Democrat Janelle Perez has gained a pair of valuable endorsements to further bolster her effort to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Ileana Garcia and take Florida Senate District 37.
Perez’s campaign announced Tuesday that former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and former state Rep. Javier Fernández have thrown their support behind her in what is increasingly promising to be a 2022 race to watch.
Perez, a South Florida business owner, LGBTQ community leader and cancer survivor, said she is “thankful and honored” to receive Mucarsel-Powell and Fernández’s support.
“Their endorsements reaffirm our united front in our fight to ensure affordable healthcare, guarantee a better education for our children, and protect democracy and freedom,” she said in a written statement. “As a state senator, I will follow their path as I fight everyday to uplift our community and ensure everyone has a fair shot at achieving the American dream.”
Mucarsel-Powell, who represented Florida’s 26th Congressional District from 2019 to 2021 but lost reelection to Republican former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez, described Perez as “a caring, passionate, and dedicated member of our community who is fighting the good fight (while) Republicans are playing party politics and jeopardizing people’s livelihoods.”
“She will promote science, not delegitimize it,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “She will fight for voting rights, not rip it into shreds. And she will fight for us, not against us. I am confident Janelle Perez will make a terrific State Senator, and I am asking everyone to join me in supporting her.”
Fernández’s assessment of Perez was similarly glowing. The job Perez seeks is difficult, but according to the former House District 114 Representative, she is more than equal to the task.
“Republicans will try to pass draconian measures, and we need someone to stand up to (their) partisan agenda,” he said. “Janelle is the right person for this moment. She knows what it means to be a fighter and will fight to put our community ahead of politics so that we can ensure that every person has the opportunity to grow and thrive here in Miami-Dade.”
The influx of endorsements to Perez’s campaign came swiftly after her Sept. 15 announcement that she was switching from a bid to oust U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar to instead challenge Garcia.
That announcement came less than a month and a half after she launched her inaugural campaign, which she told Florida Politics would be primarily grassroots. Since then, her campaign has self-reported raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
Longtime Democratic consultant Christian Ulvert, who is managing Perez’s campaign, said earlier this month that Perez had raised nearly $300,000, most of which would go into her new political committee, Democracy and Freedom.
Perez, Salazar and Garcia, share several similarities. All are daughters of Cuban exiles. All grew up in Miami-Dade. And until six years ago, when Perez returned to Miami after working as a GOP staffer and entered treatment for stage 4 follicular lymphoma, all were registered Republicans.
But Perez said she changed parties shortly thereafter. She beat the disease, but the diagnosis and challenges she faced made her realize she was “not so much of a Republican.”
In challenging Garcia, she’s taking on a first-time state Senator who supplanted incumbent Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodriguez in a race that has since led to felony charges for election meddling.
The charges stem from a scheme by former GOP Sen. Frank Artiles to siphon votes from Rodriguez by propping up similarly named, non-party affiliated candidate Alex Rodriguez, who ultimately captured close to 6,400 votes. It was enough to give Garcia the seat by a mere 34-vote margin.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s office said it had no evidence Garcia, who denied involvement, knew of or took part in the plot. Nonetheless, Democrats called for Garcia to resign and face a Special Election.
SD 37 covers a large portion of Miami-Dade’s coastal communities, including all or part of the municipalities of Miami, Miami Beach, South Miami, Key Biscayne, Coral Gables, Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay, as well as parts of Kendall and West Miami.