Juan Fernandez-Barquin wins Republican Primary for HD 118, will face lone Democrat in General Election

A stalwart legislative ally of Gov. Ron DeSantis, he now faces Johnny Farias in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin dispatched two Republican Primary opponents Tuesday in his bid to hold onto the seat representing House District 118 for a third consecutive term.

With early and mail-in voting totals tabulated and all 63 precincts reporting at 10:50 p.m. Tuesday, Fernandez-Barquin had 65% of the vote compared to 27% for small business owner Daniel Sotelo and 8% for public school systems analyst Francisco Rodriguez.

He will face former South Bay Community Council member Johnny Farias, the lone Democratic candidate running in HD 118, in the Nov. 8 General Election.

A lawyer by training who sits on the Public Health Trust — the body that oversees Miami-Dade’s hospital network, Jackson Health System — Fernandez-Barquin established himself as one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ most loyal legislative allies.

In 2021, Fernandez-Barquin sponsored an “anti-riot” bill stiffening penalties against violent protests, including so-called “mob intimidation.” A federal judge later blocked the measure.

He followed that up this year with other controversial items in line with DeSantis’ governing priorities, including the “Stop Woke Act,” which prohibits lessons in public school and workplaces that say some people are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin, and a new measure critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which limits classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual preference.

He also successfully backed bills bringing millions of dollars in state funds back to his district.

His re-election campaign website lists the following priorities: fighting to eliminate wasteful spending, helping small businesses create well-paying jobs, bringing integrity and conservative values to Tallahassee, ensuring that families feel safe in neighborhoods, helping schools provide the best education options and developing solutions to reduce traffic and tolls.

Fernandez-Barquin defeated three Republican Primary opponents and two others in the General Election to win election to the House in 2018 with 53% of the vote. He retained office two years later with more than 65% of ballots cast in his favor.

Sotelo, a U.S. Air Force veteran, also ran against Fernandez-Barquin in 2018 as a no-party candidate. He has since registered with the GOP.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, worked that year on DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign. He is an employee of Miami-Dade Public Schools.

Sotelo has mounted several unsuccessful campaigns for public office since winning just 4% of the vote against Fernandez-Barquin four years ago. He briefly ran in 2019 for the House seat now held by Republican Rep. David Borrero. A year later, he sought election to a Miami-Dade Community Council but lost again.

Sotelo’s campaign website lists priorities including school choice, creating “a business-friendly environment that also helps create jobs,” supporting law enforcement, keeping taxes low, housing affordability, improving traffic in West Kendall and upholding “values and freedoms.”

When he filed in June 2021 to run in this election cycle, Sotelo originally declared candidacy for Senate District 39 before swapping over for another run at the House.

He raised nearly $221,000 through early August. That includes a $50,000 self-loan, multiple donations from companies registered under his name and numerous contributions from tenants of properties he owns.

By early August, he had about $68,500 remaining after heaving spending on advertising, mailers, text messages, door hangers and other campaign paraphernalia.

Rodriguez received no outside donations since filing to run this past June. Of about $2,000 he loaned his campaign, $89 was left by Aug. 5 after covering the state’s qualifying fee of $1,782 and buying $110 worth of business cards.

Rodriguez has no campaign website. In an interview with the Miami Herald, he said wants to “continue the fight that (Republicans) have started in Tallahassee and carry the torch forward.” He also said he wants to file legislation establishing life as beginning at conception, allowing Floridians to carry firearms without permits, tightening voting restrictions to improve election integrity and broadening school choice options for families.

Neither Sotelo nor Rodriguez said they believed there should be any exceptions in Florida’s new ban on abortion after 15 weeks. They also expressed ignorance and ambivalence about the Proud Boys, a far-right organization of self-proclaimed “western chauvinists” the FBI categorized as an extremist group in 2018.

Conversely, Fernandez-Barquin offered a more nuanced take, asserting that while he didn’t personally know anyone from the group — despite their infiltration of the Republican Party of Miami-Dade — any of their members who participated in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol should be held legally liable.

He also said that while he is anti-abortion, he remained “open-minded” on situations of rape and would consider exceptions for mentally incapacitated people incapable of reporting being raped.

Fernandez-Barquin carried a considerable war chest into the Tuesday election. Through early August, he raised nearly $516,000 this election cycle and still had more than $278,000 left after covering campaigning, advertising, consulting and staff salary costs.

He also received endorsements from some of the Florida GOP’s most prominent figures, including DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez and House Speaker-designate Paul Renner.

The newly mapped HD 118 covers a narrow strip of unincorporated Miami-Dade County, including the neighborhoods of Kendall, Perrine, Sunset and Westchester.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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