Ocoee resident Frank Blanco has been interested in public service for just about as long as he can remember.
Now, that passion is fueling a bid for the District 44 seat in the Florida House of Representatives.
Blanco, a Republican, is set to face off against fellow Republican Bruno Portigliatti in the primary election next August. The winner will face incumbent Democrat Geraldine Thompson. The district encompasses most of southwest Orange County.
Blanco is a Miami native but has lived in West Orange for seven years with his wife and their three children. He began his work in public service with a two-year stint as a legislative aide for former State Sen. Steve Oelrich. He then was promoted to Oelrich’s chief of staff.
Shortly after, Blanco enrolled in law school at Florida A&M University’s College of Law in Orlando. After graduation, he passed the Florida and Colorado bar exams and opened his own practice.
“I went to law school, because I’ve always been interested in doing public service and specifically running for office,” he said. “I thought that law school and running for office kind of went hand in hand, and that’s why I paired those two up.”
But what drove Blanco to enter this race was his desire to make a difference and bring a new set of ideals to the Republican side of the political spectrum.
“I definitely have ideas that are not necessarily considered conservative or Republican in nature,” said Blanco, who describes himself on his website as a “little ‘r’ Republican. “I’ve always being eyeing a seat in the Legislature, because, based on my experience working in the Legislature, I know that in order to be an effective legislator, you have to know what the process (is). After my experience working in the Senate, I thought, ‘I could do this; I could make a difference in my community, too.’
“I thought, ‘This is something I could see myself doing, this is something that I want to do so I can make a positive future for not only the people that I live around but also my kids, my wife and everybody that I love,” he said.
As both an attorney and small-business owner, Blanco said he has a unique perspective of understanding how an expanding government might restrict growth, crush incentive and stymie the economy.
If he is elected, Blanco plans to champion the ideas of liberty, freedom and small government. He added that he brings fresh ideas that could resonate more with both Republicans and Democrats.
“While I do have ideological things for Republicans in terms of fiscal policy and just general economic policy, I think that my social policy, that aspect of me, leans a little more toward the middle of the road or slightly to the left,” he said. “I definitely think I can see the benefits of some of the policies Democrats believe in as far as social policies. I think that I am capable of working with both sides. I am definitely someone that has no economic incentive or desire to benefit from this in a way that will line my pocketbook.”
Some of the cornerstones of Blanco’s campaign include prison reform, investment in education, investment in local infrastructure and health care.
He advocates for prison reform because he believes mandatory minimum sentences should be posed only for offenders involved in serious crimes and those that involve violence.
“That policy of mandating that people go to prison for (a) specific period of time for nonviolent offenses destroys families and kind of continues the cycle, and I want to see if we can make a break from that,” he said.
Blanco believes education is an upfront investment that should be made more frequently to ensure Florida’s children will be better equipped as productive members of society and as global competitors.
Additionally, investment in infrastructure is crucial to Orange County with the number of visitors it receives each year, he said.
“I want to run for the purpose of making sure that the lives of people in my district and people in Florida in general are improved,” he said. “I think that can be done by enacting policies that are common sense, that make the lives of people easier to deal with so they have less government in their lives.
“I think that I am the Republican (who) is like a new-school Republican and still believes in the rights to bear arms unequivocally — but also believes that people should have the liberties and rights that are afforded them in the Constitution,” he said.