A.J. D’Amico, Vicki Lopez in close contest for HD 113 spanning Key Biscayne, Miami, Coral Gables

The district has leaned Democratic in recent elections, albeit gradually less so over time.

Democratic lawyer A.J. D’Amico and Republican political insider Vicki Lopez, a former Lee County Commissioner, are on a collision course to determine who will represent House District 113 after Rep. Nick Duran leaves office next month.

Lopez boasts an edge in funding and political experience, but it’s D’Amico who enjoys a lead in recent polling, as well as a nod from Duran as his preferred successor.

HD 113, post-redistricting, covers a central portion of Miami-Dade County, spanning all of Key Biscayne and parts of Coral Gables and Miami, including Virginia Key and PortMiami, one of the county’s two top economic engines.

The district has leaned Democratic in recent elections, albeit gradually less so over time. In 2018, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum secured HD 113 by 20 percentage points. Two years later, President Joe Biden won it by 12 points, according to an MCI Maps analysis.

D’Amico and Lopez both faced Primary opponents to secure the right to represent their respective parties in the General Election. D’Amico outpaced Biscayne Neighbors Association President Andrés Althabe with 68% of the vote. Lopez, meanwhile, knocked out entrepreneur and Venezuelan American Republican Alliance member Alberto Perosch with roughly the same percentage of support.

Internal polling data gathered less than a month from Election Day showed D’Amico holding a 5-point lead over Lopez, with a simulated vote by Washington-based Impact Research resulting in D’Amico winning 52% to 47%.

However, the poll also had a 5.2-percentage-point margin of error, placing the two candidates — both of whom have 33% name recognition among the district’s voters — in a statistical tie.

The poll also found that Lopez has won over new supporters at a rate faster than D’Amico despite a deficit in advertisement visibility.

Through Oct. 21, Lopez amassed $442,000 between her campaign account and political committee, Common Sense Government. That includes a $50,000 self-loan she made at the onset of her run for state office in late March. She also benefited from more than $71,000 worth of in-kind aid from the Florida GOP.

While D’Amico has had longer to fundraise — he launched his campaign in late November 2021 — he’s raised less than half of what Lopez has and received about $35,000 worth of in-kind help from the Democratic Party.

The race has been largely free of animosity since each candidate won their Primary contests, and the two even respectfully shared broadcast time last month to discuss issues concerning their potential constituents.

D’Amico is running on a platform that includes job creation, housing affordability, support for environmental sustainability, resilient infrastructure, firearm safety and education, LGBTQ+ rights and reversing Florida’s recent ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. That would return the state limit on pregnancy terminations to 24 weeks.

He is a member of the Cuban American Bar Association and a first-time political candidate. But he’s not without government experience. He spent time working in the office of former Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and former state Sen. René García, who is now a County Commissioner and Chair of the Miami-Dade GOP.

Prior to joining the Democratic Party in 2017, he was registered to vote with no party affiliation and as a Republican.

Lopez is a self-described “center-right candidate” who served on the Lee Commission in the 1990s. She resigned from her post and was convicted of mail fraud. Former President Bill Clinton commuted her sentence, and a U.S. District Court vacated her conviction nearly 15 years later.

Lopez turned her negative experience into positive action. She worked as an advocate in state-appointed roles specializing in criminal justice reform, post-prison reentry and education under Gov. Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.

She also held several leadership roles with the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Today, she owns and operates VLL Consulting, a government and public affairs firm.

Her platform prioritizes increased public safety, supporting first responders and veterans, adding to affordable housing, improving education, protecting the environment, enhancing mental health services, boosting the economy, strengthening health care affordability, protecting the Second Amendment and standing with Gov. Ron DeSantis against federal mandates “that cripple supply lines, consumer good prices and a person’s ability to earn a living.”

Of note, while Lopez said she supports Florida’s 15-week abortion ban, she said she would be open to adding exceptions for victims of rape, incest and human trafficking, which are not currently part of the law.

Both candidates enter the final stretch of this election season with support from members of and organizations aligned with their parties.

In addition to Duran, D’Amico has received nods from Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, state Sens. Shevrin JonesJason PizzoAnnette Taddeo and Victor Torres, Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins, Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos Martinez, former U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Donna Shalala, and former state Rep. Javier Fernandez.

Groups backing his bid include the AFL-CIO, Florida College Democrats, Florida Education Association, Florida State Fraternal Order of Police, Florida Association of Realtors, Latino Victory, Miami-Dade Young Democrats, SEIU Florida, United Teachers of Dade, Planned Parenthood, Florida Nurses Association and SAVE.

Lopez attracted support from prominent officials including U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez, who preceded Levine Cava as County Mayor, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago and Miami Commissioners Joe Carollo and Manolo Reyes.

She also carries endorsements from the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Medical Association, Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies and the South Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting is now underway.

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.

One comment

  • Judy

    November 6, 2022 at 12:05 am

    If you want to maintain your freedoms, your personal decisions & our Constitution, vote a straight Democrat ticket! Real eye opener: DeSantis’ Legislative Veto List 2022! Protect America vote Democrat!

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