Former Rep. Joe Saunders is adding another advocacy group to a growing list of organizations and people backing his bid to unseat an incumbent House Republican next year.
LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, a national group dedicated to electing pro-equality candidates from the LGBTQ community that support abortion rights, is throwing its support behind Saunders’ campaign against freshman Rep. Fabián Basabe in House District 106.
“LGBTQ+ Victory Fund is fully committed to electing Joe Saunders to the Florida House, where the safety and wellbeing of our community are under threat,” the group’s President and CEO, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, said in a statement this week.
“In the last election cycle, this crucial battleground seat was determined by a razor-thin margin of just 242 votes. This is why we are investing in this race and firmly standing alongside our champion for equality, Joe Saunders.”
For Saunders, a Democrat, a win next year would mark the second time voters sent him to Tallahassee. He made history in 2012 as one of the first openly gay state lawmakers in Florida to take the oath of office. He served a Central Florida district for one two-year term.
Saunders’ challenge of Basabe is likely to be among the highest-profile contests in the 2024 election cycle, particularly for members of the LGBTQ community.
A self-described moderate and “anti-politician,” Basabe supported successful measures restricting discussion of LGBTQ issues in public schools, allowing the concealed carry of a firearm without a permit and a failed bill that would have repealed a post-Parkland ban on under-21 long rifle purchases.
He also voted in lockstep with other GOP House members for a law that a federal judge ruled in June was “specifically designed to suppress the speech of drag queen performers.”
Basabe abstained from voting in April on a bill banning abortion after six weeks of gestation, which won’t take effect until an ongoing legal challenge of the state’s prior 15-week ban is resolved in the Florida Supreme Court. But he did vote against 50 amendments Democrats proffered to soften the bill’s impact and then blamed Democrats for the measure’s passage in the Republican-dominated Legislature.
He said he’d advocated for a 12-week compromise that Democrats rejected. Last month, he filed legislation to enact that 12-week threshold.
Basabe is also the subject of a battery and defamation lawsuit from two former staffers who allege he engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment and touching. The House is conducting its own investigation into the matter.
Basabe maintains he’s been unduly maligned and has pointed to millions he secured in local budget appropriations and a successful behind-the-scenes effort to stop legislation that would have stripped local protections of historic buildings in storm-prone areas as evidence he’s done good work while in office.
LGBTQ+ Victory Fund’s nod to Saunders joins others from SAVE Action PAC, Florida Leadership Council, Senate and House Democratic leadership, numerous state lawmakers and a handful of current and former members of Congress.
So far, only Basabe and Saunders are running for the seat representing HD 106, which covers a coastal strip of Miami-Dade including all or part of the municipalities of Aventura, Bay Harbor Islands, Miami Beach, North Bay Village, North Miami Beach and Sunny Isles.
The 2024 Primary Election is on Aug. 20, followed by the General Election Nov. 5.