House Dems select new leaders, tooby Dara Kam | November 19th, 2012
Rep. Perry Thurston officially took over as House Democratic Leader for the next two years in a ceremony in the Old Capitol, finalizing the minority caucus’s leadership switch before tomorrow’s organizational session.
Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, welcomed 24 new state representatives to the 44-member caucus, a five-seat gain in part due to newly-drawn legislative districts.
“I like to refer to us as…the heart and soul of the legislature,” Thurston said.
Echoing President Obama’s emphasis on the middle-class, Thurston said the outnumbered Democrats will continue as “the voice of opposition” but with new-found strength since breaking the GOP supermajority stronghold in the House as well as the Senate. If Democrats hold together, they would be able to block procedures or legislation that require a two-thirds vote, including proposed constitutional amendments.
Thurston said Democrats should take a lesson from the GOP to make their numbers even stronger.
“The way the other side did it, they did it by sticking together,” he said. “We’re going to be here and we’re going to be ready to fight.”
Speaking of the November election, Thurston said that Democrats predicted that a sweeping election law (HB 1355) passed last year would create problems.
“We understood it was going to be disastrous,” Thurston said. “That disastrous vote, with people standing in line eight, nine, ten hours, we argued against that. And we’re going to continue to advocate against issues that are going to affect our state.”
Thurston and his counterpart Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith are both black lawyers from Fort Lauderdale. Smith also served as the head of the House Democrats in 2005 and 2006.
Smith said the site of the ceremony, typically a brief event held on the House and Senate floors, was significant.
“We both decided to have our events here in the Old Capitol, a place that wouldn’t welcome us a few years ago. But now we’re both taking our leadership positions tonight in this building,” Smith said.
The House Dems also selected Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, as the leader pro tempore, and named other representatives to leadership positions, including Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, who is the caucus’s policy lead.