Image Credit: Eunic For Florida
Eunic Ortiz has always been more interested in change than culture wars. As an educator, labor organizer, and election outreach expert, she’s made empowering people her mission, and now as the Democratic candidate for Florida State Senate, the St. Petersburg native is fighting to protect the interests of Pinellas County, not political donors.
“What’s happening in Florida is almost like it’s a testing ground for Republicans to see how far they can take things,” Eunic explained, “How far can they take their egregious legislation?”
Despite the Sunshine State’s diverse politics, the Florida State legislature has become an incubator for right-wing policies in recent years. Policies like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and a 15-week ban on abortion have sailed straight to Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk because of the Republicans’ majority in both chambers.
Eunice Ortiz is a Democratic candidate for Florida State Senate. This is her first run for office. (Eunic For Florida)
While those laws certainly rile up the GOP base, Eunic knows Floridians are facing real hardship like rising rents and income inequality — issues she says the Republicans are only giving lip service to. “I’ve seen leadership that says one thing in their communities and goes to Tallahassee and does the title opposite thinking no one’s going to notice,” Eunic explained.
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Eunic has already set herself apart from her opponent, Republican Nick DiCeglie, with her on-the-ground style of politics. As the daughter of Puerto Rican Air Force veterans-turned-educators, she was raised to give back. As a lesbian and Latina, she witnessed how members of her own communities were being disadvantaged by bigotry, and pledged to fight for what’s right.
After graduating from the University of Florida at the height of the 2008 recession, she took her talents to New York, where she began her career in government and organizing. She honed her communication skills at City Hall, before working with the Service Employees International Union for 8 years, and then moving back to Florida in the fallout from the 2016 election.
“I wanted to bring my career home and work and organize in my hometown, in my community,” she explained. From there Eunic poured her time into the fight for a $15 minimum wage. As an organizer, she was able to mobilize some of the state’s most elusive voters by engaging communities of Cambodian, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Haitian, Creole, and Somali, speakers. The state amendment passed with over 60% of the public’s vote in Nov. 2020, promising Florida a $15 minimum wage by 2026.
The morning we spoke, Eunic was coming straight from serving breakfast at a sleepout protest to get rent control, another pressing priority for real Floridians, on the ballot. She’s also the only candidate talking about the effects of climate change on District 18, which is home to 11 individual beaches, mostly in St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Bolstering her campaign further, Eunic has been endorsed by Emily’s List, Democracy For American, The Sierra Club, Florida Planned Parenthood, Equality Florida, and The Florida AFL-CIO, just to name a few.
More than just a Democrat, Eunic understands how her community wants to be heard, and she’s ready to bring that voice to Tallahassee. “When we win in November, this will be another vote towards not just for Democrats, but towards affordable housing, towards the LGBTQ community, towards public education, and towards our environment.”