Ocala business owner Jose Juarez is announcing his candidacy for the not-yet-called Special Election in House District 24 to replace former Rep. Joe Harding. The Republican presented himself as a champion of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda.
“The American Dream is alive and well — I am that dream. And we must elect leaders who know how to protect and preserve that dream,” Juarez said.
“Gov. DeSantis saved Freedom here in Florida. With Gov. DeSantis, we were free from masks and government-mandated jabs. We were free to educate our children as we saw fit. Now we must send leaders who will continue the fight in Florida alongside America’s Governor.”
The son of Cuban exiles, Juarez’s family fled the island when he was 5 years old. A South Broward High graduate who later went to college at Florida State University, he has lived in the Ocala area for 40 years. He met his wife, Kelly, in college and the couple raised two children, Jessica and Brock.
He founded Victory Solutions, a marketing firm, in 2003. More recently, he founded Barbacuban — which distributes a specialty sauce to 500 stores in Florida, Georgia and Alabama — in 2016.
Before starting his own companies, Juarez worked in marketing for the auto industry, including stints as vice president of sales, marketing and special projects for Starcraft Automotive, and as vice president of Mark III Industries.
Juarez’s announcement came days after the resignation of Harding, an Ocala Republican. The sitting lawmaker quit one day after federal prosecutors announced an indictment charging Harding with wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements through a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration by obtaining COVID-19-related small business loans through false and fraudulent pretenses.
A Special Election must be called to fill Harding’s seat. No other candidates have publicly announced for the seat, but on Friday, Ryan Chamberlin filed paperwork with the state as a candidate for the seat in 2024.