Jenny Lee Molina files, withdraws from challenge to Vicki Lopez in HD 113

Jenny Lee Molina
Never mind.

For a moment there, it appeared Miami Republican Rep. Vicki Lopez might not be running unopposed after all.

Jenny Lee Molina, a Democratic publicity specialist who has worked since April 2023 as Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s senior digital strategist, filed paperwork Friday to challenge Lopez in House District 113.

She pulled out hours later.

“I believe in ‘small d’ democracy. With no Democratic candidate running in this seat and the filing deadline looming, I stepped up because voters deserve a choice but I have since decided to withdraw my candidacy,” she said by text.

“I have the skills to be an effective state Representative for this beautiful and diverse district and had every intention to serve the residents of HD113, listen to their concerns, and deliver on their needs, not my own. Unfortunately, I feel that to do so effectively I would need to leave my current employment. I personally hope another Democratic candidate enters this uncontested race.”

Molina’s name may be familiar to those who paid attention to a brief web and radio skirmish in 2021 involving allegations of impropriety she lodged against Education Commissioner Manny Díaz Jr.

According to her LinkedIn page, she worked as a digital communications associate for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. Her communications career includes work for Toyota, BCW, the SEED Food and Wine Festival, Coconut Grove Business Improvement District and as a freelance vegan food writer for Miami New Times,

Between 2010 and 2023, she worked as the founding Chief Communications Officer for JLPR, a self-described “boutique PR agency providing, public relations, social media solutions and event marketing services to South Florida businesses, artists and nonprofits.”

Molina is also the founder of 305 Cafecito and 305 Day, a local holiday and block party celebrating Miami life and culture. She also co-founded the Leah Arts District in Hialeah as a pro-bono beautification project that grew into a community hub offering local artists affordable living and work spaces.

Miami Dade College, where she earned an associate degree in communications and media studies, inducted her into its Alumni Hall of Fame in 2019 for her career accomplishments and community impact. She’s also earned laurels from BizBash, Miami New Times and

Florida Politics contacted Molina by phone at 5 p.m. Friday shortly after her name appeared as an HD 113 candidate on the Florida Division of Elections website. She said she couldn’t talk at the moment but would return the call. She didn’t, nor did she respond immediately to text messages.

She wrote back four hours later, saying she wasn’t running after all.

“”When the times comes, I will work to reach across the aisle to forge solutions to our affordability crisis and the real issues my neighbors graple with every day,” she said. “I will continue to stand up for a woman’s right to choose and for everyone’s freedom over their bodies and personal decisions. I strongly support Amendment 4 because the “small d” democracy I believe in rejects government interference in our daily lives.”

William “Fergie” Reid told Florida Politics that Molina would enjoy support from 90 for 90, a group he founded in Virginia to support Democratic candidates in retaking the Legislature. He hadn’t yet added her name to the organizations website by the time she withdrew.

Molina made headlines in January 2021 when she accused Díaz, then a state Senator, of being a “pervert” and an “inappropriate teacher” during his time at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High.

Responding to one of Díaz’s online posts about counseling students after the Jan. 6 riot, Molina said he “openly” discussed doing drugs at the nightclub, Space, “trying to be the ‘cool’ teacher who was a little too friendly.”

A cease-and-desist letter Díaz’s lawyer sent to former Hialeah Mayor Raúl Martínez, who hosted a radio segment in which Molina reiterated her allegations, said Díaz “fully and unequivocally denies these baseless and defamatory claims.” The letter also highlighted a text Molina sent to Diaz in 2013, 14 years after when she graduated from the school, in which she wrote, “I am soooo grateful to you as a teacher and now a great community leader … Thank you, so happy to reconnect. You were a great teacher!”

Molina later said online that she was “triggered” by Díaz “pretending to care about mental health when his own legislation defunds public schools including counselors.” She also wrote, “I never said I was a victim, nor did he do anything illegal for me to go to the police.”

Former Rep. Cindy Polo, a Miramar Democrat, said in a since-deleted post to X, then Twitter, that she’d heard the allegations before from students who “didn’t speak up (because Díaz) later became Principal, I believe.”

“I also did not think it was my place to tell someone else’s story,” she added.

Lopez, a longtime Republican political insider, won her seat in November 2022 with 51% of the vote. She has since proved herself to be an especially effective center-right lawmaker.

HD 113 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.

According to analyses by Matt Isbell of MCI Maps, the district is flippable. Biden won HD 113 by 12 percentage points in 2020, and DeSantis won it by 2 points two years later.

The qualifying deadline for state candidates is June 14.


Jacob Ogles contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This report has been updated to include that Molina is no longer running for HD 113.

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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