OCALA, FLORIDA — Although Jose Juarez was only five years old when his family fled to America from Cuba, the tales of horror from his native country still linger in his mind. Now he’s hoping those stories – and the impact they’ve made on him – will help him win the upcoming special election to fill Joe Harding’s vacated seat for District 24 in the Florida House of Representatives.
Juarez, who has lived in the Ocala area for the past four decades, calls himself “a business guy” and “by no means a professional politician.” He pointed to government overreach during COVID as a motivating factor of running for office.
“All the alarms started going off when I compared what happened to our family and what’s going on in some of these other states,” Juarez told The Florida Standard. “I made a decision when this seat became available that I was going to serve and do anything in my power to make sure we don’t ever get into that situation again.”
BUSINESS OWNER AND ENTREPRENEUR
Juarez’s family moved to Florida in 1975, when he was 12 years old. He attended Florida State University, where he met his wife. The couple relocated to the Ocala area after college and raised their two children there. After years in the automotive industry, Juarez founded his own motorcycle-focused marketing firm in 2003, Victory Solutions.
Juarez launched his second company, BarbaCuban, after his signature grilling sauce gained national recognition through “Search for America’s New Grill Star’’ on LIVE with Kelly and Michael in 2015. The winning BarbaCuban sandwich – a Cuban/burger hybrid – utilized Juarez’s “455” recipe, which served as the catalyst for his business.
SUPPORT FOR DESANTIS AGENDA
As a small business owner, Juarez appreciates Governor Ron DeSantis’ commitment to reopening the state in spite of criticism during the early months of COVID. He doesn’t think his businesses would have survived if he lived in another state.
“America is going to change by having governors like Ron DeSantis in every single state. That’s how we’re going to do it,” Juarez said. “Honestly, I can’t think of anything he’s done I don’t agree with. He’s reasonable and everything he says makes sense. How could you not stand behind that?”
Juarez also said he supports the governor’s education agenda “100 percent.” He added that teachers often lament the disruption that cell phones bring to their classrooms by distracting students from learning. Juarez hopes to address this issue – along with infrastructure and mental illness – if he wins the election.
The primary election for House District 24 will be held on March 7, while the general election is scheduled for May 16.