3 empty seats in legislature leave 500K South Floridians without a voice

Three Democratic seats are open, leaving about 500,000 South Floridians without representation in an already Republican-dominated legislature.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Three empty Democratic seats in the state Capitol as the legislative session begins this week mean that some 500,000 South Floridians won’t be represented.

One of those seats is vacant in the state Senate, another two in the House of Representatives. All three are Broward-Palm Beach seats whose lawmakers resigned to run last year to replace Alcee Hastings in the U.S. Congress.

“About half a million people of color have no representation strictly because of where they live,” said State Rep. Evan Jenne, the Democratic House minority leader.

State Rep.-elect Daryl Campbell, D-Broward, will be filling one of those chairs after being elected to the House in District 94 on Tuesday night. But he could be waiting a while to be sworn in to replace his former boss Bobby DuBose, the ex-state House Democratic co-leader whose name and face are still up in the House minority office.

In this case, they are at the mercy of the Republican majority.

“They do have the majority, but at the end of the day, our voices need to be heard,” DuBose said. “I’m encouraged that Speaker [Chris] Sprowls will do the right thing.”

But Sprowls can’t do the swearing-in until the election is certified by the secretary of state, and that doesn’t happen until the election period ends in March, when the two other seats will be filled, likely by Democrats as well.

“I know the obstacles, and you know, I’m ready to take that on one step at a time,” Campbell said.

Democrats have the ultimate obstacle as they are vastly outnumbered in this legislative session.

“One person speaking out can make a difference,” DuBose said. “An sometimes it may not change or kill the legislation completely, but it will make it better than it initially started out.”

So, what are you supposed to do to make sure your voice is represented if you’re in one of the districts with an open seat?

Jenne says to call him.

How to contact your representative

You can find the list of Florida House Representatives here: myfloridahouse.gov/representatives

And if you are in one of the Democratic districts whose seats are open, you can contact the House Minority Office at (850) 488-9622 or by clicking here.

About the Author:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."