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Darryl Rouson’

Sen. Arthenia Joyner quietly selected to take over Democratic caucus

Friday, May 3rd, 2013 by Dara Kam

Senate Democrats quietly elected Arthenia Joyner to take over as chairwoman of the caucus next year in a behind-closed-doors meeting on the last day of the legislative session.

Joyner, a Tampa lawyer, will become the first black woman to chair the caucus, now chaired by Sen. Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer.

Joyner was selected without fanfare and during an unannounced meeting, a departure from how House Democrats handled a contested election won by Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg lawyer, in February. The House caucus election, broadcast on The Florida Channel, resulted in a tie vote. Rouson won by a single vote in a second round of balloting.

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant called Joyner “a tireless advocate for Democratic values and ally to Florida’s middle class families” in a press release announcing her election.

Darryl Rouson victor in tight Florida House Dems leadership battle

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Florida House Democrats selected Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg lawyer, as their next leader with a 23-21 victory over Mia Jones of Jacksonville.

The 44-member caucus handed the 2014-2016 leadership post to Rouson after a first vote ended in a 22-22 tie.

“The best interest of this caucus is at stake. And the honor and integrity of this caucus today was at stake. The world was watching,” a tearful Rouson told the caucus.

Perhaps anticipating a tie-breaker, current House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, warned the caucus to stick with the promise of a cake and ice cream celebration.

Rouson served on former Gov. Charlie Crist’s transition team (back when Crist was a Republican) and comes from Crist’s hometown of St. Petersburg.

“I care about what we get when we go home and how we can brag to our constituents…we affected policy and we brought something home,” Rouson, who said he fasted prior to tonight’s vote, told the caucus after his win was announced.

House Democrats picked up six seats in November, and Rouson’s supporters lauded his efforts to help incumbents and freshmen on the campaign trail.

West Palm Beach Democrat Mark Pafford nominated Jones, calling her a champion of the middle class and progressives and “a leader whose time has come.”

Sen. Dwight Bullard, a former state representative from Miami who was elected to the Senate in November, cautioned the caucus about moving forward as the minority party in the GOP-dominated legislature.

“Don’t get into the back-biting. Don’t get into the deal cutting. Don’t get into the knee-capping…Do not sell your votes short,” Bullard advised.

Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arcenaux, filling in while the second vote was being counted, congratulated the caucus for shrinking the GOP advantage in November.

“It’s now time for all of us to stop thinking in the mindset of the minority and start getting into the mindset of the majority,” Arcenaux said. “What we learned this cycle – hard work. None of our people got outworked. We got outspent…but we never got outworked.”

But nominating Rouson, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda of Tallahassee said that Rouson would help boost the caucus’s numbers in the upcoming elections.

“It is integrity. It’s how you handle pressure,” that will ensure the Democrats keep gaining, she said.

Rick Scott clones, the black caucus and judges

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 by Dara Kam

Black lawmakers gave Gov. Rick Scott a wish-list including minority business loans, more money for public schools and historically black colleges and restoration of rights for felons during an hour-long meeting this afternoon.

The most heated part of the session came during an exchange about putting more black judges on the bench. Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, pointed out that, of the 36 judges Scott appointed, just two are black, and one of those was a reappointment.

Scott agreed the courts need more minority representation but then used the opportunity to bash the courts, which have ruled against him in two recent cases involving drug testing of welfare recipients and a prison privatization plan. He said he wants judges who “think like me.”

“I remember in civics class I learned about the three branches of government. It appears there are only two. And maybe there’s only one,” Scott, a lawyer, said, adding that the legislature passed those bills, Scott signed them into the law, and judges ruled that they were wrong. “That’s not the way it ought to be. So what I’m not going to do is appoint people that think differently than I do…activists that think that they’re the legislature.”

Sen. Arthenia Joyner objected to Scott’s standard.

“Unless you back off of your ‘think like me’…we have monolithic thinking and there’s no room for a diversity of thought and then we all become Scott clones,” Joyner, a Tampa lawyer, said.

“I don’t see the problem, myself,” Scott joked before conceding, “the words ‘think like me’ might not be the best ones.”
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