Miami-Dade Has Some Crazy State Senate Races: Find Out the Status of Yours Here

As we slog on toward the official end of this presidential primary season, perhaps the last thing you want to read about is more politics. Though, if we've taken one thing away from the past few months, it's that people are sick of the status quo and the establishment, and they desperately want change. 

Well, what do you know, the Florida Supreme Court has thrown out the old, heavily gerrymandered state Senate districts and ordered new districts drawn up. This has set off a political scramble, with many incumbents suddenly finding themselves in uncomfortable situations. Seats that were once safely Republican may now end up turning blue, and some fresh new faces are hoping to shake up Tallahassee. 

Sure, the Florida Senate may not seem like the sexiest office ever, but these people decide on issues that directly affect your lives. We're talking about everything from education funding to gun laws to red-light cameras to women's reproductive health issues to who can use which bathrooms. 

In fact, there's even a real possibility that Democrats could take control of the Florida Senate, bringing balance to a state government that has been dominated by Republicans for more than a decade. 

So here's our early breakdown of each and every state Senate race in Miami-Dade County. To find your district, take a gander at this map here. (You can also find your current Senator's information here, though redistricting means that may change come November.)

Then peruse the race information below. Now is the time to help set the tone and issues in each race by getting involved. Maybe you'll even find someone you like enough that you'll scrounge together $27 to donate to his or her campaign. 

Of course, these races aren't set in stone quite yet. There's still time for other candidates to jump in. 

In fact, if you'd like to jump into any of these races yourself to personally shake things up, you still have time. Candidates have until June 24 to get their house in order and submit qualifying papers. 
District 35 (South Broward, Miami Gardens, and Opa-locka)
Political Excitement Ranking: 1 star
Democrat: State Sen. Oscar Braynon II (incumbent)
Amount Raised: $33,486

Braynon, a former Kendrick Meek intern and Miami Gardens City councilman, so far faces no challengers in this heavily Democratic district.
District 36 (Northwest Miami-Dade, including Hialeah and Doral)
Political Excitement Ranking: 1 star
Republican: State Sen. Rene Garcia (incumbent)
Amount Raised: $44,300

Garcia, a former state representative and Hialeah city councilman, is running for reelection unopposed in this still heavily Republican district. Garcia has never faced a challenger since being elected to the state Senate in 2010.
District 37 (Southeast Miami-Dade, including parts of Cutler Bay, Palmetto Bay, South Miami, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, and Miami):
Political Excitement Ranking: 5 stars

Republican: State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (incumbent) 
Amount Raised: $157,600

Democrat: State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez
Amount Raised: $132,595

Independent: Mercedes Christian
Amount Raised: $100

Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a progressive-minded young Democrat, entered politics by knocking off one Diaz de la Portilla. He defeated Alex Diaz de la Portilla for a seat in the state House in 2012, and now he'll try his hand at another member of that GOP dynasty. 

Miguel Diaz de la Portilla has been a face in local politics since 1993 and operates as your typical Miami-style Republican. He's most notable this year for single-handily killing two controversial gun laws, much to the chagrin of some of his Republican colleagues

Diaz de la Portilla is technically the incumbent, but this seat was affected by redistricting in a major way. It now leans slightly Democratic, and President Obama won the area by seven points in 2012.

Mercedes Christian, an octogenarian children's rights advocate, is running on the "Vote Family" slate of independent candidates, but her $100 fundraising haul suggests she won't be a major player. 
District 38 (Northeast Miami-Dade and the Beaches)
Political Excitement Ranking: 3 stars


Anis A. Blemur ($3,195 raised and $10,020 in loans)
Phillip J. Brutus ($0)
State Rep. Daphne Campbell ($25,208.75)
Don Allen Festge ($2,065 raised and $100 loan)
State Sen. Gwen Margolis: ($78,990 raised and $50,000 loan) (incumbent) 

Yes, folks, we've got ourselves a Democratic primary free-for-all in this heavily blue district. 

Gwen Margolis, the 81-year-old grande dame of Dade Democrats, is running for reelection in a district that includes Miami Beach, but the new district borders now include an electorate that is a third African-American (not to mention 40 percent Hispanic). That explains why Campbell has entered the race. 

Campbell, however, comes with a lot of baggage. She's been called "the worst Democrat in the Florida state Legislature" and has a notable conservative streak when it comes to social issues. She's pro-life and has previously accepted the endorsement of the anti-gay Christian Family Coalition. 

Phillip Brutus, a former member of the state House, could also be a contender here but so far has raised no money. 

Festge, a high-school teacher making his first run for office, has previously been profiled by New Times

Even if a Republican or independent bothers to jump into the race, the winner of the Democratic primary will still likely cruise to victory.
District 39 (Homestead, rural southern and western Miami-Dade and Monroe)
Political Excitement Ranking: 4 stars

Republican: State Sen. Anitere Flores
Amount Raised: $607,553

Democrat: Andrew Michael Korge 
Amount Raised: $246,460

NPA: Sheila Y. Lucas George
Amount Raised: $100 loan

Flores has been pegged as a rising star in the state GOP, but redistricting might get in her way. This new district went ever so slightly for Obama in 2012. Andrew Michale Korge, the son of prominent political fundraiser Chris Korge, has decided to jump in. He's running on a platform of combating climate change and economic inequality, with a larger goal of eventually remaking the state Democratic Party. 
District 40 (Kendall area)
Political Excitement Ranking: 5 Stars 

Democrat: State Sen. Dwight Mitchell Bullard
Amount Raised: $72,023.64 and a $20,400 loan

Republican: State Representative Frank Artiles 
Amount Raised: $248,862

NPA: Mario A. Jimenez
Amount Raised: $1,550 and $100 loan 

Let's put it this way: Bullard is the guy who introduced a bill that would have legalized recreational pot use. Artiles is the guy who introduced a bill that would have patrolled transgendered people's use of public bathrooms (much like the law that has caused so much controversy in North Carolina). 

These guys are unapologetic about their political brands, and by the issues alone, Bullard should be favored. The area voted for Obama by a ten-point margin, but the area is heavily Hispanic, perhaps explaining why the Cuban-American Artiles decided to move up from the state House to take a shot here. 

Wondering how it ended up like this? Well, Bullard used to represent a district that snaked all the way up to Hendry County. After redistricting, he found himself living in the same district as Republican State Sen. Anitere Flores. The two came to an agreement, and Flores moved to a neighboring, more Republican district. That still leaves Bullard as an African-America running in a Hispanic majority district. 

Oh, and there's Jimenez, the apparent leader of the "Vote Family" slate. He's likely a noncontender, but maybe it's worth noting that on his website, he says believes that "our Constitution was made only for moral and religious people," at least according to the weird video on his website.
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Kyle Munzenrieder