Juan Carlos Porras defeats fellow Gen Z foe to take HD 119

Juan Carlos Porras
He raised nearly 20 times as much money as his grassroots opponent.

The seat representing House District 119 will remain in GOP hands, as former political operative turned business owner Juan Carlos Porras captured more votes than his fellow Generation Z opponent Tuesday.

With all 49 precincts reporting, all early in-person votes counted and a full tally of mail-in ballots, Porras had 64.4% of the 55,211 votes cast compared to 35.6% for Democratic activist Gabriel Gonzalez.

He will succeed Republican Rep. Anthony Rodriguez, who is vacating the seat to join the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Porras, 25, was the presumptive favorite to win in the Republican-leaning district, which covers a strip of Miami-Dade encompassing parts of the unincorporated Crossings, Country Walk and West Kendall neighborhoods.

He also enjoyed far more funding and support from his party than 22-year-old Gonzalez, who eschewed organizational donations and corporate backing in favor of an almost exclusively grassroots campaign.

Both defeated competition in their respective Primary contests to earn a shot in the General Election this year.

Porras dominated the Aug. 23 Republican Primary, when he took 48% of the vote in a five-person contest. No one else in the race got more than 20%.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, outpaced an older, better-funded opponent to win 56% of the vote in the Democratic Primary.

A former Miami-Dade Youth Commissioner, Gonzalez raised about $16,000 between the late May launch of his bid for public office and Nov. 3 through his campaign account. That included a $2,000 self-loan.

Porras, who announced his campaign March 31, amassed more than $315,500 and tapped his Florida GOP connections for another $48,000 worth of in-kind assistance for campaign staff, travel and polling costs. His gains came overwhelmingly from corporate and organizational sources.

Conversely, the only organizational contribution Gonzalez accepted was a $500 check from the Florida Progressive Political Committee. All other donations came directly from people, most for less than $100.

Neither man served in elected public office before, but both boasted pertinent experience.

Porras earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida International University, where he served as President of the FIU College Republicans.

He got his start in government work by interning in the office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who was one of his professors at FIU. After serving as chapter president of Turning Point USA and southern regional director of the Florida Federation of College Republicans, he worked in the offices of U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and state Reps. Juan Fernandez-Barquin, Alex Rizo, and Spencer Roach.

Fernandez-Barquin endorsed Porras’ campaign as well as Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis, Doral state Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, the Republican Party of Florida and the political arms of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, Dade County Medical Association, Fraternal Order of Police, South Florida Council of Firefighters, Miami Association of Realtors, Metro-Dade Firefighters Local 1403 and the Florida East Coast chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors.

His campaign platform prioritized efforts to stop the spread of socialism, fight inflation, lower gas prices, address South Florida’s housing affordability crisis, cut taxes for businesses and “safeguard personal freedoms from overreaching government.” He’s also a proponent of school choice, a term which means, among other things, providing further support to privately run, but publicly funded, charter schools.

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Porras expressed complete opposition to abortion and support for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ program to fly migrants who cross over the U.S. border illegally into northern, Democratic-led states.

Gonzalez, who won a Miami Herald Silver Knight award in 2018 after he founded a nonprofit that collects toys and books for children battling cancer, disagreed on both fronts. He called himself a “pro-choice champion” and likened the migrant-relocation plan to human trafficking.

Gonzalez worked for two years as an intern to former Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan Zapata and spent another four months interning in Washington, where he says he wrote legislative language to be considered on the Senate floor.

He is a member of the Democratic Executive Committee, a student mentor with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University, according to his LinkedIn page. While there, he served as a print editor of the school’s Undergraduate Law Review.

His campaign website says he logged more than 10,000 hours of community service. It lists endorsements from Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo, Orlando Rep. Anna Eskamani, former state Rep. Javier Fernández, Run for Something, Flamingo Democrats, Florida College Democrats, Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus, #VoteProChoice, Moms Demand Action, Safeguarding American Values for Everyone, SAVE Action PAC, Clipboard PAC, Labor Community Alliance of South Florida, Florida Planned Parenthood PAC and The Youth Vote.

Gonzalez pledged, if elected, to fight energy monopolies to make it easier for Floridians to transition to clean and renewable energy sources, protect the Urban Development Boundary while working to invest in affordable housing and take a multifaceted approach to stimulate the economy and support small businesses.

He cited Florida’s teacher shortage, gun violence, access to health care, threats to women’s reproductive rights and electoral fairness as points of concern.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, he also promised to fight for strong state protections for LGBTQ+ rights and to oppose trans sports bans and the “Parental Rights in Education” measure, which critics labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” law. That latter legislation, among other things, limits classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual preference.

Porras’ six-figure campaign spending primarily went to Coral Gables-based consulting firm Miranda Advocacy for campaign advertising, voter outreach and signage.

Gonzalez did not employ a consulting firm to spend roughly $13,000, which covered campaign materials and various voter outreach and canvassing activities.

The Hispanic-majority district sided with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum by 6 percentage points in 2019. Just one year later, however, it swung dramatically in the opposite direction as voters there sided with Donald Trump by an 8-point margin, according to an MCI Maps analysis.

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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