Florida Representative David Richardson (D-Miami Beach) kicked off a campaign for the State Senate Friday night in Fort Lauderdale with a message of being able to get the job done. Richardson is currently serving his second term in the Florida House of Representatives and is the only openly gay legislator serving in Tallahassee.
“I am the only openly gay representative,” Richardson said. “But certainly not the only gay representative. There is a list, but I’m not going to give you the list and I’m not going to tell you how I made the list.”
The crowd, full of well-to-do business professionals, laughed at those remarks.
Richardson, 57, is a certified public accountant who said he can work with the Republican supermajority in Tallahassee to produce an appropriate and effective Florida budget.
By representing Miami Beach, Downtown Miami, the Port of Miami, North Bay Village and Little Havana, Richardson assured his backers that Republicans routinely take his phone calls and are not afraid to work with him on legislation.
“He’s always struck me as a very inspiring and very pragmatic leader,” said Benjamin Lap, a biotech entrepreneur from Broward County, who hosted the campaign event.
During his first term in the Florida House, Richardson bravely spoke of the need to protect gay youth in foster care. On the House floor, Richardson called for support to amend a bill that would add protections for LGBT youth in foster care.
“We can make sure that every gay kid in this great state knows that they are as important in a foster home as everyone else,” he said during a moving debate inside House chambers.
The amendment was eventually voted down as is typically the case involving LGBT associated issues in Florida government. At his Fort Lauderdale campaign kickoff, Richardson acknowledged the going would be tougher this session with the loss of Orlando Representative Joe Saunders, but insisted there are allies throughout the Sunshine State.
He said a bill filed by Representative Frank Artiles, a Republican who represents southwest sections of Miami, to designate single-sex public facilities would have “unintended consequences.”
Richardson called HB-583, “The Bathroom Bill.”
“I’ve seen this happen before,” Richardson said, adding that Rep. Artiles did not think the process through. “Imagine that you would file a bill that would prevent a mother from taking her infant son into the ladies room to change his diaper, but that’s an unintended consequence. It would also prevent a male janitor from cleaning a ladies room.”
In terms of priorities this session, Richardson said he is working on a number of bills from sales tax exemptions for art, to conversion therapy to the perennial Competitive Workforce Act. He stated one of the things he has learned about being in the minority party is he can get a lot more accomplished by not always taking the credit.
“If I make a big stink about it by putting my name on it then it’s not going to get done,” he said.
Richardson was unopposed in the 2014 midterms. He won election to the Florida House in a district that was 66 percent Hispanic and 20 percent Jewish despite being neither. He anticipates the campaign for State Senate to be for an open seat although it remains unclear if Sen. Gwen Margolis, the ranking Democrat in District 35, plans to retire.