Florida Senate Archives - Page 6 of 27 - Florida Politics

Don Gaetz applies to be UWF president

State Sen. Don Gaetz wants to be the next president of the University of West Florida.

Media outlets in the Florida Panhandle report that the Niceville Republican is among more than 70 applicants for the job.

Gaetz is serving his second term in the Florida Senate and faces term limits in November. He served as Senate president from 2013-2014.

He currently chairs the Senate’s budget subcommittee on education, which includes funding for universities, state colleges and public schools.

A presidential search committee will interview candidates over the next month, and the school’s Board Of Trustees will meet with three finalists on Sept. 15.

UWF Provost and Executive Vice President Martha Saunders has also applied.

The Pensacola university’s current president, Judy Bense, is retiring at the end of the year.

Former Sen. C. Welborn Daniel dies

Former state Sen C. Welborn Daniel died Wednesday, according to an announcement from the Florida Senate. He was 90.

Daniel in 1970 (State Archives)
Daniel in 1970 (State Archives)

Daniel, a Democrat, served in the House representing Lake County from 1957-63, then in the Senate representing two different districts in 1965-66 and 1968-72.

A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday at First United Methodist Church of Tavares, 600 W. Ianthe St., in Tavares.

A lunch reception and family visitation will follow in the activity center of the church, according to a Senate memo.

In lieu of flowers, Daniel’s family asks that memorial contributions be made to Cornerstone Hospice of Tavares or Lake Sumter State College Foundation in Leesburg.

Condolences may be sent to: Mrs. C. Welborn Daniel, 1805 Tweed Court, Scottish Highlands, Leesburg, FL 34788.

Florida Senate renovations on schedule

The Florida Senate’s renovations are on track, spokeswoman Katie Betta told FloridaPolitics.com Wednesday.

“Construction is right on schedule,” she said. “We expect the dome to be completed by early next week.”

Workers dismantled the chamber’s ceiling and put up scaffolding to install a new dome, modeled after one in the Old Capitol.

Outgoing Senate President Andy Gardiner pulled the trigger on the upgrade, recognizing that the chamber “has received only minimal updates since its original construction in the 1970s,” he said in a memo.

The renovation project will cost nearly $5 million.

The final product in the Senate will be similar to an artists’ rendering released earlier this year, Betta says.

It shows the proposed new ceiling dome and other design elements that echo the Old Capitol’s exterior, such as a pediment on top of columns over the president’s rostrum and the words, “In God We Trust.”

Construction is still planned to be wrapped up before the 2016 Organization Session this fall.

(Photos courtesy Florida Senate)

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Associated Industries of Florida announces bipartisan Senate, House endorsements

The Associated Industries of Florida PAC today announced endorsements in 95 legislative races in 2016, including 23 state Senate seats and 72 House seats.

“Today, we are excited to announce AIFPAC’s endorsements for candidates running for the Florida Senate and House this election cycle,” said Tom Feeney, president and CEO of AIF. “After thorough review of all of the candidates, we believe these candidates are the best and brightest to help propel Florida’s business community forward.”

Feeney said the candidates, including both Republicans and Democrats, were evaluated on their commitment to protecting employers and workers, to broadening the state’s economic base and developing “innovative ways to entice new business to the Sunshine State.”

Here are AIFPAC’s endorsements in the Senate races, where technically there are no incumbents since the Senate map was redrawn in a redistricting process:

— (SD 3) Bill Montford (D); (SD 8) Keith Perry (R); (SD 11) Randolph Bracy (D).

— (SD 12) Dennis Baxley (R); (SD 13) Dean Asher (R); (SD 14) Dorothy Hukill (R); (SD 15) Bob Healy Jr (D).

— (SD 16) Jack Latvala (R); (SD 17) Ritch Workman (R); (SD 18) Dana Young (R); (SD 19) Edwin “Ed” Narain (D).

— (SD 22) Kelli Stargel (R); (SD 23) Doug Holder (R); (SD 24) Jeff Brandes (R); (SD 25) Joe Negron (R).

— (SD 27) Lizbeth Benacquisto (R); (SD 29) Kevin Rader (D); (SD 30) Bobby Powell (D); (SD 36) Rene Garcia (R).

— (SD 37) Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R); (SD 38) Daphne Campbell (D); (SD 39) Anitere Flores (R); (SD 40) Frank Artiles (R).

Here are AIFPAC’s endorsements in the House races, where incumbents are noted by an asterisk:

— (HD 1) Clay Ingram (R)*; (HD 2) Frank White (R); (HD 3) Jayer Williamson (R); (HD 5) Brad Drake (R)*; (HD 6) Jay Trumbull (R)*.

— (HD 8) Ramon Alexander (D); (HD 9) Loranne Ausley (D); (HD 10) Elizabeth Porter (R)*; (HD 15) Jay Fant (R)*; (HD 16) Dick Kravitz (R).

— (HD 18) Travis Cummings (R)*; (HD 22) Charlie Stone (R)*; (HD 23) Stan McClain (R); (HD 24) Paul Renner (R)*; (HD 25) Tom Leek (R).

— (HD 27) David Santiago (R)*; (HD 28) Jason Brodeur (R)*; (HD 29) Scott Plakon (R)*; (HD 30) Bob Cortes (R)*; (HD 31) Jennifer Sullivan (R)*.

— (HD 35) Blaise Ingoglia (R)*; (HD 36) Amanda Murphy (D)*; (HD 39) Neil Combee (R)*; (HD 40) Colleen Burton (R)*.

— (HD 41) Sam Killebrew (R); (HD 42) Mike La Rosa (R)*; (HD 43) John Cortes (D)*; (HD 45) Gregory A. Jackson (D); (HD 46) Bruce Antone (D)*.

— (HD 47) Mike Miller (R)*; (HD 50) Rene “Coach P” Plasencia (R); (HD 51) Tom Goodson (R); (HD 53) Randy Fine (R); (HD 56) Ben Albritton (R)*.

— (HD 58) Daniel Raulerson (R)*; (HD 59) Ross Spano (R)*; (HD 63) Shawn Harrison (R)*; (HD 65) Chris Sprowls (R)*; (HD 66) Larry Ahern (R)*.

— (HD 67) Chris Latvala (R)*; (HD 68) Ben Diamond (D); (HD 69) Kathleen Peters (R)*; (HD 72) Alexandra “Alex” Miller (R); (HD 74) Julio Gonzalez (R)*.

— (HD 76) Ray Rodrigues (R)*; (HD 79) Matt Caldwell (R)*; (HD 80) Byron Donalds (R); (HD 82) Mary Lynn Magar (R)*; (HD 83) Gayle Harrell (R)*.

— (HD 85) Rick Roth (R); (HD 86) Matt Willhite (D); (HD 87) David Silvers (D); (HD 88) Al Jacquet (D); (HD 90) Lori Berman (D)*.

— (HD 91) Kelly Skidmore (D); (HD 92) Whitney Rawls (D); (HD 93) George Moraitis (R)*; (HD 103) Manny Diaz Jr. (R)*.

— (HD 104) Richard “Rick” Stark (D)*; (HD 105) Carlos Trujillo (R)*; (HD 106) Bob Rommel (R); (HD 107) Barbara Watson (D)*.

— (HD 110) Jose Oliva (R)*; (HD 111) Bryan Avila (R)*; (HD 112) Nicholas Duran (D); (HD 113) David Richardson (D)*; (HD 114) John Couriel (R).

— (HD 115) Michael Bileca (R)*; (HD 116) Jose Felix Diaz (R)*; (HD 118) David Rivera (R); (HD 119) Jeanette Nunez (R)*; (HD 120) Holly Raschein (R)*.


Meet Amy Mercado, Democrat running for Florida House District 48

More than 300 candidates are running for the 160 seats in the Florida House and Senate. And, try as we will, FloridaPolitics.com won’t be able to interview them all. So we are asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running.

If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.

Today’s candidate spotlight features Amy Mercado, a Democrat running of House of Representatives District 48.

Here she is in her own words:

Significant other? Kids?

Married with a blended family of six children (four of which graduated from Orange County Public Schools).

Education background? Professional background?

I graduated high school from the Academy of Mt. St. Ursula in the Bronx, New York and continued my higher education as a nontraditional student while raising my children, caring for ailing grandparents and working multiple full-time jobs.

In 2004, I graduated from American Intercontinental University with Cum Laude honors and received a Bachelor of Business Administration, with a concentration in Management. I am currently pursuing an Executive MBA from the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University.

What was your first job?

In high school, my first part-time job was at McDonalds (I was 14 years old). My first full-time job was as a bookkeeper at the National Student Nurses Association.

In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?

To make sure that this minority Democratic district has someone they can identify with and someone who will fight for them in Tallahassee.

Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement? From whom?

After my run in 2010, I was encouraged to run again in the last two election cycles, but I could not for personal reasons.

Before I decided to run in this election cycle, I spoke with quite a few people for almost a year before I made my decision to run. I spoke with past and present party/community leaders, and each of them encouraged me to run for this seat. In fact, many of those whom I spoke with have endorsed me (e.g., Mayor Dyer, Rep. Mark Pafford, Rep. Lori Berman, former Rep. Ron Saunders, Clerk of Court Tiffany Moore-Russell, business leaders and labor unions (for a complete list of endorsements please visit: http://amymercado.com/supporters-of-amy-mercado/).

Who do you count on for advice?

I count on my family and several community leaders that I am fortunate to call my friends/mentors.

Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?

Debra M. Booth, In Touch Strategies.

Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?

Mr. Eugene Poole. Mr. Poole is the president of the Florida Voter’s League; he is one of my mentors and has been instrumental in my political education/growth since 1995.

Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?

Besides my dad (State Rep. Victor Torres) who has taught me to fight for what I believe in regardless of difficulty, I am inspired by both the current House Democratic Leader Rep. Mark Pafford for his no-nonsense style; and incoming House Democratic Leader Designate Rep. Janet Cruz. As the first Hispanic working mom to be selected by her peers to this post, I admire her drive and tenacity.

Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?

There are varied reasons why people mistrust elected officials, but the one that drives the mistrust the most is when elected officials “flip-flop” on issues. I was raised with a simple motto, you need to “stand for something or you will fall for anything.” As a private citizen, and as a future elected official, my community will always know where I stand; as one of my favorite endorsers stated, “I will represent the people of District 48 with integrity and principle. I will not sell out, but rather speak truth when it counts.”

What are 3 issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”)

Economy — More than attracting employers to Florida, we need to do more to retain our existing businesses and help them grow since they are the ones who create new jobs, pay property tax, buy goods, and help the local economy through private investment.

Education — I recognize that charter schools are a part of the state’s public education system. However, the rash of closures, bankruptcies and other mismanagement is a call for us to review how accountable and transparent these entities that operate charter schools are. We cannot have children displaced by fly-by-night charter schools that receive public dollars and fail to deliver a high-quality education.

Health care — I strongly believe we need to expand access to high-quality, affordable health care, delivered by health care practitioners who possess the appropriate level of training and oversight. As a former health care provider, I have seen firsthand the life-and-death decisions providers and patients have to make every single day.

What is a “disruptive” issue (i.e., ride-sharing) you are interested in?

I am interested in “disruptive” innovations in health care. Recently I was told of a health care app that is being tested locally where patients can type in their symptoms and then either be referred to a health care facility and/or receive a diagnosis, prescription, etc. from a health care professional through the app based on the information shared.

How will such apps be regulated? How will providers be compensated? How will apps like this comply with HIPPA?

What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?

Outside of the economic growth I mentioned previously, my district needs additional funding to address specific needs the Puerto Rican/Latino community is facing.

For example, in this last legislative session, there was a nonrecurrent funding allocation request submitted for $1 million that was negotiated down to $250,000; that request was ultimately vetoed by the governor.

The funding though would have had a direct impact in my district as we have a large Puerto Rican/Latino migration to the area. The state, in fact, is seeing 1,000 Puerto Rican families relocating to Florida every month, according to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration regional office.

A portion of the requested funds was to administer the GED exam in Spanish. The administration of that exam in Spanish would allow Puerto Rican/Latino arrivals the opportunity to begin their assimilation and acculturation.

Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?

I had the privilege of moving to Orlando during Gov. Lawton Chiles leadership; “Walking Lawton,” as he was called, was an amazing leader. He was a true champion of working families and for “accountable” government.

“Chiles Deserves Praise for Trying to Return Confidence in Government.” — Sun Sentinel; March 7, 1991

“Gov. Lawton Chiles was remembered at his funeral … as a father of ideas, a common man and an uncommon statesman.” Los Angeles Times; Dec. 17, 1998.

If you could amend the Florida Constitution, what would you change?

Florida should have a joint constitutional review with members of the House and Senate to focus on what should be repealed (e.g., FL CONST Art. 10 § 21 “Pregnant Pigs”).

Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?

No, signs do not vote.

What’s the first thing you read each morning?

I read my work emails first thing in the morning.

Where do you get your political news?

Local and state political news: Sayfie Review, FloridaPolitics.com and the Orlando Political Observer.

National news: The AP, Washington Post and New York Times.

Who do you think will be the next President of the United States?

Hillary Clinton

60 Minutes or House of Cards?

House of Cards, when I get to watch T.V.

Social media presence? Twitter handle?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amymercadofanpage amymercado

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmyMercado  @AmyMercado

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amymercado  amymercado

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amy_mercado73/  amy_mercado73

In 140 characters, what’s a tweet that best describes your campaign message?

#Workingmomof6; #bringinggoodpayingjobstoourcommunity; #lifeexperience


Reading and practicing Gracie Barra — Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Favorite sport and sports team?

Mixed Martial Arts/UFC. I am a UFC fan since its inception in the early ’90s.

Maria Sachs ‘categorically denies’ sexual harassment claims, says it’s an attempt to stop her from pursuing investigation into aide

A South Florida state senator said sexual harassment claims made by a former legislative aide are nothing more than an attempt to stop her from pursuing a criminal investigation into him.

Sen. Maria Sachs said in an exclusive interview Monday there is no truth to a complaint filed by Matthew Damsky, a former aide, with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the complaint, which was first reported by Gossip Extra, Damsky claimed Sachs undressed in front of him on multiple occasions.

Sachs said that never happened, and said she has “categorically denied” every one of his allegations. She went on to say she believes the complaint is an attempt to stop her from pursuing a criminal investigation into the unauthorized use of her personal credit card.

“My belief is that, based on the late date that he filed the EEOC complaint and based on the ludicrous … the ridiculous allegations in the complaint, this was an attempt by him to get me to settle, and to bully me or to frighten me into trying to make me not want to pursue prosecution,” said Sachs. “I have always … been adamant that I will not be bullied into trying to excuse any prosecution or to minimize the process that had already been put into place.”

Sachs said she confronted Damsky in January 2016 after her American Express bill was flagged by another staff member in her legislative office. She said she was shocked by the number of charges and said Damsky was the only person who had the authority and opportunity to use the card.

She said she spoke to him with her Chief of Staff present, and asked Damsky to designate which of the charges were his. She then asked him to sign a statement saying he did not have the authority to make the accusations. Sachs provided FloridaPolitics.com with an affidavit outlining the purchases and signed by Damsky on Jan. 21, 2016.

According to that document, Damsky made more than $50,000 worth of unauthorized purchases using her American Express Platinum card between Aug. 27, 2015, and Oct. 10, 2015. Those purchases included a dozen airline tickets on Delta Air Lines.

Sachs said she sent him back to Palm Beach County that same day, and alerted the Senate’s General Counsel of what she learned. She said she wanted to make sure there weren’t any problems with reports being filed with the state.

According to the Senate’s response to the EEOC complaint, Sachs learned around the same time Damsky had improperly been taking reimbursements out of her interoffice account for travel that hadn’t incurred and hadn’t been authorized. After speaking with Senate legal counsel, Sachs gave Damsky the option to resign his position, which the Senate response said he did on Feb. 5.

“In retaliation for Senator Sachs refusal to accept (Damsky’s) conduct, (he) has filed the subject baseless charge against her alleging gender discrimination and retaliation,” reads the June 9 response. “The charge has no merit and should be dismissed.”

Sachs said there is currently an active investigation into Damsky, and said federal law enforcement authorities interviewed her.

Jonathan Etra, a Miami-attorney, told Gossip Extra that he and his client “stand by the allegations in the EEOC complaint.”

“I think I had said it before on the record, it makes me sad, because an individual betrayed the trust that I place in him and of course the state of Florida placed in him as a steward of taxpayers’ money, and of course my family’s accounts. He betrayed that trust. I find that upsetting, I find it sad, and I hope that at some point we can get through this,” she said. “I am very adamant that I won’t back down. I will not be silenced or bullied into stopping the investigation on what occurred.”

Meet Wengay Newton, Democrat running for Florida House District 70

More than 300 candidates are running for the 160 seats in the Florida House and Senate. And, try as we will, FloridaPolitics.com won’t be able to interview them all. So we are asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running.

If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.

Today’s candidate spotlight features Wengay Newton, a Democrat running of House of Representatives District 70.

Here he is in his own words:

Significant other? Kids?

Married to my soulmate Melissa Newton for 25 years. We have four children, Anthonio, Brandon, Wengay M. Newton Jr., Chelsea and six grandchildren.

Education background?

Northeast High School, Class of 1981 Diploma; ITT Technical Institute, A.S. in Electronic Engineering, Class of 1983; Xerox Corporation Management Training Graduate, 1996; Microsoft MCSE SPC, 2001; CONA Leadership Graduate, Class of 2006; City of St. Petersburg – Elected Official – eight years of Governance – Class of 2016.

Professional background?

Council Member District 7, City of St. Petersburg 2008–2016; Elected to Council November 2007. re-elected in 2011 (Eight years); term-limited Jan. 2, 2016; Owner of Newton’s Photography Studio since 2000; Senior Printing System Engineer Xerox Corporation for 18 years. (1983 – 2001)

What was your first job?

Maintenance Assistance II, at Bethel Heights Apartments — after-school job — 16 years old.

In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?

Running for Florida House District 70 because I want to continue to work hard representing the community that has given my family and me love.

Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running?


Receive any encouragement?


From whom?

My wife.

Who do you count on for advice?

Janee’ Murphy.

Who is your political consultant?

Janee’ Murphy.

Campaign manager?

Barry Rubin.

Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign?

Juan DaCosta.

Why did they donate?

He’s a childhood friend who believes that after eight years on the St. Petersburg City Council I am “Ready Now” to put my experience to work in the state Legislature.

Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?

Rep. Bobby DuBose.

Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?

Taxation, without representation. Continue to work hard and earn the trust of my constituents in District 70.

What are three issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”)    

1) Affordable Housing

2) Juvenile Justice

3) Medicaid Expansion

What is a “disruptive” issue (i.e., ride-sharing) you are interested in?

Transportation options (Zipcar) for the hour, day or week.

What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?

Fair and equal education funding, living wages jobs, affordable housing and access to good health care.

Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?

Bob Graham.

If you could amend the Florida Constitution, what would you change?

Sometimes constitutional amendments are necessary to preserve the integrity of Florida’s political system, they should — as with the U.S. Constitution — be considered only under “great and extraordinary occasions.” We shouldn’t place issues onto the Florida Constitution that can be solved through the legislative process.

Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?


What’s the first thing you read each morning?


Where do you get your political news?

Sunburn, The Florida Squeeze, Sunshine State News, Florida Victory Daily Digest, Public Policy Law 360.

Who do you think will be the next President of the United States?

Hillary Clinton.

60 Minutes or House of Cards?

House of Cards.

Social media presence?

Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.

Twitter handle?


In 140 characters, what’s a tweet that best describes your campaign message?

Real leadership is about self-sacrifice, commitment & truly caring about people. It would be an honor & a privilege to serve in Tallahassee.


Golf, pool, dominoes, board games, card games and fishing.

Favorite sport and sports team?

Tampa Bay Rays, Lighting, Storm and Buccaneers.

Tom Lee, Bill Galvano to remain powerful GOP voices in Senate

Two key Republicans will be returning to the Florida Senate in new districts and without opposition.

Bill Galvano of Bradenton and Tom Lee of Brandon were the only candidates to meet Friday’s noon filing deadline and thus have been assured of returning to Tallahassee.

Lee’s political future had seemed uncertain after court-ordered redistricting could have placed both him and Galvano in the newly drawn District 21, which covers parts of Hillsborough and Manatee counties.

Lee declined to run against Galvano, and after considering a run for the Hillsborough County Commission opted instead to move within the boundaries of the new District 20.

The move keeps two powerful GOP voices in Tallahassee.

Galvano is in line to become Senate President in 2019, provided Republicans keep their majority in that body. Lee served as the chair of the appropriations committee in the last session.

Galvano picked up high-profile help recently when Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam campaigned for him in Wimauma in southern Hillsborough. Galvano has worked closely with Putnam to attack citrus greening, which threatens the livelihood of the state’s citrus farmers.

He was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2002, and then to the Senate in 2012. He served as Republican majority leader in 2014.

Lee initially was elected to the Senate in 1996 and was re-elected without opposition in 2000. Redistricting forced him to run again two years later, but he was again elected without opposition. In 2004, he served as the Senate president.

After losing a statewide election in 2006 to Alex Sink for chief financial officer, Lee left politics before returning in 2012.

“I just humbly look forward the privilege of serving West Central Florida in the Senate,” Lee said in a statement Friday. “When a public servant does a job between elections, the re-elections tend to take care of themselves.

“I represent everyone in our district, not just those in our party. Without a Facebook or Twitter account, I tend to rely on the old-fashioned way of doing things.”

Lee hopes to close on a piece of property within the boundaries of his new district by early next month.

In campaign filings with the state, Galvano listed his net worth at $2.064 million. Lee listed his net worth at $2.9 million.

Darren Soto gets gun-control congressman’s endorsement

Democratic State Sen. Darren Soto‘s relatively newfound commitment to gun control has won him another endorsement for his U.S. Congress election bid from a member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut.

Himes, whose district is near but does not include Newtown, Connecticut, home of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, made news last week when he protested the House’s moment of silence after the Orlando Pulse gay nightclub massacre, because, as he said, it was time for Congress to stop being silent.

Around the same time Soto, running in Florida’s Orlando-based 9th Congressional District, was leading an Orlando Democratic legislative caucus’ call for a special session of the Florida Legislature to talk about gun control.

Soto is in a tough primary battle in the Aug. 30 CD 9 Democratic primary with Dena Grayson, Susannah Randolph and Valleri Crabtree.

Soto has adopted significant gun-control positions in the past year as a member of the Florida Senate, helping lead opposition to two failed measures. One that would have allowed open-carry of firearms in Florida, and the other would have allowed students to have guns on campus. However, prior to that his record on gun rights versus gun control had earned him an A rating from the National Rifle Association, the highest among Florida Senate Democrats. Last week he objected to that characterization, arguing it was based on little data and now his rating has fallen to a C.

He got an A in gun control in Himes’ book.

“Just over one week ago, Orlando experienced the most horrific tragedy on U.S. soil since Sept. 11. We were all stunned and wanted badly to prevent this from ever happening again,” Himes stated in a news release. “Your state senator, Darren Soto, answered that call by pushing for a special session to change Florida’s gun laws. Darren is a leader. He’s someone who I am proud to endorse and look forward to working with in Congress.”

Last week Himes walked off the House of Representatives floor during a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando shooting. Congressman Himes, who is pushing for stricter gun laws, said the moment of silence was perfectly emblematic of congressional gross negligence on gun reform.

“Democrats across our country are sickened by these mass shootings and want to make a change,” stated Sen. Soto. “Last week, I made a push to keep guns out of the hands of those on the no-fly lists and the FBI terrorist watch lists. This is about commonsense gun reform. I look forward to working Jim Himes in Congress to make tragedies like the Pulse shooting a thing of the past.”

Gwen Margolis to retire from Florida Senate, drops re-election bid

Gwen Margolis has dropped her re-election bid, announcing Thursday she plans to retire from the Florida Senate.

The decision ends a more than 40-year career in public service. Margolis, a Miami-Dade County Democrat, is 81.

“My passion has been to serve the people of Florida and my commitment from day one was to make our community a better place for all,” she said in a statement Thursday. “I look back at the 40 years of public service with great humility and joy as I reflect on all the work we accomplished to empower people’s lives. It has been a remarkable journey and one that has allowed me to see how our country, state, and nation evolved on so many issues.”

Margolis was first elected to the Florida House in 1974. She served in the House until 1980, when she was first elected to the Florida Senate. She spent 12 years in the Senate, serving until 1992.

In 1990, Margolis became the first woman to lead the chamber as the Senate president. She served in that role until 1992.

“Sen. Margolis shattered glass ceilings in 1990 when she ascended, with the support of her peers, as the first woman to serve as Senate president,” said Allison Tant, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party. “She set a mark in history that will always be remembered and one that the Democratic Party is forever grateful for.”

In a statement Thursday, Senate President Andy Gardiner said Margolis is “a dedicated public servant for more than 40 years, and she has a special place in Florida’s history as the first woman to lead the Senate.”

“Gwen has been a wonderful friend to our family, and I wish her well in all her future endeavors,” he continued.

Margolis spent about a decade — from 1993 until 2002 — on the Miami-Dade County Commission, where she served as the board’s chairwoman for six years. She returned to the Florida Senate in 2002 and served for six years.

Margolis returned to the Florida Senate in 2010, and was in the midst of another re-election bid. But she found herself in hot water this week after making disparaging comments about her rivals.

According to the Miami Herald, Margolis referred to three of her opponents as “Haitians” and dismissed two others during a local Democratic meeting Monday. At least one of her opponents denounced her comments, and a local party official called on Margolis to apologize.

In a statement Thursday, the state’s Democratic leaders lauded her years of service, but did not make mention of the incident.

“Serving with Gwen Margolis has been a true treasure because of her passion to be a fierce advocate for our community,” said incoming Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon. “There are few leaders in our state with the leadership and the presence like Gwen Margolis, and the Florida Senate and the Democratic Caucus will always be grateful for her service. I know I will continue to see Gwen lend her passion to important causes in our community of Miami-Dade County.”

Christian Ulvert, the senator’s campaign consultant, said Margolis has “never been afraid to stand up for the values and principles that make us all proud Democrats.”

“She was an early voice in the fight for equality and justice and it’s because of leaders like Gwen that LGBT Floridians today have been able to knock down barriers,” said Ulvert. “She is a role model to many and a friend to all.”

Her decision now throws the Senate District 38 race into a state of flux. Five other Democrats — Anis Blemur, Philip Brutus, Daphne Campbell, Don Festge and Jason Pizzo — have all filed to run for the seat. The qualifying deadline is June 24.


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