Eunic Ortiz has always been more interested in helping citizens, than being distracted by culture wars. As an educator, labor organizer, and election outreach expert, the Florida native has made empowering people her mission. Now as the Democratic candidate for the Florida State Senate’s 18th District, which includes Pinellas’ county communities like St. Petersburg and Clearwater, the Florida-native is fighting to protect the interests of her home, 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 — Governor Ron DeSantis only won by a 32,000 vote margin during his 2018 election — the gerrymandered 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 DeSantis’ desk because of the Republicans’ majority in both the Senate and the House Of Representatives.
While those laws certainly rile up the GOP base, Eunic knows Floridians are facing real life hardships 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 [Florida state capital] Tallahassee and does the total opposite thinking no one’s going to notice,” Eunic explained.
Eunic has already set herself apart from her opponent, Republican Nick DiCeglie, with her on-the-ground style of campaigning in the community, while his strategy seems to be keeping quiet. The purple district, which Biden won by a slim margin in the 2020 election, is up for grabs while Democratic incumbent Janet Cruz runs for State Senate in District 14.
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 higher wages, rent control, and environmental upheaval. She is also in touch with the next generation of voters, as an adjunct professor at University of Florida, where she teaches Ethics.
After graduating from the University of Florida at the height of the 2008 recession, she took her talents to New York City, where she honed her communication skills at City Hall, before working with the Service Employees International Union for 8 years as an organizer, 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 Spanish, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Haitian, Creole, and Somali speakers. The minimum wage 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 as an amendment. 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 Run For Something, 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 partisan, Eunic understands what her community needs, 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.”