By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For Florida Senate District 39, Republican candidate Ana Maria Rodriguez pretty much sums up what’s at stake in her race with Democrat Javier Fernandez.

“The Senate has 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats. Because there is such a tight balance in the Florida Senate there is a lot from the Democratic side to flip it to blue to take control of the Senate,” she said.

This year, half of Florida’s Senate seats are up for reelection in November. Democrats have made Senate gains in the past decade and they see a chance to take control.

“The Florida Senate for the first time in decades is actually in play,” said Fernandez. “This is one of the very important races across the state to change the leadership in the Florida Senate and bring balance in politics back to Tallahassee.”

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Both Fernandez and Rodriquez have served in the Florida House of Representatives. Now both seeking to serve the Senate district that stretches across the Florida Keys into south Miami-Dade.

“I am working very hard in my capacity as a candidate for Senate District 39 to make sure we keep the seat, not only in Republican hands but with conservative-minded individuals to make sure we have leadership in tandem with Governor DeSantis,” said Rodriguez.

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Both candidates have identified healthcare, school safety, and police funding as major issues. They’ve also focused on the state’s ravaged unemployment system that was severely impacted by the pandemic.

“The system is not only broken in its ability to pay benefits, it is actually bankrupt. We have to be focused on borrowing money to pay benefits and expand benefits so people can afford to live on them,” said Fernandez.

“I would like to work closely with the Department of Economic Opportunity to reset the unemployment system, not just the accessibility but also the actual dollar amount people receive on a weekly basis. I know it is not sufficient for a Florida family to get $275 a week,” said Rodriguez.

Jim DeFede went one-on-one with Fernandez on Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede. Both Fernandez and Rodriguez had originally agreed to debate on the show, but her campaign was unable to settle on a date.

Come November 3rd, whoever wins the race will replace term-limited Republican incumbent Anitere Flores.