Nearly 250 candidates are vying for state House and state Senate seats in 2020. Try as we will, Florida Politics can’t interview all of them.
Just like in 2016 and 2018, we’re again asking every candidate 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 [email protected].
Today’s feature: Susan Kufdakis Rivera, a Republican candidate for House District 86.
In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?
It is time that Florida gets to work, focusing on improving and strengthening COMMUNITY AND STATE, rather than letting bipartisan divides impede the progress.
2009: Bachelor of Arts (Sociology) – University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.
2014: Master’s of Science (Criminal Justice) – Northeastern State University (Oklahoma).
2018: Juris Doctor (IP/Cybersecurity/Technology law concentration) – Nova Southeastern University (Florida).
– Member of the Florida Bar since 2019
What was your first job?
I entered the working force at age 13 as a sales associate in a family business, if you’re counting very firsts, and have consistently been employed ever since, through high school and college in retail and customer service jobs. My first “Office Style Job” after college was in private sector corrections administration as a correctional case manager, and I dabbled in a federal legal internship with the Army Corps of Engineers, and then became a juvenile probation officer, all while studying for my Master’s, before I went to pursue a law degree.
Significant other? Kids?
None at this time, though I come from a very close-knit family.
Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement?
I’ve been involved with the Palm Beach GOP for about two years now. I received a lot of support through the Palm Beach GOP, and encouragement especially from Chairman Michael Barnett and Candidate Recruitment Chair, Marion Frank.
Who do you count on for advice?
My family, close friends, and academic and professional mentors.
Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?
My campaign is very-much grassroots oriented. My mother, Elba Kufdakis is my Campaign Manager and as of now, I do not have a political consultant yet. I do closely follow the advice of Chairman Barnett and Marion Frank though, they have really been a great support and source of sage advice.
Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?
My good friend, Polyxeny Stamou. She just moved away from my local district, however, we have been friends even before that period of time we lived in the same district. She donated to me because she believes in my cause, to work towards great results. She tells me I inspire and motivate her to do great things, but the thing is, she does the exact same to me.
Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?
– Rep. Mike Caruso: there is just something about him, a sense of drive to work and bring home results for our communities and state, without losing touch of who he is. One of the things that concerned me about politics growing up was the idea that one could easily become ‘corrupted’. But what about the people that genuinely want to do good, and put state and community first? That’s the type of politician I aspire to be. And Representative Mike Caruso certainly is that sort of politician.
– Gov. Ron DeSantis: He is an example of a great leader who put community and state first as governor, and continues to put Country and State first to date. His career in law and passion for patriotism first attracted my attention. But I’ve seen him flourish as a governor, highlighting aspects that I, as a young politician, find inspiring.
– Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez: As a Latina woman, it is difficult not to notice the strength and passion that Lt. Governor Nuñez brings to the table, particularly this commitment to serve her community. As a passionate public advocate myself, this special passion and commitment to the community are compelling and inspirational.
– Sen. Rick Scott: Although he is now in national politics, his work and compassion as Florida Governor is one of the very first things I noticed when I moved to Florida.
Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?
In part, this involves the misnomer that “all politicians are corrupt.” In reality, it is sad that there are individuals that become corrupt as they gain more power, but that isn’t necessarily the case for every politician. People also become so focused on what is going on at the national level of politics that they lose sight of what’s going on at the local level. As a result, the progress of the state and local communities start to deteriorate out of neglect, and we need people in state and local level politics who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
I plan to get to work, focusing on making community and state strong. We need to address those ignored local issues that are often overshadowed by the national political state. This includes issues such as education, health, environment, and public safety.
What are 3 issues that you’re running on?
– Incorporating anti-bullying programs in public and private academic curriculums: Bullying has been a longtime issue that starts in schools and has a snowball effect that can expand into adult years, causing physical and psychological trauma, and possibly attributing to future delinquency. The statistics are out there that a great deal of violence in schools is associated with an undiagnosed mental disorder. Some of that anti-social behavior is closely linked to bullied or neglected children. If we start educating the children early about anti-bullying in schools, it’s a tool that can ensure public safety in schools and in the general public.
– Seeking legislation that requires further education and disclosure on insecticides and pesticides that are released into our environment: It is indisputable that part of what makes Florida extraordinary is its natural resources and wildlife. At the same time, the substances that are released into our environment must not affect the health and welfare of our citizens. There is a compelling need to regulate the toxic substances that are released into our environment.
– Health care and insurance reform: Florida ranks amongst the highest in the nation in uninsured individuals, higher than the national average. The uninsured and underinsured (of all ages) need access to quality healthcare.
What is a “disruptive” issue you are interested in?
– Criminal justice reform and tying in criminal justice reform with economy-boosting incentives: One of the most common reasons for recidivism (reoffending) is a lack of employment resources once rehabilitated offenders are released back into the community. I support creating additional employment resources for eligible rehabilitated offenders in the form of creating tax incentives for businesses that create job opportunities for these rehabilitated individuals.
What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?
My legislative district needs representation that will genuinely listen to the constituents and deliver to their needs. It’s about taking action and delivering on promises made and getting to work. Not just stating you’ll do something and half-deliver. Most of all, the constituents need representation that can push past the bipartisan divide that impedes the progress of the state.
Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?
It’s difficult to pick just one #1, but the Governor in office when I first moved to Florida was Rick Scott, who certainly caught my attention and intrigue, and inspired me to continue to educate myself in Florida local politics. The way he helped keep Florida together and united through the tragedies in PULSE ORLANDO and MSDHS, along with his swift hurricane season response team was captivating. Furthermore, Ron DeSantis, while very early into his term, is doing a great job leading our state in the present, especially through the COVID-19 response.
If you could amend the Florida Constitution, what would you change?
I support our state constitution as it presently stands, though I keep an open mind to the evolution of society. Sometimes, over time, rules incorporated into Constitutions become outdated, and yes, in those instances, it is proper to evaluate rules to adapt Constitutions to the change of time. If it comes to a point where the constitution discriminates towards a particular group of people, I would seek to revisit that portion of the constitution, still keeping in mind there is a procedure set in place in the Florida Constitution for that particular circumstance.
Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?
Yard Signs are important, yes, but unfortunately, the majority of my district has HOAs that impede the amount of signage, so there is only so much I can do. I am an avid proponent of HOA reform to ensure fairness in our communities. Oftentimes the HOA strict policies in yard signs impede on a candidate’s campaigning.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
Local and national news headlines on my phone or computer.
Where do you get your political news?
My Phone and Facebook. As a zealous public advocate, I look to numerous news outlets. On the local scene in my community, I also subscribe to and read the Town Crier, and also read the Palm Beach Post.
Social media presence? Twitter handle?
– My campaign website is https://www.susanforfl.com/.
– My Facebook website is https://www.facebook.com/susanforFL86.
– My Instagram is @susan.forfl86.
– My Twitter is @SusanForFL86.
In 280 characters, what’s a Tweet that best describes your campaign message?
I’m Susan Kufdakis Rivera, working for one, and working for FL District 86. I seek to work for district and state and deliver results! The bipartisan divide impedes on progress; it’s time one pushes past the divide and work towards a stronger, efficient community and state!
Dancing, Cooking (especially baking), music, and socializing with those near and dear to my heart.
Favorite sport and sports team?
My favorite spectator sports are football and soccer. My favorite football team is the Chicago Bears, and my favorite soccer team is FC Barcelona. I also enjoy catching a Baseball game here and there, and my favorite baseball team is the Chicago Cubs. I enjoy playing soccer as well, though I fear I have gotten pretty rusty in recent years. I am an avid fan of Team USA when the Olympics are on.