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Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith

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.

 

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