As a first-generation American, Rod Dorilas spent his life believing in the power of opportunity.
The 30-year-old grew up watching his parents, originally from Haiti, go from picking crops in Florida to becoming small-business owners. At 17, he joined the U.S. Navy and went on to serve two tours in the Middle East and one in the Mediterranean.
Dorilas went on to attend law school with the aid of the G.I. Bill and secured a slot in the Trump administration, assisting the Commerce Department.
Now, Dorilas is vying to get elected to Congress, likely challenging Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel to represent southeast Florida’s 21st Congressional District, which houses Palm Beach.
“I’m trying to ensure that the American dream stays alive and well for all Americans,” Dorilas said in an interview with the Washington Examiner on Monday.
One way to restore and create opportunities for people is by bringing back former President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda, Dorilas said.
The Republican, who worked as a counsel in the Commerce Department from September 2020 through February of this year, said the foreign and domestic policy initiative, which sought to reduce U.S. intervention in global affairs, was one aspect of the job he loved most about working in the administration.
“It’s basically all about the radical Left’s agenda that’s pushed me into the political arena,” Dorilas said. “It’s all about what I see as the degradation or the destruction of our country as we know it … I’m tired of seeing that Americans are [being put] second or last and not being put first. I’m a big champion of America First policy stances.”
Dorilas first faces a primary contest against Republican Keith Feit, a local educator, before he can jump into the general election.
Frankel has served her district since 2013, winning her reelection in 2020 by some 20 percentage points against her GOP challenger, Laura Loomer, a controversial figure who expressed support for various conspiracy theories and was banned from social media over her anti-Muslim comments.
The last Republican to be elected in the district was Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart in 2010, who ran unopposed. Diaz-Balart now serves the state’s 25th District, which includes part of Miami-Dade County.
Florida as a whole remains a Republican stronghold that went to Trump by almost 4 points last November. Trump himself is now a resident, living in his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.
Dorilas is optimistic about more minorities turning to the Republican Party. In 2020, Trump was able to secure the highest number of minority votes in decades, particularly among black and Hispanic men.
Republicans who beat their Democratic incumbents in 2020 were all largely women or minorities, bringing in “the most diverse class we have ever had,” according to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Dorilas, who is black, said the growth is a product of an overdue reckoning and a rejection of “divide and conquer” identity politics, which he says is used by Democrats.
“We’re waking up,” he said. “It’s been a long-awaited awakening, and that’s because … at our core, we are family-oriented people. We are religious people, we’re hardworking. We love freedom.”
In addition to expanding economic opportunities, Dorilas wants to protect the Second Amendment, defend legal immigration while securing the border against those entering the country unlawfully, and hold tech companies accountable for any infringements on the First Amendment.
Dorilas also raised concerns over what he views as deteriorating patriotism in the United States, which he said is revealed in conversations he’s had with people who say they’re being criticized over something as simple as donning the American flag.
“It’s weird because I hear that kids who wear a mask on their face that has the American flag or any wearing of the American flag is unpatriotic,” Dorilas said. “I’m hearing from black kids that if you wear the American flag, you cannot be black. They’re being questioned of why are you wearing the American flag?”
That’s something the candidate wants to address and says is needed to revitalize the opportunities the country can provide.
“I understand and appreciate all that America has or what America is and what America has to offer,” Dorilas said. “I understand that most immigrants and most first-generation Americans understand this too … That’s what the campaign is going to be about. It’s going to be about upholding [and] preserving the American values.”