Only 36, Soto is on the fast track to political prominence. He had an inauspicious debut in 2006 as a Democratic House candidate by losing to fellow rising star Andy Gardiner. Less than a year later, Soto bounced back, winning a crowded Democratic primary running for the House seat John Quinones vacated. After winning the primary, Soto beat Republican Tony Suarez who was looking to get back to Tallahassee.
Since then, Soto has not had to sweat too much, easily winning re-election to the House in 2008 and 2010. McBride was supposed to be a tough out but Soto easily routed him to win an open Senate seat in 2012.
Like other Democrats before him in recent years, including Joe Abruzzo who has a similar record, Soto has found life much easier in the Senate than in the House. Soto, who studied law at George Washington University, is currently the vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee and is the minority whip. Back in the House, Sotos attempts to move up the leadership ladder failed, especially when he hitched his wagon to Joe Gibbons.
Soto is not leaving Tallahassee anytime soon. After he crushed McBride at the polls, Republicans decided not to challenge Soto this time out. He's not the most impressive of fundraisers but he doesnt need to be this time out. By July 18, he had raised $62,500 and spent $15,500 of it.
Standing in Sotos way is small-business owner Devin Norton who is running with no party affiliation. Norton has raised $3,050 since getting in back in June and he spent almost $1,200 of it. That wont be enough to make him competitive in Central Florida.
Democrats have a thin bench in Florida which gives Soto more room to make his mark. Its not unreasonable to see Soto moving up the ladder and leading his party in the Florida Senate. That would put him in a strong position for the future. With a growing Puerto Rican population in Central Florida, Soto could be in good shape to head to Congress if redistricting goes his way. He also has the credentials to be a solid attorney general candidate, at least on paper, and he does have youth on his side.
Regardless of where he goes, Soto is well-positioned to be a factor in the Senate for years to come. With Democrats looking for young stars, Soto could be a bright one for them, representing an expanding constituency in a key part of the state.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.