Kicking off a campaign to run for District 79's State Representative seat is a newcomer to politics. Larry Aguilar, who is registered as a Democrat, is working to qualify for the seat by petition as opposed to paying the fee to run and he's off to an early start for the 2014 election.
The seat is occupied by Rep. Matt Caldwell, a Republican, who is expected to seek reelection to another two-year term in Tallahassee. The district includes Lehigh Acres, Alva, Buckingham, and North Fort Myers.
The kickoff for his campaign is on Monday, Sept. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Lozano's Mexican Restaurant at 3020 Lee Blvd. in the Town Plaza in Lehigh Acres. All are invited to come meet and talk to the candidate.
The district leans Republican in voter registration total, but many consider it a "toss-up" because of the close numbers. If Aguilar were elected, he would be the first Democrat to go to Tallahassee from this district in a long time.
Aguilar says he wants as many voters to come as possible to his kickoff to tell him their concerns and also to get a chance for him to meet the voters and for them to get to know him.
He suggests those who come to stay and enjoy Monday Night Football on TV with the Pittsburgh Steelers playing against the Cincinnati Bengals with kickoff at 8:20 p.m.
Lately, Aguilar says he has been involved in the Lee County community as an outspoken activist for education, pushing for reforms in his role as a member of the State of Florida commissioner of Education Task Force on Inclusion and Accountability for English Language Learners,
As educational executive for 2 Excel Learning, he has developed learning programs and provided "free tutoring" to students in the Lee County school district. And as president of the LULAC Southwest Florida group, he says he "has championed for immigration and healthcare reforms."
"That will translate to a robust jobs expansion and economic growth for our region," he says.
When he talked about the voters of District 79, Aguilar said he supports middle class working families and said he "understands that only when we have a healthy, thriving middle class, only then will our economy regain its ranking as number 1 in the world."
"Today, I am a candidate because I believe that America is still a place where we find opportunity and achieve the American Dream for all. Help me to get to Tallahassee so that I can keep working for your future," he said. And that's the message he says he plans to present at his kickoff next Monday.
Aguilar was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in the Bronx in New York City. He is a graduate of Adlai E. Stevenson High School in the Bronx and Quincy College in Quincy, Mass.
He said his first job after college was with Marriott Hotels and Resorts Corp. in Boston.
"My love and respect for numbers allowed me to rise very quickly from night auditor to assistant front office manager," he said,
But he wanted to be closer to his family so he moved to Miami and became a part of the federal government family by way of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Miami branch. He said he started there as a management intern and again found himself rising quickly through the ranks to achieve the position of check collection section manager.
He claims that the experience he gained from working at the Fed provided him with the foundation and structure he has successfully used in his life.
Some key positions that Aguilar has held include acting commissioner of education for LULAC Southwest Florida, acting president of LULAC Southwest Florida, was chosen as special assistant to LULAC's State of Florida as president in 2012-2013.
He serves on the Florida Education Commissioner's Task Force in Inclusion and Accountability for ELL's (English Language Learners) for 2012-2013. He is a member of the Florida Gulf Coast University Diversity Board and is a member of the school district's diversity board for this year.
At the kickoff Monday, he is expected to announce that his campaign manager will be Mike Bonacolta of Lehigh Acres.