Voters Guide

Miami Herald recommendations for the Florida House

Miami Herald Editorial Board


The Miami Herald will make its state House recommendations over two days. Our choices for state House Districts 113, 114, 115, 116, 118, 119 and 120 will be published on Wednesday.

House District 103

Incumbent Manny Diaz Jr., 43, is seeking a third term in this northwestern district that covers Hialeah, Medley, Hialeah Gardens, Miami Lakes and even a portion of Miramar. His opponent, Democratic newcomer Ivette Petkovich, 37, is a native of Hialeah but now lives just a few blocks south of the district line.

Mr. Diaz is a Republican and long-time teacher and school administrator who once taught in Miami-Dade Public Schools but now serves as a dean at Doral College. In his legislative role, he often advocates for charter schools, which Ms. Petkovich calls a conflict of interest that winds up shortchanging public schools. Rep. Diaz says his colleagues have let him manage important charter school bills because he’s worked in both types of schools.

Ms. Petkovich is an attorney in private practice who worked from 2005 to 2010 as a prosecutor in the State Attorney’s Office. Logically, one of her interests in the Legislature would be to serve on a criminal-justice panel. Another is to promote healthcare expansion.

One issue in the race involves Ms. Petkovich’s former connection to an out-of-state company that promoted cannabis-infused products. She says this has been mischaracterized and that she only supports narrowly defined medical marijuana.

Mr. Diaz says he supports LGBT issues, but would not favor changes in legal definitions that some LGBT interest groups support. Given that he supports their issues, we would hope he gives them more open-minded consideration. Ms. Petkovich says she would favor any legislation that expands gender equality.

We back Mr. Diaz on the basis of his two terms in the Legislature and a record of helping Hialeah and other communities in his district get state funding for needed projects, like flood drainage in Miami Lakes.

For State Representative, District 103, the Herald recommends MANNY DIAZ JR.


Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Republican, at 33 is — thanks to term limits — already running for what would be his fourth and last term in the state House if he is reelected. He is being challenged by Patricio Moreno, a Democrat making his first run for office.

Rep. Trujillo, an attorney in private practice, has been a reliable vote for Republican issues in the Legislature. He is an outspoken opponent of the Miami-Dade MDX toll system and wants to either reduce the board’s membership or get rid of it altogether. While other prominent Republicans in Miami-Dade have run away from Donald Trump’s candidacy, Rep. Trujillo has served as one of his state finance chairmen.

Most notable has been Rep. Trujillo’s unbridled support for now-closed Dade Medical College, a poorly run for-profit school whose shoddy practices left students with little to show for the tuition spent. However, Rep. Trujillo went to bat for its well-connected owner, helping get rid of an accreditation requirement for a physical therapy assistant program. That meant students would emerge from the curriculum unqualified for a job. So much for the representative’s sense of public service.

Mr. Moreno, a native of the Dominican Republic who came here 20 years ago, says he takes issue with Rep. Trujillo on a number of fronts. He specifically cited fracking, which Rep. Trujillo favors, and thinks it’s “horrible” that Florida and Mr. Trujillo won’t support Medicaid expansion.

The incumbent has been a leading legislative advocate for “balanced billing” in medical practice so that patients, especially those who undergo surgery, are no longer surprised by unfair costs that their insurance won’t pay. His concerns generally reflect the needs of his district — which includes some or all of Doral, Miramar, Sweetwater and parts of Collier County — and he should use his seniority to serve his constituents, not dubious special interests, well.

Rep. Trujillo is far from the perfect public servant, however, his opponent, though eager, is not up for the job. For State Representative, District 105, the Herald recommends CARLOS TRUJILLO.


District 110, which covers much of Hialeah, is the stronghold of Rep. Jose Oliva, 43, perhaps the most powerful member of the local House delegation. Democrats recruited political newcomer Carlos A. Puentes, 55, to take him on in what seems to be a long-shot effort.

Mr. Puentes, a military veteran making his first run for office, emphasizes his support for Medicaid expansion, which he rightly claims would greatly benefit this district. He acknowledges that Mr. Oliva has accumulated seniority in the House, but says the district has seen little benefit from that.

On the Medicaid issue, he’s right. Medicaid expansion would benefit Hialeah, but Mr. Oliva says it goes against his conservative principles. A profile in this newspaper summed up his political views as “no expansion of Medicaid or gambling, more expansion of charter schools, no government subsidies and more tax breaks.”

Although we do not always agree with Mr. Oliva’s positions — he would not come in for a candidate interview — he has proven himself to be an able and thoughtful leader who capably articulates his positions and principles. Clearly, he has the respect of most members of his delegation and House Republicans. They chose him to handle the chamber’s difficult redistricting issue.

He has also waged some worthwhile legislative fights. In 2012, he took on the Florida Chamber of Commerce and became the deciding vote to kill a bill that would make it harder for consumers to sue insurance companies over “bad faith” claims. In his first legislative session, he focused on putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot to give elders a property tax break. It was ultimately approved by voters.

If he keep winning elections, he’ll rise to the post of Speaker in 2018. That speaks well for his political skills, but let’s hope that, along with sticking to his principles, he also learns that compromise is essential to the art of governing.

For State Representative, District 110, the Herald recommends JOSE OLIVA.


State Rep. Bryan Avila has had a promising first term in the Florida Legislature and is viewed by veteran legislators in his party as a rising star.

An adjunct professor at Miami Dade College, Rep. Avila, 32, has proven himself to be a fiscal and social conservative who pushes for smaller government and tax breaks for Floridians.

It’s a good fit for the immigrants and the working-class district residents whom he represents. The district encompasses part of his hometown of Hialeah, Miami and northeastern Miami-Dade. During his initial term, he helped Florida taxpayers by fighting for a tax-cut package that provided $428 million in property-tax relief for homeowners; a three-day back-to-school tax holiday and relief for Florida businesses through the elimination of sales tax when purchasing manufacturing equipment.

Rep. Avila is being challenged by Democrat Sevi Miyar, 48, is an administrator at Country Club Middle School. In 2014, Ms. Miyar ran unsuccessfully against Miami-Dade School Board member Perla Tabares Hantman.

Ms. Miyar says she supports Medicaid expansion, raising the minimum wage and getting “corrupt money” out of politics. Mr. Avila’s travel schedule made him unavailable for an interview. Ms. Miyar is a candidate of promise. But because of his impressive first term in the Legislature, for State Representative, District 111, the Herald recommends BRYAN AVILA.


Rosa Maria “Rosy” Palomino, who last year sought a seat on the Miami City Commission, was the victor in the Republican primary against Mike Davey, an attorney and former vice mayor of Key Biscayne.

In this race to replace state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Ms. Palomino faces Democrat Nicholas X. Duran, an attorney who is the executive director of the Florida Association of Free Charitable Clinics. Mr. Duran is the son-in-law of Mike Abrams, a former state lawmaker who writes an occasional column for the Herald’s opinion page.

Ms. Palomino, 47, is an earnest community advocate and businesswoman who would make enhancing public transportation, tackling sea-level rise and human trafficking and improving education her priorities.

The Editorial Board parts ways with the candidate, however, over two important issues: gun control and Medicaid expansion. In discussing the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, she has a point in saying that knee-jerk gun legislation should not be pushed through. However, she told the Board that had more club patrons been armed, the tragedy “would have been more limited.”

We’re not so sure.

And she seems to be dead-set against Medicaid expansion. This despite almost a million Floridians’ great need for healthcare and the expense in treating them in high-cost emergency rooms instead of helping them get preventive care in the doctor’s office.

Mr. Duran, 34, supports school vouchers in order to give parents a choice for their kids, but wisely wants charter school funding to be tied to schools’ grades and the number of low-income and special-needs students they admit.

He also backs Medicaid expansion and wants to limit the high-capacity magazines and eliminate the gun-show “loophole.” And because he was campaign manager and executive director of health initiatives for the Children’s Movement, he already understands much about the legislative process.

Leading up to the August primary, the Editorial Board gave Mr. Davey the edge. He lost to Ms. Palomino. Despite her commitment to public service, we again favor her opponent in the general election. For State Representative, District 112, the Herald recommends NICHOLAS X. DURAN.