Florida lawmakers are back in Tallahassee this week for a special session called by the governor to finalize congressional district maps.
“We don’t even have congressional maps,” said Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith in a telephone call with SFGN last week. “We are pretty late in the process here. It’s really bizarre. We’re getting ready to head to Tallahassee on Monday for a special session on congressional redistricting because the governor is insisting on eliminating majority Black congressional districts which is illegal and completely tramples the state constitution which protects the rights of racial and language minorities to elect the candidate of their choice.”
Smith, the fiery gay Latino activist from Orlando, is not one to turn a blind eye to injustice. First elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2016, Smith, a Democrat, is the dean of LGBT state elected officials and quick to counter attacks on the community.
“I have always believed that representation for the LGBTQ community matters, I just didn’t realize how much it would matter under the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis,” Smith said. “He has declared war on LGBTQ people to advance his own political ambitions in a way that is very frightening to a lot of people.”
Smith recently announced he will seek re-election in the newly drawn House District 37. The district covers parts of Seminole and Orange Counties and is more of a swing or purple seat, Smith said.
“The reality is my values and the things that we have always fought for are not going to change — fighting for the freedoms and for the equality of everyone, not just some,” he said. “We have always stood for environmental protection and clean water and gun safety laws and people with disabilities and housing affordability and that will continue and I know these are issues that Seminole County voters care about as well.”
Smith said Republicans’ strategy in Florida has been to distract the public from essential services by obsessing over LGBT children. As a result, the state is mired in a property insurance crisis and teachers shortage with disparities in affordable housing and health care, he said. Tactics deployed by DeSantis’ team, Smith noted, have sunk to an all-time low.
“This type of homophobia and bigotry must be confronted head-on and we have confronted it head-on,” he said. “The governor has used the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill [that is now law] to smear and defame LGBTQ people. These baseless accusations of grooming and pedophilia are just unconscionable.”
As for who Democrats should nominate to oppose DeSantis, Smith declined to issue an endorsement.
“I am still evaluating all of the different candidates,” Smith said. “We have a lot of good candidates for governor and I very much hope we pick the candidate that has the best chance to win the governorship against DeSantis, but also that will help us make inroads with voters across the state of Florida that we may have lost traction with over the years. We need someone who is going to take the governor head-on and hold him accountable.”
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