Ocala business owner runs for state representative

Local barbecue celebrity hopes to fill the recently vacated District 24 seat.

File photo: Jose Juarez, “The BarbaCuban,” poses for a photo outside of his marketing office, Victory Solutions, on Southeast First Avenue in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Juarez, an Ocala Republican, opened a campaign account on Monday to run in Marion County’s House District 24 in an attempt to replace former state Rep. Joe Harding, an Ocala Republican who resigned last week after being indicted on charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements. Juarez is the second candidate to file to run for the seat after Belleview Republican Ryan Chamberlin opened a campaign account Friday. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

Home » Politics
Posted December 14, 2022 | Morgan Ryan

Jose Juarez, known to many Ocala residents as the “Barbacuban” has officially announced his bid for state representative for District 24 following the resignation of Rep. Joe Harding.

Harding, a 35-year-old Ocala Republican, recently resigned from the position after being indicted by a federal grand jury on six counts in connection with allegations he defrauded a pandemic-related small business loan program.

Juarez, a Republican, has decided to enter the local political scene in a special election still yet to be announced that will replace Harding, who was first elected in 2020 and re-elected without opposition in November.

Juarez is an active member of the Marion County community and said he would want his actions as a state representative to reflect that. “I felt the calling to serve, and to give back to the community that I felt like has given me so much,” he said.

Twenty years ago, Juarez started Victory Solutions, a customer service, sales, and marketing company for the motorcycle industry which employs thirteen people.

Juarez is also known as the “Barbacuban” for his homemade grilling sauces, one of which, his signature 455 sauce, helped him win “LIVE’s Search for America’s New Grill Star’’ in 2015 on the “LIVE with Kelly and Michael’’ TV show. Since then, Juarez has created and sold 12 different sauces, ranging from ketchup to truffle sauce.

Juarez was involved in the “Love for Lawson’’ fundraiser last year. The event raised money and garnered support for Lawson Armstrong, Juarez’s granddaughter. Lawson is a toddler afflicted with bone marrow failure, which prevents her immune system from fighting off germs and infections. The organizers of the fundraiser hoped to collect enough money to pay for her treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital. Juarez helped support his family by caring for his older granddaughter while Lawson and her parents spent four months in Boston for her treatment.

Juarez said he draws political inspiration from Gov. Ron DeSantis. He said his businesses suffered during the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the governor’s policies helped him keep all his employees and stay afloat.

“I saw the damage that it did, but I feel like the American Dream is still alive and well,” he said.

Juarez hopes to utilize his experiences as a Cuban immigrant and a business owner to serve his community.

“I’m running to represent the everyday man and woman of Marion County,” he said, “I hope to ensure policies up in Tallahassee are being written with the people in mind- not the special interest groups.”



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