The news out of Cuba caught Janelle Perez by surprise. 

On Sunday, nearly two-thirds of Cuban voters approved a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption.

“Isn’t it crazy that Cuba now has more rights for LGBTQ people than we might have in the state of Florida?” Perez asked. 

An owner of a healthcare company and daughter of Cuban exiles, Perez is campaigning for the Florida Senate in Miami-Dade’s District 38. If elected, she would become the first gay parent to serve in the state’s upper chamber. The married mother of two young daughters is extra motivated by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ culture wars. 

“I cannot think of a better way to stick it to Ron DeSantis than by electing the first LGBTQ parent to the Florida legislature after the atrocious year we just had,” Perez said. 

Perez’s race is also a revenge story for Democrats. Republican Ileana Garcia won the 2020 election by just 34 votes, but the victory was tainted by a ghost candidate scheme that led to criminal charges against disgraced ex-Senator Frank Artiles

When Perez jumped in, Garcia moved to another district. 

“We spooked her so she left,” Perez said.

Florida Senate District 38 stretches from Key Biscayne to the Homestead Air Reserve Base, taking in parts of Kendall and Coral Gables. Affordability, Perez said, is the No. 1 issue for voters.

“Miami has become incredibly unaffordable,” Perez said. “Voters have a choice in this district – are they going to stick with the same rhetoric and same party that created this problem or are they going to send someone to Tallahassee that has experience in solving problems and I am that person.”

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