Daniel Horton-Diaz, a former District Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, is throwing his hat into the ring for the hotly contested seat in Senate District 39.
That race will be one of the most-watched races this cycle, as GOP Sen. Anitere Flores is term-limited out of office. Democrats are now hoping to flip the seat blue.
Horton-Diaz will challenge Rep. Javier Fernández for the Democratic nomination. Horton-Diaz previously filed for the SD 39 seat in 2016 but eventually swapped to run for the Florida House, where he was defeated.
“I am proud to join this race to serve the incredible people of Florida Senate District 39,” Horton-Diaz said in a Tuesday statement before going after his two declared opponents.
“It’s embarrassing that both the Democrat and Republican candidates in this race are longtime lobbyists who don’t live in the district. I expect that from Republicans, but as Democrats, we should have a higher standard.”
Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez is the only Republican filed in the contest.
And both she and Fernández appear to have the full backing of their respective parties. GOP leadership has thrown its support behind Rodriguez, including by helping her raise money. That has prompted other GOP challengers to depart from the race.
Meanwhile, the entire Senate Democratic caucus has endorsed Fernández. But earlier this year, some questions were raised regarding the Fernández fundraising operation and whether he would be able to win the seat come November.
Fernández worked to quash some of those concerns with his most recent fundraising reports. Those documents showed Fernández topping Rodriguez in monthly fundraising in January. That marked the first time he had been able to come out on top this entire cycle.
Still, Rodriguez leads in overall cash on hand by nearly $400,000, meaning Fernández still has catching up to do.
Enter Horton-Diaz, who argues his ties to the community will give him a better appeal to SD 39 voters. SD 39 covers all of Monroe County and part of Miami-Dade County.
“I live here. I earned my law degree here. I’ve run for office here,” Horton-Diaz said.
“I’ve worked in Congress on behalf of this community, many of whom I consider my close friends and neighbors. I’ve put in the work to become the best candidate for this community and I’m ready to take on this challenge.”
With the Senate Democratic Caucus still publicly behind Fernández, it remains to be seen whether Horton-Diaz can peel off some party support or simply attempt to nab the nomination without it.
But his candidacy now makes this a contested Democratic primary, as Fernández had previously been unopposed. That could sap some resources from Fernández that would be better saved for the general in such a tough race.
Florida’s primary is scheduled for Aug. 18.