Republican leadership in the Senate announced their pick to challenge Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez. Republican Ileana Garcia will imminently file to take on the incumbent.
Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson and Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo endorsed the as-yet-unfiled Garcia in Senate District 37. The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee announced the endorsement and Garcia’s candidacy.
The race marks the rare leadership-backed play for a seat held by an incumbent Senator and one of few legislative seats this cycle where the Republican majority will go on offense and try to retake a blue seat.
Garcia, a Miami native with strong ties in South Florida’s Cuban Republican community, served as the first Hispanic female Deputy Press Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under President Donald Trump. She previously founded Latinas For Trump.
Simpson, a Spring Hill Republican, praised her as a strong candidate to run in the district.
“As the daughter of Cuban exiles, Ileana has seen the devastating impacts of the brand of socialism being pedaled by today’s Democrats. We cannot move our state forward by holding back the very people we seek to help,” Simpson said.
“The hard working people of South Florida deserve a state senator who will put them first and work to ensure they have access to opportunities, regardless of their zip code. She understands first-hand the challenges facing so many of Florida’s families and I look forward to having her important voice in the Florida Senate.”
Passidomo, a Naples Republican, similarly praised the candidate.
“Ileana is the American Dream personified. She has the proven grit and tenacity to cut through the noise and deliver results for the people of Senate District 37,” said Passidomo. “Ileana serves as a tremendous example of what can be accomplished, regardless of where you come from or what you’ve been through, when you work hard.”
Republicans have long promised to try and retake District 37.
In 2016, Rodriguez won the seat over incumbent Sen. Miguel Diaz De la Portilla, a Coral Gables Republican, by less than 6,000 votes.
But with just two weeks until qualifying deadline, no challenger had yet filed or announced against the incumbent.
Rodriguez, as of the end of April, had raised $364,593 toward his reelection. An associated political committee, Initiative for Florida’s Future, raised $747,800.
While Garcia starts from scratch with her campaign, the FRSCC endorsement comes armed with more than $8,851,660 in cash on hand for just a handful of targeted districts in the state.