In its latest round of endorsements, the Victory Fund announced its support for Florida Representatives Shevrin Jones (D-Miami), Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) and Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg) as well as newcomers Ricky Junquera, Gabriela De Jesús and Javier Estevez.
It is the first time the organization has endorsed as many as six LGBT Florida state candidates.
“Florida voters have an opportunity to double the number of LGBTQ people in their state legislature – a dramatic increase in a state that lags the country in protections for LGBTQ people,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, in a press release. “To have so many diverse LGBTQ voices in Tallahassee would be transformative for the state, influencing policies and legislation and ultimately moving the state forward on equality issues.”
Jones and Smith lead many progressive issues in Tallahassee, but are split on a Democratic presidential candidate. Jones has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, while Smith remains uncommitted to a candidate.
“I was a Bernie guy in 2016 and very supportive of Sen. Sanders and that movement that he created, but 2016 is not 2020,” Smith told SFGN in a telephone call this summer.
Smith won Florida’s house district 49 in 2016. A visit to his capital office during the 2017 session revealed a photograph of Smith and Sanders together on the campaign trail.
Sanders, the Vermont socialist, pushed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the limit in 2016. As the New York Times notes, the Sanders campaign is running a “nearly identical platform” as it did four years ago.
“I have not endorsed and its because I want to take my time to evaluate which one of these candidates not only is the best and progressive chance that we have to nominate a strong Democrat for President but also has the best chance at defeating President Trump,” Smith said.
Although Jones has already endorsed Biden, he told SFGN that he is pleased with the progress of South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. The 37-year-old gay man is leading in some polls in Iowa, an early Democratic caucus state.
The fact Buttigieg is married to another man has not been an automatic disqualifier for most voters.
“Which lets you know that times are changing and people are looking past people’s personal lives,” said Jones, who is campaigning for a raise to Florida’s Senate. “People need to understand, in politics, I’m not going to Tallahassee and Pete Buttigieg is not going to D.C. to be your personal minister, pastor or priest. Everyone who are in these positions right now, our goal is we sincerely want to help our country or state or city and anything else that’s a part of the individual’s personal life should be left to the individual.”
Meanwhile, three candidates bowed out of the crowded Democratic presidential field. Three-star Navy admiral Joe Sestak; Montana Governor Steve Bullock and Sen. Kamala Harris of California all exit the campaign leaving as many as 14 major contenders for the nomination.
“At this point I would vote for a bologna sandwich over Donald Trump,” said Smith, Florida’s first Latinx LGBT lawmaker.
The next DNC debate is scheduled for Dec. 19 in Los Angeles with PBS carrying the proceedings from Loyola Marymount University. Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have qualified for the debate.