Jose Felix Diaz doesnt rank as one of the senior Republicans in the Florida House but he is one of the more visible ones as speculation continues that he will run for Congress.
The son of Cuban exiles, Diaz was born in South Florida and he returned there after studying law at Columbia University in New York. He earned a little national spotlight early on when he appeared as a contestant in Donald Trumps The Apprentice reality show.
In his two House contests, Diaz has faced strong competition and prevailed both times. He faced a serious primary challenger and a major Democratic opponent in 2010. After redistricting, he squared off against fellow House member Ana Rivas Logan in the Republican primary last year -- and easily dispatched her, heading back to Tallahassee for a second term.
After Joe Garcia defeated David Rivera to win a seat in Congress last year, rumors churned around the state that Diaz would challenge the Democrat in 2014. He was honored at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and it appeared that he would enter the race.
But after a quiet legislative session, Diaz has done little publicly to show he intends to run for Congress, though he has left the door open. In the meantime, Garcia is facing an increasingly crowded field of Republicans, with Carlos Curbelo, who serves on the Miami-Dade School Board, making great strides in rallying the GOP establishment behind his bid. If he enters the race, Diaz would be a top-tier candidate but he would certainly face a competitive and crowded primary contest.
Even as he remains on the sidelines in the congressional battle, Diaz continues to maintain a high profile. Last week he toured Doral with Trump. Earlier in the month, he was fairly prominent at the National Council of State Legislators' (NCSL) meeting in Atlanta. he even appeared on CNN Latino, where he weighed in on Florida politics and Alex Rodriguezs continued battles with Major League Baseball over PEDs.
Diaz is only 33, but hes shown a knack for prevailing in competitive races and for getting attention. If he runs for Congress, he would be a serious candidate to win the Republican nomination and to win the general election. But there are other options as well, from staying in the House to trying to win a Senate seat in future elections to going back to Miami-Dade to run for local or county office.
Diaz is one of the most talented young Republican politicians in Florida, though the same can be said about Curbelo who has impressed so far in his congressional bid. The question Diaz has to answer in the weeks to come is what office he will seek in 2014. With his talents, he will be one to watch, whether his path keeps him in Tallahassee, returns him to Miami-Dade or even takes him to Washington.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.