‘Here I am’: Democratic women lawmakers get candid about being in minority
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 2/10/23-Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando, debates against the migrant relocation bill, Friday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

'We have to fight a lot harder to get where we are.'

Already outnumbered as a Democrat, Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis is even more in the minority in the state Capitol as a Black woman.

“We are operating in spaces that weren’t designed for us,” Davis said during a livestreamed panel for Women’s History Month. “When the Florida Legislature was created, it wasn’t created for people like me to speak truth to power in the halls of the Capitol, but here I am. … So I have to speak and I have to speak on behalf of those I represent.”

What followed next was a one-hour candid discussion where five Central Florida lawmakers talked about everything from why they ran for office to inspiring the next generation of women leaders.

WFTV journalist Karla Ray moderated the Q&A that also featured Reps. Kristen Arrington, Anna Eskamani, Rita Harris and Johanna López. All five panelists were Democrats.

Leading the Senate this year was Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, a Republican from Naples. But in the House, there has never been a woman in charge.

You see the former Speakers, portraits that are all around the wall above you — they’re all male. There hasn’t been a female in that position, and you were reminded of that because they are literally staring at you,” said Arrington, who lives in Kissimmee.

López said she faces challenges as a single mom.

“Everything is on my shoulders with no help from anybody,” the Orlando resident said, though that didn’t stop her from running for office with a life story that she said could inspire others.

Harris said she was motivated to run for office after seeing women lose autonomy over their bodies following Florida’s current 15-week abortion ban.

“We have to fight a lot harder to get where we are. And so I feel like each one of us kind of takes that with us when we go up to Tallahassee,” Harris said.

The Orlando resident acknowledged being a Democrat in a Republican-controlled Legislature, “It can be difficult. You do feel like you’re in a minority, figuratively and literally. But I was sent here, I was elected by my community just like they were.”

Arguing that “feminism” should not be a bad word, Eskamani advocated for building support to help more women run for office.

“Good leaders help create new leaders,” the Orlando resident said. “Let us carry on the work of those who come before us to build a better world for those who will come after.”

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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