SOUTH FLORIDA — State House Rep. Jim Mooney, R-Islamorada, has drawn two Democratic challengers and one Republican for his seat, which goes before voters in November.

Democrats Adam Gentle and Daniel Horton-Diaz filed paperwork with the Florida Division of Elections to challenge Mooney, who is currently in his first two-year term.

Prior to being elected to the Florida House of Representatives’ District 120 seat in November 2020, Mooney served four terms on the Islamorada Village Council, serving as mayor during some of those terms. Mooney is a Realtor by trade and a former teacher.

Since being elected to the state House, Moody has served on Finance and Facilities Subcommittee, Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee, State Affairs Subcommittee, Environmental Agriculture and the recently formed Flooding and State Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee.

“I am confident that my knowledge of the district as well as my experience as a former mayor and council member for a total of 10 years gives me the ability to understand the issues and how we as a whole work together to make a difference for our way of life, the environment, healthcare and education,” Mooney said. “Last but not least is my lifelong address has been in the Florida Keys. I went into Tallahassee last year with the election that my past experiences would be beneficial. I believe that played out with close to $30 million in appropriations brought home, several bills passed and I clearly understand I work for the people of House District 120.”

Adam Gentle, who has now made his home on Big Coppitt Key, initially filed to run for Florida’s 25th Congressional District, but decided this month to suspend that national campaign to seek Mooney’s state, which includes the Florida Keys and South Dade.

“When I launched my campaign for Congress, it was to give Floridians a voice in Washington that listens and tells the truth, representation that upholds our Constitution,” he said in a press release. “But after traveling extensively and meeting people of all backgrounds in South Florida, I realized that lawmakers aren’t only ignoring us in Washington, they’re also not listening right here in Florida.”

One of the issues he cited was the governor and Florida Legislature passing a bill that overturned a November 2020 ballot initiative to limit the number of cruise ship passengers who can disembark in a day, ban large ships from docking and prioritize ships with better environmental records. The approval of the bill came on the heels of a nearly $1 million donation to Gov. Ron DeSantis political committee by a business developer who operates the Pier B cruise ship dock in Key West, which gets most of the city’s cruise ship traffic.

“Rather than represent our community’s interests in Tallahassee, Republican lawmakers have been rubbing elbows with special interests and have silenced their vote on local issues,” Gentle said. “As an anti-corruption lawyer, I have spent my legal career investigating and rooting out corruption, and I’ll go head-to-head with the corrupt players in Florida politics.”

“I’m thrilled to see Adam getting into this race,” former Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell said on Gentle’s press release announcing his campaign. “It is important that our community has representation in Tallahassee who will put partisanship aside and work to protect our environment and preserve the principle of home rule, not just in the Keys but across our state.”

Originally from Michigan, Gentle studied at Columbia University in New York and attended George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. He previously lived in Los Angeles, where he worked with charitable organizations. As an attorney, Gentle represented tenants facing unjust evictions and worked to uncover corporate corruption.

“I’m running to fight for our local business owners, veterans, our environment and anybody trying to get ahead,” Gentle said in a statement.

Mooney supported legislation to restrict a voters’ ability to get a mail-in ballot, limited early voting locations and prohibited volunteers from providing water to voters waiting in long lines in the Florida sun, Gentle said.

“Jim Mooney has failed to effectively fight for our interests, casually tossed out our constitutional right to make local decisions, folded as his colleagues disregarded our vote and worked to make it harder to vote — I believe we can and must do better.”

Horton-Diaz has previously run for the District 120 seat twice and lost.

“I am proud to join this race to serve the incredible people of the Florida Keys and South Miami-Dade,” Horton-Diaz said in his press release announcing his campaign. “The people of this district deserve a Representative who will work for them and champion their interests in our state government. We must address the desperate need for affordable housing throughout the district, work together to fight sea level rise and the climate crisis, reduce traffic and excessive tolls, and ensure that local communities are able to govern themselves without interference from Tallahassee. I intend to do that as the State Representative for this community.”

Horton-Diaz is an attorney who has served as a legislative aide in the Florida Senate, Florida state director for a voting rights nonprofit organization and the district chief of staff for Florida’s 26th Congressional District, which serves the Florida Keys.

He has served in leadership positions with the Florida International University College of Law, Leadership Miami Program and Chapman Partnership for the Homeless. His community service has received awards and recognition from the American Law Institute, FIU College of Law faculty, Leadership Miami Program, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners.

Big Pine Key Republican Robert Allen is taking his first crack and politics and filed to run against Mooney in the August primary race. Allen, a house painter by trade, cited three issues that have motivated him to run for the office: opposition to a bill state legislators passed last year preempting local governments from issuing occupational licenses, election integrity and concern about the environmental impacts from water released from Lake Okeechobee, he said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 735, which prohibits local governments from issuing occupational licenses, into law. Monroe County officials wrote DeSantis a letter asking him to veto the bill because the county requires local licenses for such work as paving, house painting and tile work.

County officials are concerned because the new law’s impact on the construction industry in the Keys. The county estimated more than 300 people could lose their jobs or businesses because of the new law.

Several small-business owners and construction contractors voiced their concerns to the Monroe County Commission recently, arguing that many will lose their jobs because they are not licensed with the state. They asked the county to step in and help.

“Now people are coming to Monroe County from the mainland and we have to compete with them,” Allen said.

When it comes to election integrity, Allen wants the 2020 and all future elections audited by people, not just having votes counted by machines made by private companies, he said. He wanted to see the number of people voting per precinct to be capped at 2,000, which would make it quick and easier to count by locals within their own communities, he said.

Allen received a master’s degree in English from Indiana State University and moved to the Keys to work as a tradesman roughly 20 years ago, he said. He briefly ran for Monroe County Commission 20 years ago, but dropped out of the race before the election, he said.