Election 2024

Out state senate candidate Janelle Perez has no time for Florida’s culture wars

Florida state senate candidate Janelle Perez
Photo: Provided

On the same day the Florida legislature passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Janelle Perez and her wife celebrated the birth of their second daughter.

Between “Don’t Say Gay” and restrictive abortion legislation the state recently passed, the out gay candidate for Florida state senate said she is heartbroken that her daughters’ generation will be raised “in a Florida that has less rights than I did growing up.”

Related: Miami Paper says DeSantis should stop attacking LGBTQ kids & focus on Florida’s real problems

“I’m tired of white old men making decisions for me, a queer Cuban-American in Miami,” Perez told LGBTQ Nation. “When I turn on the TV, I want people who look like me making decisions for me, and I want kids to see that. Especially now with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, kids need to see me on TV. Kids need to see me representing our community. Kids need to see my family and see that it’s okay.”

Perez isn’t interested in engaging in what she says is a “culture war” Florida Republicans have waged against marginalized communities. Instead, she wants to focus on challenges her constituents are actually experiencing, including housing affordability, gun control, and health care.

“This legislative session has attacked the LGBTQ community, they’ve attacked Black history. It has been an entire session of culture war. I want people to know that I don’t want to talk about those things…I care about what’s happening to you and I want to find solutions for it and I want you sitting at my table to help me find solutions.”

Both a cancer survivor and one of the owners of a successful local Medicare company, increasing health care access is one of the main reasons Perez is running.

“In the state of Florida, we’ve had 20 years of Republican leadership and we haven’t expanded Medicaid to the levels that it should have been expanded to. There are so many people that are just one healthcare crisis or bill away from bankruptcy, poverty, losing their homes.”

Perez has a high chance of becoming the first out LGBTQ woman in the Florida senate. Currently, she is running unopposed, as her former opponent, state Sen. Ileana Garcia (R), recently filed to run in a different district.

Garcia not only voted in favor of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, but she justified her vote by arguing that “Gay is not a permanent thing, LGBT is not a permanent thing.”

Perez said she thinks Garcia’s move is a “great sign” and that “maybe she’s scared.”

Perez hopes to be part of a Democratic tide that can eventually help flip the Florida legislature. She acknowledged that doing so will be a marathon, not a sprint, but that it’s a cause she’s committed to.

“Our state legislature is chiseling away…at freedom, and they’re chiseling away at opportunity, and it’s about time we have candidates that run for the right reasons, that we have candidates who do it because they want to put their community first.”

“At the end of the day,” she added, “Florida Republicans, whether they believe it or not, don’t have their own opinion. They have to do whatever the governor and whatever the Republican party of Florida wants them to do.”

Perez wants voters to know that she hears them and understands what they need.

“I want people to feel like they’re part of my family, like they know me. Because I know this community. I have lived in Miami my entire life, and this is a community who deserves someone who understands them.”

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