Longtime Democratic staffer and union organizer Alex Barrio will run for the House seat currently held by Rep. Victor Torres, who is running for Senate District 15.
The move sets up a primary between Barrio and Torres’ daughter Amy Mercado, who is seeking to succeed Torres in the heavily Democratic HD 48 seat.
Barrio told FloridaPolitics.com on Monday his experience as a district aide to Sen. Darren Soto and later an analyst for the Senate Democratic caucus – drafting bills and amendments on behalf of former Leader Sen. Chris Smith and other minority party senators – gives him an advantage over his opponent.
“They say it takes three or four years to really understand the process in Tallahassee once you’re elected,” said Barrio. “I’ve already put in that time, and I know exactly what it takes to get things done as a Democrat in the statehouse.”
Barrio said he will campaign primarily on education, health care access, and economic development. He says the state’s current approach on all three areas under Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-controlled Legislature is deeply flawed.
The Florida International University College of Law graduate called Florida’s standardized testing regime “probably the worst in the country,” and said 2017 – with a likely slight left-ward poilitical dynamic all current education committee chairs set to change – presents a distinct opportunity to change it.
Though he didn’t name names, Barrio criticized some Democratic legislators for breaking caucus cohesion by cutting deals with Republican leaders on charter school funding and another education issues in exchange for “bread crumbs” in the budget, many of which he noted often get vetoed anyway.
Barrio said he would offer a more principled kind of representation to the deep-blue HD 48, which he said is “progressive, Hispanic, and Democratic – and so am I.”
Beyond the aforementioned work with Soto and the Senate minority office, Barrio also worked as the campaign manager operative in Orlando in 2014 for Orlando Rep. Joe Saunders, and as campaign manager and legslative aide for Rep. Tony Sasso.