Perry Thurston chosen as 2020-21 chair for Broward legislative delegation as body tussles over vice chair

Thurston is elevated to that role after serving as the delegation's vice chair.

Sen. Perry Thurston of Senate District 33 is set to serve as the 2020-21 chair for the Broward County legislative delegation.

Delegation members made their selection at a Thursday evening meeting. That meeting also featured some drama regarding who would serve as Thurston’s vice chair, and would thus be favored to lead the delegation next year.

The decision was originally scheduled for Monday, but the delegation delayed that meeting due to flooding from Tropical Storm Eta.

Thurston won the SD 33 seat in 2016. He earned reelection in August after handily winning the Democratic primary. Thurston faced no opposition in this year’s General Election.

The incoming chair also served eight years in the House — including two years as the House Democratic Leader. He takes over the chair position from Rep. Shevrin Jones, who himself won a Senate seat in last week’s election.

Thurston previously served as the delegation’s vice chair under Jones.

The vote to succeed Thurston prompted some tension among the delegation. Democratic Rep. Joe Geller nominated Rep. Michael Gottlieb, a fellow Democrat, to serve as the delegation’s vice chair for the heavily Democratic delegation. Just three Republicans are present among the 19-member delegation.

Gottlieb first won the House District 98 seat in 2018. He won a second term this year, courting no opposition.

But Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca also made a play for the vice chair position, setting up a long discussion about how and whether Republicans should be represented in the delegation’s leadership.

Democratic Rep. Anika Omphroy nominated LaMarca Thursday in a push for bipartisanship. Omphroy held her House District 95 seat by a narrow 51%-49% margin amid a challenge from progressive candidate Jasmen Rogers-Shaw in this August’s Democratic primary. With no Republicans running, that primary was open to members of all parties and Omphroy benefited from Republican support in holding off a challenge from her left flank.

“We need to start working across the aisle,” Omphroy said Thursday.

“Broward is stronger together, and we need to work in coalition to ensure that Broward County makes it out of this recession and makes it out of this COVID crisis that we’re currently going through.”

With the typically pro forma process now contested, Geller sought to clarify his motivation for supporting Gottlieb.

“My nominating him is not in any way a reflection of the respect I have for Rep. LaMarca,” Geller said.

“I’ve worked with [Rep. LaMarca]. We’ve worked on a lot of stuff together and I think he’s a great member. But the leadership of the delegation should reflect the composition of the delegation and of the voters that we all represent as a county. I don’t think it’s any slight to somebody that you don’t select them as one of the top two leaders that we have.”

LaMarca and Gottlieb then each made their pitch to the body.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of work in Tallahassee this year,” LaMarca said, referencing the Republican-controlled Legislature. “Most of it’s going to be blocking and tackling and dealing with a big hole in the budget. I’m putting myself out there. If you find that to be something that this delegation would like to do, it’s something I’m willing to do.”

Gottlieb focused on his experience as a freshman member and his ability to appeal to Republicans as well.

“I’ve passed five bills in two years, and I did that because I have the ability to reach across the aisle,” Gottlieb said. He specifically highlighted his work on Alyssa’s Law, which funds a mandatory mobile panic alert system for all public and charter schools.

Thurston then debated whether to hold a private vote or an open roll call vote. With the delegation’s rules unclear, Thurston proposed a roll call vote before LaMarca chimed in with an offer.

“I propose that I have the opportunity to work with Michael Gottlieb instead of in any other way, and be co-vice chairs.”

Thurston appeared to reject that offer and push again for a roll call vote, but Gottlieb made an effort to interject, stating he wasn’t opposed to the arrangement.

“If that’s on me to accept, I’m willing to comply with whatever the rules allow,” Gottlieb added.

Thurston sought clarification in the rules and found the delegation’s charter was silent on the issue. He again pushed to initiate the roll call vote, but LaMarca asked for an explanation on whether a co-chair arrangement was permitted by the rules, leading to a back-and-forth with Thurston.

“I’ve got an answer on the rules, it does not address it,” Thurston said.

“So if it doesn’t address it, then it’s something we can consider,” LaMarca responded.

“If it doesn’t address it, we’re going to move forward with the vote the way that the rules address,” Thurston said. “We’re going to have a chair and we’re going to have a vice chair.”

After the lengthy discussion, Thurston’s ruling prompted LaMarca to withdraw his name rather than contest Gottlieb’s nomination.

Thurston looked to patch over any strain as the meeting neared its end.

“There’s no animosity here,” Thurston said.

“I do think that Rep. LaMarca would be a good chair or vice chair of this organization. And I look forward to working with him and serving under him if that’s the will of the body as we move forward.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


  • Patti Lynn

    November 12, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    Thank you, Senator Thurston for adhering to the rules. Representative Michael Gottleib has done an amazing job for ALL Broward constituents in the legislature. I look forward to the leadership that both of you will provide.

  • Matt M

    November 12, 2020 at 10:48 pm

    Chip Lamarca was an embarrassment to his district and to himself tonight. I happened to catch his interview on WIOD this morning I thought he sounded quite arrogant, and that arrogance was even more pronounced in this evening’s meeting. He put everyone in a terribly uncomfortable position unnecessarily, and what a terrible way to welcome the new members. Looks like Chip’s head has swelled since his days on the county commission! He best dial down this grandiose attitude of his, he does not have the IQ points to back it up. Tonight he showed what a classless, uneducated dolt he really is.

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