Just like in 2016 and 2018, we’re again asking every candidate to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running. If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email Jason@FloridaPolitics.com.
Today’s feature: Dan Horton-Diaz, a Democratic candidate for Senate District 39 and former District Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.
2020 Florida legislative candidate questionnaire:
In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?
This community is my community. The residents are my friends and neighbors. They deserve to be represented by someone that knows and cares about them.
Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature: Kennesaw State University (Atlanta, GA)
Juris Doctor Degree: Florida International University College of Law (Miami, FL)
What was your first job?
Odd jobs included baling hay, hauling bricks, and other types of manual labor. My first hourly job was as a cashier in a grocery store. I also spent roughly 8 years working in restaurants as a server and bartender before attending law school.
Significant other? Kids?
I am married to my wife, Nicole Peguero Horton-Diaz. She’s incredible. We don’t have any children (yet).
Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement?
I spoke with many community members in the local political party before I decided to run. I know that I have their support and they encourage me often.
Who do you count on for advice?
My wife, my supporters, and my friends.
Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?
I don’t have a political consultant. My campaign manager is Rich Dally.
Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?
My brother, who is an enlisted member of the US Navy. He loves me, supports me, and understands the passion that we both have for service to our community and country.
Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?
The legislative staffers and the bill drafting department. After working as a legislative aide in the Florida Senate, I’ve seen how much knowledge and experience the staffers and bill drafters have. Those folks are the secret sauce that keep Tallahassee running.
Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?
This Senate District race is a great lesson in why people don’t trust politicians and political party leadership. My two opponents are both former longtime lobbyists that don’t live in the district. What makes it worse is that they just got elected in 2018 in areas that have little connection to SD 39 (Javier E. Fernandez more so than Ana Maria Rodriguez, on this point). Javier in particular spent multiple campaign cycles telling his constituents that they mattered to him. But when the first opportunity came for him to climb the political ladder, he took it.
While the most faithful party voters may not care about this game of political musical chairs, independent voters (NPAs) do notice. To win a race in Florida, you need those voters. But party leaders (in both parties) continue to show by their actions that voters themselves (and dedicated public service, in general) don’t really matter to the political power players and party leadership. It’s unfortunate.
To change people’s opinions, you have to first change your behavior. I hope that by running this race, my community continues to see that I’ll fight for them no matter what I have to go up against.
What are 3 issues that you’re running on?
Clean water is a key issue to this district and to me. I continue to oppose Big Sugar’s stranglehold on state politics and the legislature. I support restoring the flow of Lake Okeechobee through the Everglades and into Florida Bay.
Once elected, one of my top priorities will be to begin the process of fixing the broken unemployment assistance system. I will work with other legislators to pass legislation that will replace the current system with a modern system that actually works.
I look forward to working with other legislators to finally expand Medicaid to fill the coverage gap. We have almost half a million Floridians with no path to affordable coverage.
What is a “disruptive” issue are you interested in?
The most disruptive issue is true government reform.
Once elected, I will propose a 6 year ban on lobbyists running for office, which would be effective from the last day that they were a registered lobbyist. The state of Florida already prevents state legislators from becoming lobbyists for 6 years after they end their term. We should put the inverse in place as well.
What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?
Political balance. Republicans have held control of the state legislature for too long. Restoring party balance would force both sides to start working together. The restoration of balance would streamline the legislative process and begin to truly work for all Floridians.
Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?
I’ll call it a tie between Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham. I really appreciate the example of “old school” political campaign strategies and the candidates that ran them. Lawton Chiles’s “walking the state” and Bob Graham’s “work days” are pretty ingenious ways to show voters that you care about them, their community, and their livelihoods. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet Bob Graham and I’ve been impressed by his spirit, energy, and continued presence as a voice for Floridians.
Bonus answer: Rick Scott is the worst Governor in Florida history (maybe US history). Truly awful.
If you could amend the Florida Constitution, what would you change?
Remove the discriminatory language against the LGBTQ+ community that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. Add protections against LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace. Establish an independent redistricting commission. Remove the Alien Land Law language that was placed there to discriminate against the Asian American community. Strengthen environmental protections. Expand voting rights.
This list could go on forever. There are a lot of things that we could and should change in the Florida Constitution.
Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?
Sure. I don’t have much faith in the persuasive ability of signs, but campaign supporters tend to expect you to have them.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
Where do you get your political news?
Reddit, Florida Politics, Miami Herald, and my Facebook feed.
Social media presence? Twitter handle?
In 280 characters, what’s a Tweet that best describes your campaign message?
The people of Senate District 39 deserve to be represented by a dedicated public servant that knows the community and will fight for them in Tallahassee.
Watching basketball and reading political biographies.
Favorite sport and sports team?
FIU Panthers (everything); Atlanta Hawks (basketball); Atlanta Falcons (football).
When my favorite teams aren’t playing, I always find myself rooting for the scrappy underdogs.