Two openly gay candidates seeking political office in Miami-Dade County spoke to prospective voters at a kickoff event for the 2018 election season Jan. 20 at the Hotel Gaythering in Miami Beach.

State Representative David Richardson, who is running for the congressional seat currently occupied by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Javier Estevez, who is running for the State House in District 105, laid out their agenda for the upcoming campaign season at the event — organized by the Miami-Dade LGBTA Democratic Caucus, which relaunched in April 2017.

Richardson — who is currently in his third term as State Rep. and was the first openly gay individual elected to the Florida Legislature six years ago — has much he would like to accomplish in Washington if elected to Congress. His platform includes prison reform, healthcare, gun violence and LGBT issues — such as housing protections for LGBT individuals facing discrimination, banning conversion therapy for gay minors and repealing the marriage equality prohibition "we still have on the books."

Richardson says the “most important thing that we have to do” this election season is get more Democrats elected in the state of Florida.

“The Florida Legislature is two-thirds controlled by the Republican Party and the Democrats are in the super minority with only a third,” Richardson said. “All of those issues that are important to Democrats are not gonna get a hearing, they’re not gonna get talked about, they’re not gonna get a vote until we have more Democrats on the floor....Democrats are winning in seats that have not been won in many, many years and that’s really encouraging for what’s going to happen this coming November.”

Estevez, who describes himself as a “regular guy from the neighborhood” — “I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a businessman....I’m a full-time assistant manager at American Eagle” — said he is running for office because he is “sick and tired of the legislators not prioritizing our community and the issues that affect us.” A lifelong Democrat and Cuban American, this is Estevez’s first time running for office, although he has volunteered before for SAVE and other Democratic candidates. The seat he is campaigning for encompasses areas west of Southwest 107th Avenue, north of Southwest Eighth Street, up to Miramar, west to Naples and south to the Hammocks and Country Walk.

“Mostly, I just have seen the lack of interest from the legislature to really focus on solving the issues that most affect my community,” said Estevez, 32, who lives in Sweetwater. “There are a lot of issues affecting our community and our city, but I know that there’s ways we can fix it.”

Estevez said the first step is to pass legislation to keep any discriminatory actions away from “our community.”

“We need to make sure that all of the LGBTQ community is protected from discrimination once and for all....and we need to make sure that our trans brothers and sisters are protected under that,” Estevez said. “We also need to build our public education system...and raise the pay for teachers...We have to protect the kids.”

In addition, Estevez says there needs to be plans in place to combat climate change, use renewable energies and expand Medicaid in the state of Florida.

“The fact that Florida isn’t leading in solar energy production in this country is ridiculous and we need to change it right away,” Estevez said. “The fact that we’ve ignored expanding Medicaid has hurt the most vulnerable in our communities and we need to end it. These are just some of the issues that are affecting us every single day.”

In spite of these issues, Estevez said he still has hope because he’s seen “men and women of every age, race and sexual orientation” stand up and “stand strong to run for office and fight for these issues...”

“We have a fight to fight and this is our moment to fight it,” Estevez said. “I know that if we all come together right now, we can build a future that we can all believe in. We can build a future where we all finally strive and not just survive. We can build a future where a family doesn’t have to worry about sending their kids to a good public school. And we can build a future where a family doesn’t worry about putting food on their tables or that their cities are safe or if WE are safe leaving a club on Miami Beach....If you join [me] right now for this fight in this moment, I know that we can finally begin to build tomorrow today.”

Walker Burttschell, president of the Miami-Dade LGBT Democrats, said the kickoff event was a great way “to get our base, our gay community excited about the upcoming elections in 2018.” Volunteers helped register people to vote, update people’s voter registration cards, sign up other volunteers and get people to sign up for the Caucus.

“We plan to have a really strong presence in 2018,” Burttschell said. “We want to be in all the bars at least once a month up until the elections. We’re really pushing people to go out and vote in November.”

Burttschell added: “Our mission is to regain the Democratic majority we held just a few years ago. To do that we need YOU. We are proud to represent your voice, regardless if it is a GLBT voice or other person that faces discrimination. We are the only GLBT organization in Miami-Dade County affiliated with the Democratic Party and we welcome anyone to join us to help elect progressive, fair-minded Democrats.”

For more information, visit