Richardson Election Provides Framework for LGBT Legislative Caucus
By Cliff Dunn
MIAMI BEACH – Although Florida remains one of the largest states without significant statewide LGBT anti discrimination protections, it can no longer claim to be the largest without an openly gay lawmaker. The election last week of David Richardson to the Florida House of Representatives breaks what activists have called the Sunshine State’s “lavender ceiling.”
Acknowledging the import of his accomplishment to history, Richardson, 55, told reporters, “I am the first openly-gay legislator in the history of Florida. And forever will be.” Richardson defeated three other candidates to represent State House District 113, which serves Miami Beach.
A forensic accountant who grew up the son of a taxi driver father in Orlando, Richardson earned degrees in biology and accounting at the University of Central Florida, and a master’s in Business Administration at the University of Tampa. The former Big Six accounting firm auditor started his own CPA practice in 1993, and moved to Miami Beach in 2001.
In last week’s Democratic Primary, Richardson garnered a plurality of 33 percent of the 9,458 votes cast, defeating consumer advocate Waldo Faura Jr.; attorney Adam Kravitz; and Mark Weithorn, the husband of Miami Beach City Commissioner Deede Weithorn. No Republicans ran to challenge the seat.
According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, until this election season, Florida was one of 17 states “with zero ‘out’ state lawmakers.” The Victory Fund supported Richardson, as did Equality Florida, Florida Together, and SAVE Dade, which reportedly spent about $50,000 towards Richardson’s election. During the campaign, Richardson told supporters, “I don’t want people to vote for me or not vote for me because I’m gay. I just want people to look at my record.”
Other openly-gay lawmakers may join Richardson in Tallahassee, with gay candidates running for state office in Brevard County ( John Alvarez), Orange County ( Joe Saunders), Monroe County (Ian Whitney), and here in Broward County (Scott Herman); all but the last one are Democrats.
Richardson said that his legislative priorities will be the state’s schools and its budget. “I got an incredibly good public school education and went to UCF, which is a publicly-supported university in Florida,” he told reporters. “I’m concerned about the cuts made in the last five years. I intend to get my hands very dirty and get into details of a $70 billion state budget. I have to believe there is a lot of waste and abuse.”
He also plans to introduce legislation to provide state employment protections for LGBT Floridians.