 percent in unofficial, and still incomplete, results late Tuesday.
The fresh-faced Perez, 30, won despite being outraised in the campaign by Mallea, a former aide to Jeb Bush and former U.S. Senate campaign manager for Marco Rubio. Bush endorsed Mallea in the primary, but that proved to be insufficient — especially after Perez cast Mallea as a traitor for backing Bush over Rubio in the 2016 presidential election.
Rubio, who had disapproved of Mallea using photos of the two of them together in campaign fliers, congratulated Perez on Twitter Tuesday night.
The primary was an ugly affair, with Perez and Mallea jostling over who was more Cuban American (Mallea’s mother is Ecuadorian) and Mallea suing Perez over his residency (Perez’s home is undergoing renovations).
“He’s young and comes from our community, which means he’s well-versed in what’s happening in Kendall,” said Adam Cahill, 27, a music teacher who voted for Perez on Tuesday at the Kendall library.