Mark Pafford Beats Alan Williams to be Next House Democratic Leader
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House Democrats convened on Wednesday night to select Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, to lead the party after the 2014 elections. Pafford easily defeated Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, on a 29-12 vote.
Pafford takes over from Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, who was outed from the incoming leader post on Monday. Rouson’s removal comes in the aftermath of a feud with the Florida Democratic Party over setting up a fundraising committee for House candidates outside party control.
Pafford was nominated and seconded by two state representatives who had been mentioned as possible leadership candidates: House Democratic Leader Pro Tempore Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, and Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa. Jones lost out to Rouson to be the next Democratic leader back in February by a narrow margin. Rep. Shev Jones, D-West Park, and Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, nominated and seconded Williams.
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.
Incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, had kind words for the Democratic leader who will square off in the House against him after the 2014 elections.
"I congratulate my colleague Mark Pafford on his election as Democratic leader designate,” Crisafulli said. “He is passionate in his beliefs and has always been a strong advocate for his constituents. I look forward to working with him to advance good public policy for our state."
Lenny Curry, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), on the other hand, looked ahead to the 2014 gubernatorial election and portrayed Pafford’s win as a victory for liberals over moderates -- and for former Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich over former Gov. Charlie Crist in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
"With Mark Pafford anointed as the incoming leader for the House Democrats, this means that the House Democratic Caucus is lurching further to the left and tacitly rejecting Charlie Crist as their standard bearer,” Curry insisted. “By electing one of the most liberal legislators as their leader, it's not a matter of if, but when, Democratic legislators line up behind their former colleague and fellow liberal Nan Rich."
Pafford did win accolades from Mark Ferrulo, the executive director of liberal group Progress Florida.
“Mark Pafford has been a tireless, outspoken and fearless champion for middle-class Floridians in a Legislature where the needs of everyday Floridians too often get a cold shoulder,” said Ferrulo. “Mr. Pafford will be a critical and much needed leader in the fight for great public schools, access to quality health care, good jobs and clean air and water for all Florida families.”