Elected to Florida’s 118th legislative district in 2016, Representative Robert Asencio has been highly successful in leading the way in finding the right solutions to the many challenges facing the residents of District 118, Miami-Dade County, and Florida in general.
With more than 33 years of public service under his belt – at the local, state and national levels – Representative Asencio strongly believes that elected officials should be held to a high standard of leadership. For that reason, and many more, the Community Newspapers recommends that Representative Asencio continue to serve the people of this district by being re-elected to the Florida State House this August.
The district that Representative Asencio represents encompasses Southwest Miami Dade, Tamiami, parts of Kendall, and the areas encompassing such economic engines as The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, better known as Zoo Miami, and the Miami Executive Airport.
Not only is he an ardent supporter of improved public education, safety, and health, Representative Asencio also supports criminal justice reform as well as equality for all. He also strives to protect and preserve our environment here in the Sunshine State, while supporting smart economic development and empowerment.
Asencio moved to Miami in 1977 from Puerto Rico and has lived in District 118 for 17 years. A graduate of St. Thomas University with a bachelor’s in organizational leadership, Asencio has been a public servant for 33 years, starting in 1983 by serving in the Special Operations Unit during his six years with the U.S. Army Reserves.
A retired police captain after 26 years with Miami-Dade Schools Police Department, Asencio served as executive board member of FOP Lodge #133 and Teamsters Local #769, founded Florida Public Employees that advocates for 1.3 million workers, and is past president of the South Florida Council of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens). He also is past board member of the Zambrano Foundation promoting Democracy in the Americas.
Known as dynamic leader from the Miami-Dade delegation, Representative Asencio serves on numerous standing committees in the State Capital at Tallahassee including the Education Committee, Health Quality Subcommittee, Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee, Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness, and the Pre K-12 Innovation Subcommittee.
Among his many achievements as a freshman legislator in 2017, Representative Asencio successfully sponsored and co-sponsored 11 bills that were signed into law. And in 2018, among the numerous bills and amendments he sponsored are Small Business Finance Assistance HB 0801, Workforce Retention HB 1171, and K-12 Classroom Teachers HB 1269, which establishes a Blue Ribbon Panel Task Force on teacher recruitment, certification, & retention within the Florida Department of Education.
He also serves as chairman of the Puerto Rico/Caribbean Hurricane Relief & Transition Committee for Miami-Dade Delegation, and supported Spanish-language television production to increase civic awareness among Miami’s Hispanic populations. One of his closest held successes is the co-creation of new programs to reduce violence among at-risk youth in our community.
A dedicated public servant, retired police captain, and proud veteran, Robert has fought hard for working families, students, and the environment. The Community Newspapers endorses his goal of continuing to do good work for the people of Florida by being re-elected to District 118 this fall.
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The Florida College Democrats have endorsed Sanjay Patel for his run for Congress and Margaret Good, Anna Eskamani, and Mark Lipton in Florida House races, the organization announced.
Patel, running in Florida’s 8th Congressional District along the Space Coast against longtime incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, was the only congressional candidate picked for the College Dems’ endorsements.
“Patel is a dedicated grassroots activist and has helped Brevard Dems rise to the ranks as one of the biggest grassroots organizations in the state. Brevard Dems knocked the most doors in any county of Florida and fundraising doubled under the Sanjay and Stacey Patel leadership of Brevard Dems,” the College Dems stated in a news release. “Patel is a fighter for progressive values and really shows his message of ‘People over Politics.’ Patel was endorsed recently by Our Revolution.”
Eskamani, of Orlando, is seeking a seat opening in Florida House District 47 covering central Orange County. An activist and consultant to a non-profit, Eskamani has Democratic primary competition from Apopka real estate agent Lou Forges, with Stockton Reeves VI and Mikaela Nix competing in the Republican primary.
“We are proud to endorse Anna for her tireless efforts for healthcare, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. Anna recently received an endorsement from former candidate for president, [Maryland] Gov. Martin O’Malley and was featured on the TIME magazine cover ‘The Avengers.’ Eskamani is young, motivated and ready to bring much needed progressive change to Florida,” the College Dems noted.
Good, of Sarasota, was elected last year in a special election in Florida House District 72. She has no primary opponent but faces the winner of the Jason Miller–Ray Pilon Republican primary.
“Good is an advocate for important issues, such as environmental rights and women’s rights. Good cares deeply about education in this great state of Florida. Good plans to uphold these values and to ‘shake up’ Tallahassee,” the College Democrats stated.
Lipton, of North Fort Myers, is running for the House District 79 seat opening in Lee County. He has no primary opponent and will face the winner of the Matthew Miller–Spencer RoachRepublican primary.
“Lipton … is a supporter of public education, even referring to it as a “backbone” of this country. Lipton believes affordable health care is a right, which is an important issue to Florida College Democrats. Lipton upholds Democratic values and plans to unfold his vision for a better Florida,” the College Dems stated.
The College Dems’ release concluded with a statement declaring that all of the candidates uphold the vision of Florida College Democrats with our mission statement ‘As the official Democratic Student Caucus of Florida and a College Democrats of America State Federation, we unite College Democrats on campuses and communities across the state of Florida to advocate on the behalf of the Democratic Party.’ We believe these candidates will help flip our great state of Florida blue during one of the most important crucial election cycles.”
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Strike … four.
In the fourth and final Florida bellwether election since 2016, the Democratic candidate beat the Republican in a contested race, providing the best evidence yet that the GOP is in retreat heading into the midterm elections under an unpopular president.
On Tuesday, in Florida’s 114th state House District in Miami, Javier Fernandez beat Republican Andrew Vargas by about 4.1 percentage points, despite being outspent by at least 2-1 in a swing seat where voters split their tickets between both parties in the 2016 elections.
“Let the Blue Wave Continue!” crowed the chairwoman of Florida’s Democratic Party, Terrie Rizzo.
“Tonight’s special election victory is the latest of a string of special election victories for Florida Democrats which shows us that after nearly 20 years of failed Republican leadership — people are ready for change,” she said in a written statement.
Fernandez’s win follows a shocking February victory by Democrat Margaret Good in Florida’s 72nd House District, which voted for President Donald Trump. Democrats also won Florida’s 40th Senate District in Miami-Dade and St. Petersburg’s mayoral race. Those last two elections had Democratic-leaning electorates with significant minority populations, unlike the 72nd in Sarasota and, to a lesser degree, the 114th District.
The win was also big for Florida Democrats because they finally started to build a bench by electing their second Cuban-American Democrat from Miami-Dade County to the Florida Legislature, where the 42-year-old Fernandez will join state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez.
Cuban-Americans dominate the power structure in Florida’s most-populous county, though they’re overwhelmingly Republican. But as the older generation gives way to second- and third-generation Cuban-Americans, political observers have been predicting for years that more would become Democrats.
In 2016, the 114th chose Democrat Daisy Baez by 2 percentage points, but Sen. Marco Rubio — who used to represent parts of the district — won it by 4.3 percentage points. Trump, though, lost it by 14 points.
The special election was triggered after Baez resigned for lying to investigators about her residency in the district.
The election was more about bragging rights for both political parties, because the state legislative session is over. No special session is likely to be called, so the winner, Fernandez, will have to run again in November anyway.
By registration, Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 1 percentage point. But independents make up roughly 31 percent of the voters. And Tuesday’s election showed the swing voters of the swing district favored the Democrat.
Despite Trump’s unpopularity, Democrats didn’t play it up — a sign, they say, that the atmosphere in the nation’s largest swing state is toxic for the GOP.
Still, Republicans say Trump’s approval ratings are slowly improving and they hope that one of his closest allies, Gov. Rick Scott, will be able to fight the headwinds in his race against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson thanks to the governor’s improving poll numbers and the unprecedented $5 million in TV ads that he’s already dropping.
But Juan Peñalosa, the executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, said the wins show that Florida Democrats’ get-out-the-vote field program is working and that Republicans can’t keep up on the ground or when it comes to the message they’re delivering to voters.
“These wins are more than just Democrats having the ‘wind at our backs.’ We’re winning because we are running smarter campaigns and speaking to the issues,” he said. “Voters are paying attention now and they are believing in our message, our plan and joining us in holding Republicans accountable by voting them out of office.”
Farther north, in another special state House election, Republicans hung on to their seat when Josie Tomkow quickly dispatched Democrat Ricky Shirah in Florida’s 39th House District, a GOP stronghold the Democrats didn’t contest.
While the Florida House is likely to stay Republican for years, Fernandez’s win bolstered hopes that Democrats could be closer to taking back the Florida Senate if they can flip five seats in the 40-member chamber.
Republicans lauded Fernandez. And they sounded spooked at the Democratic gains in the Legislature, where the GOP remains in charge of the Florida House and Senate, as well as the governor’s mansion and Florida Cabinet.
“@Javierfor114 is a class act and a good man. His colleagues will see it too and soon, and no doubt in my mind leadership is in his future,” Alberto Martinez, former chief of staff for Rubio, said on Twitter. “Only real question is whether he’ll be minority leader or [Florida House] Speaker.”
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In Florida’s final special election before the November mid-terms, Democrats once again took a swing district in the nation’s largest swing state.
Outspent but not outmaneuvered, Democrat Javier Fernandez took Florida’s 114th House district Tuesday, keeping the purple Miami-Dade seat in the fold for the state’s surging minority party. He beat Republican Andrew Vargas by roughly 4 points — 51 to 47 percent — with all the votes counted. Independent candidate Liz de las Cuevas netted an estimated 2.5 percent of the vote.
The contest — for a measly six-month term in an office that will be up for election again in November — was the final test before the mid-terms of a Democratic winning streak that began in September with Annette Taddeo’s victory in a south Dade Florida Senate race. It also comes on the heels of Margaret Good’s victory in a Sarasota House race, giving Democrats reason to celebrate even as they lost another election Tuesday in a staunchly red Central Florida house race.
“Tonight’s special election victory is the latest in a string of special election victories for Florida Democrats, which shows us that after nearly 20 years of failed Republican leadership, people are ready for a change,” state party chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a statement.
Fernandez, a rookie candidate and former aide to then-Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, held the seat for the party, which was forced to defend the district after disgraced representative Daisy Baez resigned last year following a residency scandal.
Prior to Democrat Baez, the seat was held by Republican Erik Fresen, who termed out and then pleaded guilty last year to failing to file a tax return for 2011, a year in which he received $270,136 in income he didn’t report to Uncle Sam. (He also didn’t file federal income tax returns from 2007-2016 — eight of those years when he was in the House.)
Republicans were confident that Vargas, the longtime law partner of OAS ambassador and former state representative Carlos Trujillo, could win in a district where Republicans slightly outnumber Democrats and down-ballot Republicans have outperformed the top of the ticket.
But once again, Election Day turnout pushed a Democrat over the top. Vargas secured 807 more absentee votes than Fernandez, but Democrats said their numbers show Fernandez pulled Republicans, and as many as nine out of 10 independent voters, during early voting. Election Day turnout gave him a clear victory.
“It’s pretty sweet, man. I can’t lie,” said Fernandez, who was battered during a negative election in which both competing candidates were hammered by political committees. “Substance wins over slights, right? “
Fernandez said his performance with independent and Republican voters gives him confidence heading into November.
“We absolutely outperformed in that segment. We’re excited about that and we think it’s a strong statement about our ability to keep the seat going into November.”
Some political insiders have speculated that regardless of who won on Tuesday, the contest could end up being round one of a November re-match between him and Fernandez. But reached by phone late Tuesday, Vargas said he couldn’t say what the future holds for his political career.
“We lost election day, and we support our new representative and we move on. That’s it,” Vargas said.
As for the significance of the win, Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County, was dismissive.
“I think HD 114 elected another Democrat,” he said.
But Republican pundit Ana Navarro, who lives in the district, tweeted that Republicans can blame Donald Trump for another loss.
“GOP candidate spent oodles of $$. His ppl knocked on my door, called me on the phone & I got mailers in my mailbox, DAILY,” she wrote. “If u think Trump isn’t dragging folks down, I want some of what ur smoking.”
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With signs pointing to Democrat-friendly climate this election cycle, there is good news and not so good news for Florida Democrats eager to grow their influence in the Florida legislature.
The good news is Democrats are competing in significantly more legislative races than four years ago – at least 15 more Florida House seats and twice as many Florida Senate seats. The filing deadline is not until June, but 30 percent more Democrats have filed for the Florida House since the last off-year election of 2014.
It reflects Democratic energy and enthusiasm on the ground, also demonstrated by swelling attendance at local party meetings, Democratic clubs, and protest events, as well as recent special election wins.
“This year, our local Democratic party’s are working with Indivisible, Women’s March and Never Again chapters to recruit quality local candidates to run in seats that Democrats have not contested in years,” said Juan Penalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.
The bad news for Democrats? Because Democrats have had so little influence in Tallahassee for so long, they have a feeble bench of candidates from which to draw and far, far less money to compete than Republicans.
Look through the campaign reports of competitive or potentially competitive Florida House seats, and the Republican candidates consistently have three or four more money on hand than their Democratic challengers. The multi-million dollar Florida senate races are harder to judge because so much of the spending comes from political committees rather than the campaigns themselves.
Tampa Bay is home to what could be the most vulnerable Republican state senator in Florida, Dana Young, of Tampa, but Democrats appear poised to have an expensive and bruising primary between Bob Buesing and Janet Cruz.
Still, Democrats can’t take advantage of a wave election year if they don’t have candidates in place to ride the wave if it happens. And the more seats Democrats contest, the more resources Republicans will have to spend on defense rather than offense.
“Democrats across the state are building progressive networks that are working together to recruit Democrats to take on out of touch Republicans, because in this election, with our newly recruited candidates, no seat is safe,” Penalosa said.
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