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Running candidate for open seat in the Florida State Senate District 38, Janelle Perez. Photo Courtesy of Janelle Perez
Running candidate for open seat in the Florida State Senate District 38, Janelle Perez. Photo Courtesy of Janelle Perez

Miami's own Janelle Perez runs for State Senate in Florida

Daughter of Cuban exiles, mother and member of LGBTQ+ community says she knows what Florida needs.

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Born and raised in Miami, Janelle Perez is running in November for the open seat in the Florida State Senate District 38. 

Perez has said she has lived in most communities within Miami and knows what the south Florida community needs because she is like everyone else. She has sat in traffic with constituents and understands the frustration of a city whose infrastructure and public transportation have been scarce and not the best.

"A few weeks ago, an entire neighborhood in my district was underwater. People couldn't get to and from the only entrance to their community. Everything was underwater and the fear of having too much flooding when it sprinkles exists," State Senate Candidate Janelle Perez, told AL DÍA. "Also, I know the need for healthcare in many communities. I've sat in waiting rooms with people waiting hours and hours for their appointments. I've also received expensive medical bills for one visit."

When Perez says she knows what the community needs, it is because it is the same thing she needs. She has said she is Miami, it is her home and it is where she is raising her kids. 

Perez says that she has not seen things happen from the legislature in Florida and that it has not taken any action. 

"When decisions are made in Tallahassee, it's almost like South Florida gets cut out. We aren't included in the decision-making. Central Florida and South Florida are not the same. I want to go up there, fight for the needs of the southern part of the state and be very vocal and loud about it because we haven't had someone do that," said Perez.

Family Business

Perez has thanked her father for creating financial stability for her and her kids. She has been able to give up her job, dedicate herself to being a State Senate candidate and change things for the better due to her father's business. 

She and her family own a Medicare Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). As Perez has said, a type of health insurance plan that only covers certain benefits for people 65 and over and those qualifying for Medicare. 

"Companies like mine can come into the market and compete with other Medicare HMOs to offer better benefits and higher quality services. So we cover vision, dental, hearing aids, transportation and part of pharmaceutical drug bills. We make healthcare just a little bit easier for those 65 and over. It doesn't cost them anything," Perez noted.

Perez's family business started with her father and uncle, who grew up in Little Havana. Her father was a Certified Public Accountant by trade, and her uncle was a pharmacist.

Perez grew up seeing her mother work two jobs so her father could go to school and start his career. With time, the unexpected was soon to come. Her father took different positions and many entrepreneurial risks and when she was in high school, both her father and uncle left their jobs and started a management services organization (MSO), a network of doctors that contract different health plans. Yet her father and uncle collectively bargained to negotiate their contracts with health plans. 

"One day, they said, ‘why are we the middleman between the health plans and the doctors? Let's be the health plan.’ So they started our first Medicare HMO company a few years ago. It went well and they eventually sold it. Now we have a new Medicare HMO. It's been an incredible experience. My dad would not have been able to do anything he wanted to do if it hadn't been for my mom's support," Perez said.

Seeking Refuge

All success attained came from escaping communist Cuba. "They had nothing in Cuba. They had even less when they arrived in the United States," said Perez.

Perez's parents arrived in the United States very young. Her mother was at the age of three and her father at the age of seven. Yet the story of how both arrived is entirely different. Her mother arrived at what appeared to her mother's parents the beginning of communism. Yet her father's parents felt they needed to leave when he and her uncle were both getting to the age to be indoctrinated. 

Her mother's parents left on a boat with a big part of her family. They arrived with fewer complications than her father because her mother had already had a family to help her mother and grandparents settle in a little area in Little Havana. But her father left as she said on one of the last freedom flights and arrived alone. 

"My father's parents feared that their two boys would be indoctrinated with communism. So they fled. My grandmother and grandfather were the only ones in their family that left," Perez told AL DÍA. "My mom got to leave with a big chunk of her family. But most of my father's family stayed behind and communism tore their family apart. I guess the rest of my father's family didn't realize it was communism but my grandparents saw it. Sadly, it split the entire family like many other Cuban families.

Perez has said that Cubans do not like to call themselves immigrants but exiles. For the reason that they needed to escape Cuba and not because they wanted to. "Given the political climate we're in, it feels like almost everyone's in exile," Perez said.

"I always love hearing the story from my grandmother of their first Thanksgiving here in the United States. They wanted the tradition of apple pie and turkey. So, my grandmother bought a frozen apple pie. But she didn't know that you don't eat it frozen. She didn't have or read the instructions, so my dad always tells us that on their first Thanksgiving here in the states, they ate a frozen apple pie," Perez added. 

Commitment to South Florida

"I have financial stability and can fight for anyone to have that opportunity. This is the land of opportunity and the land to change your financial status. But that opportunity and window keep getting closed by every single person. We all must see each other succeed and have a better life," Perez noted. 

However, her Senate run goes far beyond.

"I will also fight for every little girl to have my rights growing up in this state. My kids are growing up in a Florida that gives them fewer rights than [the] Florida I grew up in. My daughter has no reproductive freedom. And as an openly gay educated woman, I’ll fight for my LGBTQ community and education. Florida is purple and people like me are fighting to keep it purple. Don't forget about Florida. Continue to invest in Florida," said Perez.

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