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Political newcomers seek to fill vacant seat in Florida House District 88

Jervonte Edwards, Guarina Torres to face off in March 8 special election
Posted at 6:33 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 18:33:37-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A vacancy now exists in Florida House District 88 after the resignation of state Rep. Omari Hardy, D-West Palm Beach.

Hardy announced his departure from the seat to run in a special election to replace the late Alcee Hastings in Florida's 20th Congressional District.

As required by law, a special election is set for March 8 to fill the empty seat. The candidates are two political newcomers — Republican Guarina Torres and Democrat Jervonte Edmonds.

Torres is originally from Puerto Rico but was raised in New York City and eventually moved to Florida. The mother of four is a former educator with 38 years of experience. She's now turned her focus to politics.

"I've been very concerned about the way the country is headed and I'm very concerned about the way District 88 has been represented in the past," she said.

Torres said District 88 has been used as a steppingstone by other candidates for higher political office or financial gain, leaving constituents with unfulfilled promises. Among her priorities for District 88 are fighting poverty and drugs if elected.

"There is poverty, which is always swept under the rug, because this is Palm Beach County," she said. "There are homeless people. There is hunger. There are drugs, and our children are getting fentanyl in and using it and they're dying."

Torres said she's a proponent of helping veterans, stopping COVID-19 vaccine mandates and Gov. Ron DeSantis himself.

Guarina Torres, Republican for Florida House District 88
Guarina Torres says she's a proponent of helping veterans, ending COVID-19 vaccine mandates and Gov. Ron DeSantis himself.

"I totally support his policies because he is making sure that Florida stays free," she said.

Across the aisle is Edmonds. He founded Suits for Seniors, a high school mentoring program.

Edmonds is the former executive director of the West Palm Beach Police Athletic League and has also served as a legislative assistant to state Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach.

"The reason why we run for state legislator is, one, fight the bad bills, write good bills and, of course, bring money back home to our community," Edmonds said.

His platform consists of creating better-paying jobs and focusing on affordable housing.

Jervonte Edmonds, Democrat for Florida House District 88
Jervonte Edmonds has a platform consisting of creating better-paying jobs and more affordable housing.

"Right now, our housing crisis continue to skyrocket and what we need to do is, of course, fight for affordable housing, but on the other end, fight for higher-paying jobs so people can have a reasonable, livable income so they can actually survive for them and their families," Edmonds said.

Other topics of interest include criminal justice reform, making health care more accessible and increasing funding for education.

"The most important thing we have to do is look at those schools that are really failing the most and see how we can kick into, one, better resources for the teachers, and also just better pay for the staff, the cafeteria workers, the bus drivers," he said. "It's an all-around funding issue right now."

Edmonds defeated Clarence Williams in the special Democratic primary in January. Torres was unopposed in the Republican primary and automatically advanced to the general special election.