Frank Artiles gets tough opponent in HD 118

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Military veteran and longtime Miami police officer Robert Asencio has announced his 2016 candidacy for Florida House District 18. He’s seeking the Democratic nomination and the opportunity to unseat two-time incumbent state Rep. Frank Artiles in the general election.

Given recent events, plenty of people will be applauding the news.

That’s because Artiles has become a poster boy for extremism in the Legislature, after filing the controversial “bathroom bill,” which, if passed, would ban transgender citizens who can’t prove they’ve completed their sex change procedure from using public restrooms that don’t match the gender on their drivers licenses.

That earned Artiles nationwide condemnation, as much for his misplaced legislative priorities as for his prejudice. In a predominantly Hispanic/Latino middle-class district, bread-and-butter economic and quality of life issues are considered more relevant and in need of attention than any lavatory safety issues Artiles is concerned with.

A longtime registered Republican and politically moderate centrist, Asencio felt compelled to switch parties in 2011 after Rick Scott and a matching slate of self-labeled “hardcore conservative” Republican legislators took power in Tallahassee, following GOP “wave” election wins in 2010.

A proud public servant for nearly 30 years, Asencio has worked with community leaders and organizations on a variety of  public-spirited projects during that time. Highlights include production of a Spanish-language TV series promoting civic engagement in Florida’s diverse Hispanic/Latino communities; collaboration with leading educational and advocacy organizations to reduce violence among at-risk youth; leadership in the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); and prominent participation in the Treasure Seekers youth mentoring program and annual Democracy in the Americas Symposium (DITAS.org).

Meanwhile, Asencio rose through the ranks of the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department, from patrolman to station commander, and now lieutenant. In 2011, his political leadership and coalition-building skills came to the forefront when he founded and became president of Florida Public Employees Partnership (FPEP), a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization whose “mission is to educate and unite the state’s million-plus public employees and the general public they serve.”

Having periodically served as communications consultant for FPEP, I can attest to Robert Asencio’s integrity, intelligence and work ethic. With a sincere and passionate commitment to giving all Floridians the kind of economic and upward mobility opportunities they deserve, Robert can be a real difference-maker for working families and retirees  — and without the embarrassing partisan political distractions and gridlock that have characterized the last four years with Rick Scott as governor, and Frank Artiles in an obedient supporting role.

Here’s how Robert put it in announcing his candidacy this week:

“I am running because, like so many of you, I feel our legislators must be held accountable to the Floridians they serve. I am running because we need representatives who understand the full consequences of their legislative actions on the citizens they serve and communities they live in.”

“I am running because I, like you, seek a positive change among those who are elected to serve us, a change that includes taking into account the needs of District 118, our great State and its people. I am running on a pledge to bring about fair, well founded, common sense legislation that is research-based and driven by the public’s greatest needs.”

“I am running on the basis of my more than 30 years experience in public service and law enforcement. And I am running because my fellow citizens in District 118 and Florida deserve better.”