Democratic community leader, lawyer, and entrepreneur Ashley Gantt is throwing her hat in the ring for House District 109, where she’ll face incumbent Democratic Rep. James Bush III, who hasn’t had an election challenge in years.
Gantt, the founder and managing partner of Gantt Legacy Law P.A. in Miami, announced her candidacy Wednesday.
“Representation matters greatly and at this moment in our state’s history when so many feel left out and left behind by decisions made by elected leaders, I decided it was time to stand up and fight for what is right and just,” she said in a statement. “I am truly humbled by this moment as so many in my community encourage me to do the unthinkable: run for office.”
Gantt boasts a decade and a half of service to the community, beginning after she graduated from the University of Florida in 2007 and joined the nonprofit service group, Teach for America, to help close the achievement gap among young learners.
Upon completing her two-year term with the organization, she returned home and taught middle and high school with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. One of her students was Trayvon Martin.
She earned her law degree in 2016 and became an assistant public defender that year in Broward County. In both of her two years there, she received the nonprofit Broward Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ “Hat Trick” award for winning “not guilty” verdicts in at least three consecutive trials.
Before founding her criminal defense, estate planning, probation litigation and personal injury law firm in April 2021, Gantt worked as an associate lawyer at North Miami Beach-based Barner Legal P.A., Vernis & Bowling of Broward P.A. and Miami-headquartered Shutts & Bowen LLP.
She has tried cases from misdemeanors to first-degree felonies.
Gantt boasts many community involvements. She has served on the executive board of the T.J. Reddick Bar Association, including as president last year. She also teaches as an adjunct professor at the Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law, her alma mater.
In Miami-Dade County, she represented District 2 on the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, which oversees the use of billions of dollars collected through a countywide half-percent surtax known as the “half penny.”
HD 109 spans north-central Miami-Dade and includes parts of Miami, Hialeah, Miami Lakes, North Miami and Opa-locka.
Last year, Gantt lost a cousin to gun violence in a mass shooting near a Hialeah banquet hall during Memorial Day weekend. Speaking to the public afterward, she issued a “call to action to speak up and say something” about what they knew of the incident.
The communities in her district continue to encounter great challenges, and their voices need to be heard “loud and clear” in Tallahassee, she said.
“Families are facing a true affordability crisis and legislative leaders have done little to address it,” she said. “As a former public school teacher, I know we must do better in investing in our classrooms because the best tool a child has to succeed is a strong education.
“I am a proud product of this vibrant and loving community and I would be honored to represent (HD 109) in the Florida House of Representatives.”
Gantt is challenging Bush, a fellow Democrat who in January served as grand marshal of the 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities.
Bush hasn’t been afraid to vote against his party, as evidenced in his being the only Democratic “yes” vote for a controversial piece of legislation opponents dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
A retired teacher, Bush has served three separate stints representing the heavily Democratic-leaning HD 109, including from 1992 to 2000 and from 2008 to 2010.
His most recent term of service began in 2018, when he defeated his lone Primary opponent, Cedric McMinn, by 6.4 percentage points and coasted into office after no General Election challenger arose.
Two years later, he won re-election unopposed.