Johnny Farias assembles team, enters HD 118 Special Election race

Johnny Farias
His top priority is addressing Florida’s insurance ‘crisis.’

Small business owner and community activist Johnny Farias is again running for House District 118, this time without an incumbent in the way.

Farias, a former Miami-Dade Community Council member, was the lone Democrat last year to challenge former Republican Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin in HD 118.

He was unsuccessful in that bid. But Fernandez-Barquin has since accepted an appointment as Miami-Dade Clerk and Comptroller, leaving his House seat open.

Farias believes timing and circumstances — from the state’s crumbling insurance market and skyrocketing living costs to record-breaking heat waves and residential flooding issues in South Florida — favor him to flip the seat back to blue later this year.

“Florida’s insurance crisis affects every resident, and it demands our immediate attention,” he said in a statement.

“As your State Representative, I will make it my priority to work tirelessly in the Legislature, collaborating with all stakeholders to find effective solutions that bring relief to the people of District 118 and the entire state. Together, we can tackle this crisis and build a stronger, more resilient Florida.”

Fernandez-Barquin’s absence from the HD 118 field this time around should enable Farias to better publicize his humble beginnings, working-class background and public service record. According to prior writings on his campaign website, which is now being reworked for this year’s effort, he immigrated to the United States from Ecuador at age 4 and, after serving in the Navy and getting married, settled in Miami-Dade to become a licensed electrician.

“Immigrant families like mine never gauge what is possible,” he said last year. “We do the hard work to make everything possible. And I have lived my life by that mantra.”

His 2022 campaign slogan: “An electrician, not a politician.”

Farias’ community involvements have included service as a Miami-Dade Community Council representative for District 15 of the County Commission — a body he unsuccessfully ran for in 2020 — and a court-pointed guardian ad litem tasked with representing children in abuse, abandonment or neglect proceedings.

He’s also a board member of Centro Campesino, a nonprofit homebuilder based in Homestead that has built and sold 500 affordable or homeowner-supported dwellings in South Florida.

Accordingly, Farias intends to focus his campaign’s messaging on affordability and the insurance crisis. And he’s assembled a team to help him do that, including former Democratic Rep. Robert Asencio as senior adviser.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Florida Democratic Party alum Manuel Ernesto Gutierrez is Farias’ Campaign Manager. Veteran direct mail strategist Achim Bergmann is the campaign’s general and mail consultant. Financial consultant Makeda McClune, who boasts 15 years of experience in local, state and federal campaigns, will lead fundraising.

Farias has also enlisted the expertise of Charly Norton, who works as Senior Vice President of Democratic mail firm Bergmann Zwerdling Direct, and digital fundraising operation Goodman Campaigns, which will help with email, texting and direct-to-donate ads.

In his campaign for HD 118 last year, Farias raised about $97,000. More than half came from his bank account.

Three Republicans — Miami Beach firefighter Christian Chavez, personal injury lawyer Mike Redondo and Ernie Thomas, a former appointed member of the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust and Miami-Dade Planning Advisory Board — are also running for HD 118.

Redondo, who led fundraising with $71,000 amassed in the first 12 days of his campaign in June, appears to be the party’s preferred candidate. More than a third of his gains came from the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee. Miami Rep. Daniel Perez, who is in line to be the next House Speaker, endorsed him as Fernandez-Barquin’s replacement.

HD 118 spans a narrow, unincorporated strip of the county west of Florida’s Turnpike encompassing the neighborhoods of Goulds, Kendall, South Miami Heights and South Miami Heights.

The Primary Election for HD 118 takes place Oct. 3. The General Election is on Dec. 5.

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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