When he was running in September to be the next Democratic leader in the Florida House, Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, promised not to hesitate in taking on the Republicans. In recent days, Pafford has been true to his word, throwing barbs at the Republicans and drawing return fire from the GOP.
Pafford took to the pages of the South Florida Sun Sentinel over the weekend to argue that Republicans have controlled Tallahassee for too long.
As the Legislature begins the 2014 lawmaking session, it is critical to understand that this will be the 16th consecutive year that Florida has been under single-party control in the House, Senate and governor's office, Pafford wrote. Since 1996, the Republican Party has dictated tone and achievements that have, for good or bad, identified how Republican leaders think Florida needs to be run. I believe we need a change in Florida.
Pafford ripped Republican decisions on infrastructure, senior issues, education, the environment and other issues. Instead of focusing on important issues, Pafford argued, Republicans were more concerned with social issues and rewarding special interests.
Republican leaders have been obsessed about playing politics with people's private lives, restricting a woman's right to decide her own health and limiting who can marry, Pafford wrote. They've given away financial resources to wealthy special interests and big corporations to the detriment of the middle class.To date, these same Republican leaders have failed to make sound investments in the state's infrastructure, and they've failed to plan for Florida's future.
Pafford promised House Democrats will produce ideas to turn Florida around and insisted Democratic gubernatorial candidates -- namely former Gov. Charlie Crist and former state Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich -- will make the case about why new leadership is needed in the governor's office.
The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) fired back on Monday afternoon, offering rebuttals to Pafford and noting most Democrats in the Legislature backed Gov. Rick Scotts budget.
"When it comes to investing in Florida's future, Representative Mark Pafford has no business attacking Governor Rick Scott and the Republican Legislature, said RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry on Monday. Need we remind Pafford that nearly 80 percent of Democrats in the Legislature voted for the governor's budget while he ended up in the extreme minority of his own party by voting against it? Governor Scott's focus on jobs and putting the state government's fiscal house in order have provided us the economic and financial stability to help all Floridians."
Pafford is set to take over from current House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, after the 2014 elections. Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, had been in line for the position but he was outed from the incoming leader post back in September. Rousons removal came in the aftermath of a feud with the Florida Democratic Party over setting up a fundraising committee for House candidates outside party control. Pafford beat out Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, to be next in line.
First elected to the House in 2008 and currently representing parts of Palm Beach County, Pafford is originally from Dade County and served as a congressional aide to former U.S. Rep. Lawrence J. Smith, D-Fla., from 1989 to 1992. He later served in Tallahassee as an aide to then-state Rep. Lois Frankel. Pafford represents parts of Palm Beach County and is the ranking Democrat on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. He also sits on some of the leading committees in the House including the Appropriations Committee, the Health and Human Services Committee and the Joint Legislative Budget Commission.
Pafford does have experience in the Democratic leadership. He served as deputy whip from 2008 until 2012 when he rose to become Democratic policy chair. Pafford also chaired the Palm Beach County delegation.
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