Mark Pafford and Alan Williams Battle to Be Next House Democratic Leader
Around the State
In the aftermath of Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, being ousted as the next Democratic leader of the Florida House, Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, and Rep. Allan Williams, D-Tallahassee, launched bids to lead the caucus after the 2014 elections on Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, Pafford sent a letter to the House clerk announcing his bid to take Rouson’s place. As of the close of business on Tuesday, Williams entered the contest. House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, called for Democrats to caucus on Wednesday night to select a replacement for Rouson.
“After last night’s vote, I have decided not to seek the post of Democratic House speaker-designate for 2014-16,” Jones emailed her fellow House Democrats on Tuesday morning. “Over the past six months, I have had the awesome responsibility to lead Jacksonville in the implementation of the health care exchange. Having been the Democratic ranking member of Health and Human Services during this past legislative session, my priority has been to ensure that over 1 million uninsured Floridians would have quality health insurance beginning Jan. 1, 2014. I remain hopeful that the House will join the Senate and Florida’s governor in supporting full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
“I will continue to fight for the uninsured Floridians in my district, in the city of Jacksonville and throughout Florida,” Jones added. “At this time, I believe it is in the best interest of the caucus for us to elect Representative Mark Pafford as our next leader. He will represent us with dignity and integrity, and most importantly, he will right this ship.”
Another House Democrat -- Rep. Janet Cruz of Tampa -- was mentioned as a possible contender for the post but she did not file to run for the post on Tuesday.
Rouson announced that he would not run again after having been tossed from the post on Monday.
"After reflection upon the events of the last couple of weeks, the state of the Democratic caucus is my primary concern. It was always my motivation that each member of the caucus be respected," Rouson said on Tuesday. "We are the big tent party of the liberal, the moderate and the conservative, the rural and the urban, the wise freshmen and seasoned veterans, the pro-business and pro-consumer. Where else can the working poor, the middle class and the wealthy look for voice and equity if not to us?
"I ran for leader in order to maintain the momentum, push the pendulum and concede no good policy to the other side of the aisle," Rouson added. "If it is good for business, it is not anti-Democrat to support profits. At the same time we must make sure the disadvantaged are made meaningful. We must continue to stand strong and be positioned for the '14 election cycle with power to take the majority.
"We are the party that wants access to quality health care for all, particularly the uninsured. We must never forget," Rouson insisted. "I am grateful to those members of the caucus that saw the bigger vision of opening up the contribution base to include those who were once our mainstay, to create a mechanism of fundraising where the legislators are in control of their own resources and destiny. For the sake of caucus unity, I will not file a statement of candidacy nor will I accept the urging of my members to seek the leadership at this time. I am asking those that supported me to meet personally with Representative Mark Pafford and make your concerns known."
First elected to the House in 2008, 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.
But Williams has also been in the leadership and he currently serves as Democratic whip. Williams is also a policy adviser for the Democrats and serves as the ranking member of his party on both the Economic Affairs Committee and the Energy and Utilities Subcommittee.