For the Florida Legislature, familiar faces, and new ones, too

Getty Images

For a complete list of the Miami Herald recommendations for the Nov. 6 general election, click here.

Florida Senate

District 36

Manny Diaz, Jr., a Republican, is seeking to fill Rene Garcia’s seat in the Senate. He has done a deep dive into fixing the District Cost Differential, a formula that has robbed Miami-Dade public schools of funding for too long. He is working across the aisle with Democrats Nick Duran and Shevrin Jones to get this high-cost county its fair share. Two years ago, he helped pass the KidCare expansion and promises to push to get the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee jump started to help replenish the Everglades.


Challenger David Perez, a Coral Gables firefighter, is a solid candidate who has experience representing union members. He has strong knowledge of the issues, worked with Alex Penelas when he was county mayor and wants firefighters to be better protected from the risks of their job. He lobbied on behalf of the county in Tallahassee. He should seek political office again.

Although we remain uncomfortable with the Diaz’s ties to the charter school industry, in which he teaches, he has otherwise done a good job on behalf of his constituents. The Herald recommends MANNY DIAZ JR. for District 36.

District 40

Incumbent Annette Taddeo, a respected Democrat who fought a hard battle to win this Senate seat a year ago, is being challenged by attorney Marili Cancio, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2010 and is a Miami Dade College trustee. Gov. Rick Scott appointed Cancio to a healthcare task force.

Despite her brief time in the state Senate, Taddeo worked across the aisle, finding common ground with GOP lawmakers on animal protection, helping first responders with PTSD and standing against loosening the rules for payday loan businesses, which would have hurt many low-income workers in the state.


Cancio is a credible challenger who is well-versed in the issues. She opposes Obamacare and its mandate, saying competition and the free market can better deliver healthcare. And she criticizes Taddeo for voting against the gun reforms contained in this year’s post-Parkland shooting legislature. Taddeo counters that she could not support putting guns in the hands of teachers and other school personnel.

Cancio considers charter schools “an option” for families and says that traditional public schools are better than they were two decades ago. Taddeo, too, supports charters, but says that they don’t have to follow the same rules as traditional public schools and are being shortchanged when it comes to state funding.

Given her views on how best to help her constitutents, and Florida, Taddeo has earned a full term in the state Senate. The Herald recommends ANNETTE TADDEO in State Senate District 40.

Florida House

District 103

This race is a bit of a David and Goliath battle, although there is no incumbent. This is an open seat vacated by Manny Diaz Jr., who is running for the Senate.

It pits political neophyte Cindy Polo, the Democrat in the race who admits she jumped into politics following the emotional upheaval she felt following the Parkland school massacre. At the last minute, Polo even jumped on a bus headed to Tallahassee along with Parkland students seeking gun control laws.


Her opponent is Republican Frank Mingo, the vice mayor of Miami Lakes. Both candidates have a solid grasp of the issue in the district including blasting and traffic.

Mingo has more political experience and is well-connected in the Republican Party; His boss at Oliva Cigars is incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva. Mingo is earnest and has been tapped to continue the Republican control of District 103. We think voters want a change, a fresh face with a willingness to get things done. We were charmed by Polo’s freshness and can-do attitude. She has one of the most locally energized campaigns. And if elected, we think she will be a voice for young voters. South Florida needs a lawmaker of that ilk. The Herald recommends CINDY POLO for House District 103.

District 105

Ana Maria Rodriguez has been toiling in the intricacies of municipal politics for years. She currently is the vice mayor of Doral. She has also raised a hefty campaign chest against her Democratic opponent, first-time candidate Javier Estevez.

What Rodriguez has in experience, Estevez has in enthusiasm.


Rodriguez realizes District 105 one of the most flippable and is campaigning aggressively, despite her war chest advantage.

Estevez, who works as the assistant manager of the American Eagle clothing store on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, told the Editorial Board he cares about people and their quality of life and that comes across in his campaigning. He managed to defeat Ross Hancock, President Obama’s ambassador to the OAS, in the Democratic primary.

However, Rodriguez brings more heft when it comes to governance. She has been effective in her years on the Doral Council, staying above the political fray during the city’s more turbulent years. One of her biggest accomplishments helped ease traffic in Doral, likely residents’ biggest complaint, by pushing to open up and extend side streets to offer drivers relief from clogged main thoroughfares.

The Herald recommends ANA MARIA RODRIGUEZ for House District 105.

District 108

Dotie Joseph stands heads and shoulders above her opponent, Riquet Caballero. Joseph, a dynamic attorney steeped in the distict’s challenges — she grew up there — beat the lackluster incumbent in the August primary. She’s a Yale and Georgetown Law School graduate who wants to fully fund public schools, while understanding that charter schools offer families a choice. However, she told the Editorial Board, “I can’t stand double standards.”

dotie (2).jpg

In addition to focusing on healthcare, gun reform and affordable housing, Joseph wants to focus on issues that aren’t on too many lawmakers’ radars: She wants to go after absentee slumlords who don’t repair fix dilapidated buildings, but who charge exorbitant rents to low-income tenants who don’t have many options. She also would work to secure technical support for struggling small business owners in the district.

Caballero, a Libertarian, seems well-intended but is not realistically steeped in the issues most important to residents. A risk analyst for Visa in Miami, Caballero ran for governor earlier this year.

The Herald recommends DOTIE JOSEPH in House District 108.

District 111

This race to represent the district which takes up much of Hialeah and is populated by working-class Hispanic pits incumbent Bryan Avila, a Republican, and newcomer Rizwan Ahmed, a Broward Democrat.


Ahmed, a political newcomer, is a commercial realtor who surprisingly lives in Fort Lauderdale. Originally from Pakistan, he wants to represent the largely Hispanic district, but he says he has a unique perspective because his wife is Colombian.

We feel that a candidate who residents in another county is not the best suited to represent it. Ahmed was also arrested in Broward County in 1994 for the illegal use of credit cards and possession of stolen property, but charges were never filed.

We recommend BRYAN AVILA for District 111.

District 112

Public school teacher Rosy Palomino is challenging Democratic incumbent Nicholas Duran.

If elected, Palomino said that the first bill she would introduce would focus on steering more state dollars to improving quality of life for the elderly in the district, which includes Key Biscayne, Brickell, Little Havana and parts of Coral Gables. A teacher at Citrus Grove Elementary school, Palomino does not support arming teachers in the name of school safety and that school funding should go directly into the classrooms.


Duran says the state must play a more active role in healthcare outcomes. Toward that end, the first bill on which he served as lead sponsor and that passed into law reformed the way the state monitors sales of prescription drugs. Pharmacies now have a three-day deadling to report the use of controlled substances, down from seven days.

Duran also helped create quality measures for VPK and, working across the aisle, co-sponsored a bill that, had it passed, would have increased the data and analytics on new buildings to ensure resiliency.

Duran already has shown that he has good ideas and can work to implement them for the good of the district. The Herald recommends NICHOLAS XAVIER DURAN in District 112

District 113

The race is between Jonathan Parker, a Republican, and former Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco, a Democrat who was forced from office when he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor criminal charge of violating Florida’s campaign finance laws last year. Grieco served six months of probation, which ended in May, and a temporary ban from politics. All this constitutes a nonstarter for the Editorial Board.


Parker is a credible candidate and a long-time Miami Beach resident. He is well-versed in issues important to the district such as sea-level rise — he’s not convinced pumps are the solution — traffic, overdevelopment and the environment. He says that he a proponent of the free market who likes the competition that charter schools bring to education. His big push is to make it easier to conduct business in the district, with fewer regulations to get businesses up and running more quickly.

Parker told the Editorial Board that this race is a about “transparency, integrity and ethics.” We agree. The Herald recommends JONATHAN PARKER for District 113.

District 114

Rep. Javier Fernandez is the real deal. Voters should not be fooled by what looks like a “name’s almost the same” gambit. Fernandez, a forward-thinking Democrat, is being challenged by Republican attorney Javier Enriquez.

Fernandez is the incumbent, having won a special election in May to replace Democrat Daisy Baez, who never moved into the district as required by law, and then lied about. She resigned and pleaded guilty to perjury.


Once chief of staff for former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Fernandez, who was elected after this year’s legislative session, has been working hard to hit the ground running. He said that he is building coalitions among lawmakers of both parties to carry his well-thought-out legislative proposals into law, including giving restaurants a sales-tax credit if they abandon single-use plastics for reusable plates and utensils and offering developers tax incentives to build affordable housing rather than having municipalities provide subsidies.

Opponent Enriquez is a community-engaged candidate who laments legislative “rhetoric and division.”

However, we think the incumbent already has make strides in eliminating both. The Herald recommends JAVIER FERNANDEZ in House District 114.

District 115

Republican Vance Aloupis survived a three-way-race in the August primary to face Democratic Jeffrey Solomon, a former chiropractor. Aloupis, a former University of Miami student body president and graduate of UM law school, focuses on early childhood development, strengthening Florida’s education system and raising teacher pay.


Although Aloupis is not from Miami, and does not claim to be, he created a teaching curriculum for juvenile detention centers across South Florida and its homeless community as a board member for the Miami Coalition for the Homeless.

Aloupis created a controversy in the primary when his Hispanic opponents complained that he was trying to pass himself off as Cuban in a television ad. Aloupis has denied the charges.

The Herald recommends VANCE ALOUPIS for House District 115.

District 116

After winning a special election last year, Daniel Anthony Perez has not been in office long, but he’s already up against an opponent — this time, James Alexander Harden. Perez, an associate at Cole, Scott & Kissane in Miami, has served for just over a year, but he says he’s already made a dent.


He claims he helped with legislation to secure $4 million in funding for Florida schools; he helped reduce taxes on small businesses and secure more protection for children who are victims of neglect and abuse and improved benefits for our seniors and restrict doing business with entities who do business with the Venezuelan dictatorship.

We would like to see how much more he can get accomplished. The Herald recommends DANIEL ANTHONY PEREZ in District 116.

District 118

Incumbent Democrat Robert Asencio is fighting to keep his seat from Republican challenger Anthony Rodriguez, in a district that leans toward the GOP.

Asencio told the Editorial Board he was one of several Democratic lawmakers who mounted a public campaign blasting Florida’s troubled Sunpass system. That’s welcome action.


Rodriguez says if elected done of his first actions will be to make MDX more accountable with the millions it collects.

As a junior lawmaker in the minority party, Ascensio is fighting a good fight to make an impact and deserves more time. The Herald recommends ROBERT ASENCIO for House District 118.

District 119

Juan Fernandez-Barquin, Heath Rassner and Daniel Sotelo want to represent House District 119, which encompasses which comprises almost all of West Kendall, and some parts of the Hammocks.


Barquin-Fernandez, a Republican, is a real estate attorney, who survived a crowded primary. Rassner, a Democrat, is a graduate student and a newcomer to politics, who is identifying himself a gender fluid candidate. Sotelo works in real estate.

Although the candidates have little experience, Fernandez-Barquin had a firmer grasp of the issues for residents in that district, which include traffic, polls and healthcare issues.

The Herald recommends JUAN FERNANDEZ-BARQUIN for District 119.

District 120

Holly Raschein, a Republican, has earned a fourth, and final, term representing this district. Her Democratic opponent, Steve Friedman, says that she has not served the Keys and South Miami-Dade County.

However, she has shown her mettle in looking out for the district after Hurricane Irma destroyed much of the Middle Keys. Alarmed that Monroe County’s Emergency Operations Center had to relocate to the Upper Keys because of fears that it could not withstand Irma’s forceful winds, Raschein secured $6 million in funding to build a state-of-the-art EOC that can stand up to Category 5 winds; she brought home $15 million to construct workforce housing.


There was a critical need to house the low-wage workers who make the Keys hum for residents and tourists alike before Irma struck. The storm only made the housing crisis more dire.

In 2016, she got the Florida Keys Stewardship Act, which brought with it $5 million each for water quality and acquisition of fragile land.

Friedman is a long-time fishing guide who rightly is concerned about water quality. He says he has seen it degrade during his more than 10 years fishing the waters. Friedman is a credible candidate who understands the district’s needs. We would encourage him to stay involved in politics. The Herald recommends HOLLY RASCHEIN for District 120.