In a last-minute move before Friday’s qualifying deadline, former Democratic state Rep. Robert Asencio filed paperwork seeking to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez in Florida’s 28th Congressional District.
The move could give Democrats a serious challenger to attempt to oust the first-term incumbent.
Asencio served one term in the House, representing the old House District 118 boundaries. He lost a 2-point race in 2018 to now-GOP state Rep. Anthony Rodriguez, who is now leaving the Legislature for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission.
Last cycle, Asencio also sought a spot on the Miami-Dade County Commission. But he placed second in a three-way race against incumbent Commissioner Joe Martinez. Asencio also served on the board for a group called Floridians for Affordable Reliable Energy following his time in the Legislature.
Giménez, meanwhile, ousted Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in 2020 after serving as Miami-Dade County Mayor.
It remains to be seen how the rest of the CD 28 race will shake out. Only Giménez, Karl K.W. Miller and Carlos Martinez Garin are listed as CD 28 candidates on the Federal Election Commissioner website. But the state Division of Elections website also shows Democrat Juan Paredes and write-in candidate Jeremiah Schaffer have qualified for the contest, leaving out Miller and Garin.
Additional updates Friday will likely clarify who will join the final field for the August Primaries and November General Election.
Asencio is likely a slight underdog in a General Election matchup, at the very least. Democrat Andrew Gillum won the territory of the new CD 28 in 2018 by more than 6 points over Republican Ron DeSantis. But in 2020, Republican Donald Trump flipped that margin, topping Democrat Joe Biden by more than 6 points.
That switch, in 2020, happened in a year where Miami-Dade County performed better for Republicans than in years past. And with 2022 expected to be a strong year for Republicans again, this year’s results are likely to be closer to 2020’s than they are to 2018’s, when Democrats performed well.