Voters on Tuesday will choose between three men, each of a different political persuasion, who are vying for a short-term stint representing House District 118.
Two of the candidates, Democrat Johnny Farias and independent Francisco “Frank” De La Paz, are former Community Council members now aiming at a far loftier office.
The third, Republican lawyer Mike Redondo, is hoping to succeed in his first time running for an elected post, a prospect bolstered by ample support from his state party. He’s the odds-on favorite to win, based on the district’s voting history, political composition and his sizable funding advantage.
While their visions vary for HD 118 — a narrow, unincorporated strip of South Miami-Dade County west of Florida’s Turnpike — all three candidates agree high housing and property insurance costs are urgent issues.
Since only one candidate per party is running, the biggest vote-getter Tuesday will earn a roughly 11-month term in the HD 118 seat, which former Republican Rep. Jaun Fernandez-Barequin vacated after Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him County Clerk in June.
The Governor called a Special Election to replace him the following month.
HD 118 boasts some 180,000 residents, most of whom are Hispanic and Republican.
That may not portend well for Farias, a past Redland Community Council member mounting his second run in two years for HD 118. His bid in 2022 netted him 32% of the vote against Fernandez-Barquin.
He also ran in 2020 for the Miami-Dade Commission, placing fourth in a race that went to former House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee.
On his website, Farias says he’d work to tackle inflation and curb rising insurance premiums if elected. He’d also like to ease the financial burden for senior homeowners by creating a trust similar to ones Miami-Dade has for homeless people and pets, according to an interview he gave to the Miami Herald.
Reducing traffic congestion by improving transit provisions and adding more flood-mitigating pump stations to his district are also on his to-do list.
Farias raised more than $79,000 through his campaign account for the Special Election. He reported no fundraising through his political committee, Friends of Farias. An overwhelming share of his gains came through personal checks of two- to three-figure sums, many of them from people in the construction contracting industry.
He also received more than $20,000 worth of in-kind aid, mostly from retirees who helped him with campaign mailer costs.
Farias, 54, is an electrician who was born in Ecuador. His campaign slogan last year was, ‘An electrician, not a politician.”
Redondo, a 38-year-old personal injury attorney and son of Cuban exiles, is less than a year into his political career. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at his fundraising.
Since filing for the race in June, he amassed nearly $194,000 between his campaign account and political committee, The Right Path for Florida. He also received nearly $63,000 worth of in-kind aid from the Florida GOP, many of whose elected members chipped in $1,000 donations.
Redondo benefitted from the generosity of businesses from the construction and real estate, health care, telecommunications and sugar industries, which poured thousands into his coffers.
His campaign website lists many of the priorities GOP state lawmakers have championed in recent Sessions, including parental rights, education reform, pro-business policies and hiring more police.
He told the Herald he wants to address housing unaffordability by lowering insurance rates — a seemingly Sisyphean problem for the Legislature, which has held numerous Special Sessions on the matter. Redondo said he could bring a novel approach to the issue, citing his professional work with insurers.
He also wants to fix Miami-Dade’s persistent transportation problems in HD 118 through added state funding allocations and create more educational and training opportunities for “blue collar” workers.
De La Paz, meanwhile, appears to be in the race in name only. He has no website, reported no fundraising and failed to file recent campaign finance reports with the Florida Division of Elections, which says he filed a qualifying fee to appear on the ballot.
The 67-year-old semi-retired builder told Local 10 in August that he planned to spend upwards of $10,000 on his candidacy — a sum not reflected in state records.
A former Republican, he won an unopposed bid for the county’s Kendal Community Council in 2020. He also ran for the seat unsuccessfully in 2006 and 2016.
The victor Tuesday will earn the HD 118 seat until next year’s election. Republican candidate Christian Chavez has already filed to challenge the winner.