Turnout could be a factor in West Miami-Dade state House special election

In a local election cycle already packed with races through the city, Miami-Dade County has found itself in another political battle in state House District 118. 

District 118 stretches from Southwest 8th Street to 218th Street between Florida’s Turnpike and Southwest 147th Avenue. Of its population of over 160,000, most everyone – about 85 percent – have graduated from high school. 79 percent are Hispanic. It is something of a swing district; while it has generally been represented by a Republican for the last decade, a Democrat did win the seat in 2016.

Three candidates are vying for the seat – one, a Democrat running for this seat for the second time, a first-time Republican candidate who has raised over $200,000 in just three months, and an independent outsider who is a relative unknown in the race. 

The Legislative seat is up for grabs because State Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin resigned to become Miami-Dade County Clerk of Courts. Election day is Dec. 5. 

Three candidates seek the seat: Democrat Johnny Farias, Republican Mike Redondo, and independent candidate Francisco De La Paz. 

The winner will serve the last year of Fernandez-Barquin’s term, and then face reelection in 2024. 

While Farias is no stranger to political office or campaigning, Redondo still has a likely chance of taking the seat. According to FIU professor Dario Moreno, District 118 is a conservative-leaning, Hispanic-majority district.

Map of District 118.

“I think it’s one of the elections that because of the type of turnout, that it’s an off-year election, the problems that Democrats are having with Florida Hispanics, I don’t think there’s much room for surprise,” said Moreno. “I think if it were a presidential year, it might be different because it’s a larger turnout.”

Here’s a look at the candidates:

Democrat Farias is an electrician by trade, as well as a former member of a Miami-Dade community council. He ran for the District 118 seat last year but was defeated by Fernandez-Barquin. If he wins, he said his priorities will be tackling economic issues, including high rents, insurance costs and inflation.

Farias said he wants the state to increase funding for the My Safe Florida Home Program, aimed at helping Florida residents strengthen their homes against hurricanes and lowering insurance premiums. He also advocates expanding homestead exemption benefits for senior citizens, freezing insurance costs and taxes.

“It’s not really about fixing, it’s about helping and keeping the residents in place,” said Farias.

“We all have the same thing in common – we’re working-class people, we’re here to raise a family, we just want to be able to do the basic stuff, put our kids through college. I don’t see why it would be a problem because I’m choosing things that I know we’re going to have in common all across the board.”

Farias has currently raised over $76,000, all of which are from local businesses and donors.

“All of my donations are from regular people. All of them are contractors, electricians, plumbers, retired teachers, police officers. I have no lobbyist money, no expenditures money, just regular working people who want to see the change because they understand what’s going on.”

Redondo, a first-time Republican candidate, is a personal injury attorney. He said he is pro-business, favors expanding parental rights in education, modernizing curriculum, and supporting law enforcement and providing them more resources.

He did not respond to repeated requests to be interviewed by Caplin News. 

In an appearance on “This Week in South Florida” on Channel 10 with reporter Glenna Milberg, he talked about his goals. 

“I think certainly the homeowner’s insurance crisis is by far the biggest one and I think that’s certainly issue number one for us,” said Redondo. “I think the other is education… the economy of Florida is dependent on us having highly educated people that can get good jobs here in the state.”

Redondo raised over $200,000 for his campaign, $103,000 of it from the state Republican Party and various political committees in Florida.

“I’m very fortunate to have support from the state party and others… I’ve never been in office, I’m not beholden to any groups like that… at no point will we ever lose sight of our constituents, the people who will actually be voting to get us in.”

As for independent candidate Francsico De La Paz, the 67-year-old construction consultant and businessman says his place as an unaffiliated candidate will enable him to better serve the district as opposed to being beholden to either party.

“Right now, it’s just a group of yes-men, and the other one is a group of people biting their tongues, waiting for a change from the governor’s mansion, so that’s what this is all about,” said De La Paz.

De La Paz’s platform includes reducing traffic and opposing overdevelopment, as well as supporting increased accountability and transparency in government.

“That kind of chipping away of local rights and local decision-making is not right, and the state has been doing it. It has been preventing local ordinances right and left, without realizing that what may work in Ocala will not work in South Florida.”

De La Paz’s political experience in South Florida stretches back for years, supporting local candidates in Hialeah, as well as serving on the Overtown Oversight Board and the District 12 Planning and Zoning Board.

De La Paz’s most recent campaign filings show no contributions or expenditures. In an interview, he told Caplin News he will begin fundraising before the end of the month. 

Alexander Luzula is a junior double majoring in political science and journalism, with a minor in international relations. After graduating, he wishes to pursue a career in journalism.