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Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith

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State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith. Photo: Roberto Gonzalez via Orlando Weekly.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – One of many firsts in Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith’s life is that he was the first of his family to be born in the United States. His father Luis Guillermo is a Peruvian businessman that owns a pool cleaning company; his mother, Johanne, is a French Canadian teacher that runs an English Spoken To Other Languages (ESOL) public school program. In 1978 they moved to Fort Lauderdale with their daughter Cathy, and Smith came to the world two years later; youngest Kristine would round out the family later.

Smith graduated in 1999 from Spanish River High School in Boca Ratón and then attended the University of Central Florida, where he obtained a degree in business administration in 2003. He put his education to work as he became manager for Men’s Warehouse in both Florida and Georgia for eight years.

Smith grew tired of the corporate world and decided he wanted to make a difference, first volunteering as a community organizer every chance he got, and then as a legislative aide to State Representative Scott Randolph in 2011 and as communications director and senior advisor to Representative Joe Saunders in 2012. He was so successful in his job that he was elected leader of the Orange County Democratic Party in 2013.

Smith’s first lobbying job came in 2015 for Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ rights advocacy group, where he was hired governmental affairs manager. He managed to compromise with Republican lawmakers to amend the so-called Pastor Protection Act, which legally allows religious services to refuse same-sex marriages, to not expand into private businesses. Smith has also worked with Equality Florida to fight discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

In 2015, Smith announced he would run for State Representative for the 49th District, occupied by another Latino, Republican Joe Plascencia, who had opted to run for the neighboring 50th district. He campaigned as a progressive and gaining national media attention for his position against the 2016 shooting at the Pulse Nightclub, an event that hit him personally as both a Latino and an openly gay man since it had occurred on Latino night. He eventually won the election with 69% of the vote, Florida’s first openly LGBTQ Latino lawmaker, and won the reelection in 2018 with 64%.

Smith has filed a bill that bans the sale, transfer, and possession of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines three times: once in 2017, inspired by the Pulse shooting, where it died in committee; a first time in 2018, days after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting; and a second time later that same year, after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting. The bill never made it to the floor, but Smith has continued to campaign for gun control.

Smith has also worked for better education in the state, protection for undocumented immigrants, healthcare (especially regarding treatment for veterans and those suffering from PTSD), and Florida’s racing greyhounds.

He married his partner Jerick Mediavilla Negrón, alumni relations manager and educator at Ana G. Mendez University, in 2019.

 

Florida

Governor Ron DeSantis Makes Eight Judicial Appointments

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FNN) – Beasley has worked as a Litigation Attorney for Garganese, Weiss, D’Agresta & Salzman, P.A. since 2022. Previously, he served as the Director of Legal Services for the Hillsborough Regional Transit. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and his juris doctor from Florida A&M University. Beasley fills the judicial vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Bain.

Mark Skipper, of Maitland, to serve as Judge on the Orange County Court

Skipper has worked as the Sole Practitioner for the Law Office of Mark A Skipper P.A. since 2007. Previously, he served as a Senior Attorney for the Florida Department of Children and Families. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his juris doctor from Nova Southeastern University. Skipper fills the judicial vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Sandor.

Celia Dorn, of Kissimmee, to serve as Judge on the Osceola County Court

Dorn has worked as a Staff Attorney for Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP since 2021. Previously, she was an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Kissimmee. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and her juris doctor from the University of Florida. Dorn fills the judicial vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Arendas.

Juna Pulayya, of St. Cloud, to serve as Judge on the Osceola County Court

Pulayya has served as a General Magistrate for the Ninth Judicial Circuit since 2022. Previously, he was an Attorney for JMP Law, P.A. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his juris doctor from Florida A&M University. Pulayya fills the judicial vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Epperson.

Carlos Gamez, of Coral Gables, to serve as Judge on the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court

Gamez has served as a County Court Judge for Miami-Dade County since 2020. Previously, he served as an Assistant State Attorney in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and his juris doctor from the University of Miami. Gamez fills the judicial vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Aponte.

Christine Hernandez, of Miami, to serve as Judge on the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court


Hernandez has served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Florida since 2018. Previously, she served as an Assistant State Attorney in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Fordham University and her juris doctor from the University of Miami. Hernandez fills the judicial vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Bailey.

Jennifer Hochstadt, of Aventura, to serve as Judge on the Miami-Dade County Court

Hochstadt has served as an Assistant County Attorney in the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office since 2015. Previously, she was a Law Clerk for United States District Court Judge Martinez in the Southern District of Florida. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and her juris doctor from the University of Miami. Hochstadt fills the judicial vacancy created by the elevation of Judge González-Marqués.

Jason Reding Quiñones, of Coral Gables, to serve as Judge on the Miami-Dade County Court

Quiñones has served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Florida since 2018. Previously, he served as an Attorney Advisor for the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his juris doctor from Florida International University. Quiñones fills the judicial vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Bandín.

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Governor Ron DeSantis Sends Additional Florida National Guard and Florida State Guard to Assist Texas

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Florida is deploying members of the Florida National Guard (FLNG) and members of the Florida State Guard will be deployed to assist Texas in its efforts to stop the invasion at the southern border. Florida is offering up to a battalion of National Guard members (approximately 1,000 soldiers) to Texas, who will be deployed based on Texas’ needs. For more information about the announcement, click here.

These deployments are in addition to the more than 90 officers from the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) that are currently deployed to the border. Additional law enforcement resources are standing by and ready to deploy as requested by Texas state officials. In December, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data showed that more than 302,000 illegal immigrants were encountered attempting to cross the southern border – the highest month ever recorded.

“States have every right to defend their sovereignty and we are pleased to increase our support to Texas as the Lone Star State works to stop the invasion across the border,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Our reinforcements will help Texas to add additional barriers, including razor wire along the border. We don’t have a country if we don’t have a border.”

“This is not a new mission for us. For several years we have supported border security missions in Texas, to include both federal and state deployments,” said Major General John D. Haas, The Adjutant General of Florida. “Last spring the Florida National Guard was one of the first in the nation to deploy rotations of soldiers to support Operation Lone Star in Texas, and we have proudly and readily supported our own state’s efforts in similar roles here in Florida.”

“The Florida State Guard is prepared to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with state agency partners in direct support of our brothers and sisters in Texas grappling with an unprecedented surge of illegal immigration along their border,” said Florida State Guard Director Mark Thieme. “The Florida State Guard is postured to deliver rapid emergency response, public safety operations and humanitarian assistance — wherever the need arises.”

Since 2021, Florida has provided direct law enforcement and military assistance to Texas, including FLNG, which supported the Texas Military Department through mission sets including static observation points, roving patrols and engineer assistance with obstacle improvement. FHP has made contact with nearly 150,000 illegal aliens, conducted over 27,000 traffic stops, resulting in 2,102 Human Smuggling or Human Trafficking charges with 2,278 overall arrests.

FDLE has sent rotations of officers to assist the Texas Department of Public Safety with arrests of violent felony suspects including gang members. Suspects were arrested on various Texas state charges including human smuggling, burglary, firearms, smuggling of persons, smuggling of persons with a firearm, child endangerment, escape from federal custody and possession of controlled substance. FWC has deployed a total of 540 FWC personnel, 525 four-wheel drive patrol trucks and 24 vessels.

In Fiscal Year 2023, CBP recorded 2.5 million encounters – surpassing last year’s record. This includes 169 illegal immigrants on the terror watch list attempting to cross the southern border. Since Biden took office, more than 10 million illegal immigrants have crossed the border, including more than 1.7 million known gotaways. In December alone, roughly 260 million lethal doses of fentanyl were seized at the border.

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Florida

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ 2024 State of the State Address

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FNN) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis delivered his State of the State address to the joint legislative session from the Florida House of Representatives chamber in Tallahassee.

Watch the full address here.

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