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Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith is now back in the Florida Legislature

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Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith is now back in the Florida Legislature

Jun 14, 2024 | 6:09 pm ET
By Mitch Perry
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Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith is now back in the Florida Legislature
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Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith. Credit: Florida House of Representatives

Orlando-area Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith, the first openly LGBTQ Latino elected to the state Legislature, will return to Tallahassee as a state senator after he qualified for the Florida Senate District 17 seat in Central Florida without opposition on Friday.

In addition to Smith, nine incumbent House Democrats won automatic bids to return to Tallahassee as qualification closed Friday in either the Aug. 20 primaries or the Nov. 5 general election.

“Today, we sent 10 champions back to Tallahassee to continue the fight, holding onto key seats in the Florida House and electing two new dynamic leaders to the Florida Senate,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried said in a press release. “And Republicans didn’t even put up a fight, leaving 22 seats uncontested.”

Mack Bernard, a Democratic Senate candidate who filed to run in the special election to succeed Bobby Powell in District 24, automatically won his seat earlier this week when the qualifying period ended without any opponent filing to run against him.

Fried boasted that, for the first time since the 1990s, there is a Democrat running in every House and Senate district in the state.

“Democrats made history,” she said. “It’s a record-breaking accomplishment for the Florida Democratic Party and a stark contrast to the party we inherited after 2022 — a party Republicans declared ‘dead’ just one year ago.”

‘Participation trophy’

Republicans, however, don’t appear to be sweating it out too much. Their ranks continue to dominate in the Florida Legislature, with supermajorities in both the Florida House (84-36) and Senate (28-12) going into this fall’s general election. They enjoy a lead of more than 900,000 registered voters over Democrats statewide.

“As I have said before, the @FloridaGOP is focused on winning not moral victories or a participation trophy,” Republican Party Chairman of Florida Evan Power said on X on Friday.

Smith was first elected to his Central Florida House seat in 2016, but lost his bid for re-election in 2022 to Republican Susan Plasencia. He began running more than a year ago for the Senate District 17 seat in Orange County that has been held by Democrat Linda Stewart, who was term-limited and thus unable to run again.

“My heart is full of gratitude for this community who has entrusted me with the responsibility of serving as their state senator,” Smith said in a written statement after he learned he had been elected to the seat.

“Since last year, our campaign has knocked on over 10,000 doors in Senate District 17. We know that voters are frustrated with the direction our state has been heading, and they’ve had enough. Rents and property insurance premiums are soaring, over a million Floridians have recently lost health care, and Tallahassee has turned our classrooms into political battlefields.”

Smith has worked for the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida since 2015 and now serves as a senior policy adviser to the organization, which issued a press release upon the announcement that he had been elected to the Senate.

“In 2022, while seeking reelection to the Florida House, Carlos was targeted by the Republican Party, who invested millions to flip his seat,” said Sratton Politzer, chair of Equality Florida Action PAC, in a statement. “They have tried to block Carlos at every turn and at every opportunity, but they only made him stronger.”

Other Democrats

As previously mentioned, nine Florida House Democrats ended up winning re-election on Friday when they drew no Republican opponent at the qualifying deadline. They are:

  • Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson in House District 21
  • Rep. Jervonte Edmonds in House District 88
  • Rep. Kelly Skidmore in House District 92
  • Rep. Christine Hunschofsky in House District 95
  • Rep. Dan Daley in House District 96
  • Rep. Lisa Dunkley in House District 97
  • Rep. Hillary Cassel in House District 101
  • Rep. Felicia Robinson in House District 104
  • Rep. Dotie Joseph in House District 108