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What Will Fla. Legislature Look Like? Despite Some Election Upsets, Pretty Much The Same

Jose Javier Rodriguez's twitter

Like the newly elected President and the future Congress, Florida’s future leaders will look pretty much the same. Still, while the Republican-led state legislature still continues to hold a majority, there were some upsets.

Just before Election Day, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) asked Floridians in his district to vote for him.

“Hi, I’m State Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. I ask you to go out and vote tomorrow on November 8th,” said Diaz de la Portilla, in a video message. “We need a government that cares about people’s pocketbooks, a government that is for cutting taxes, providing opportunities for new jobs, and cares about growing our economy. I ask you to vote for Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, #37 on our ballot.”

But, he lost to Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat who previously served in the House—and had the endorsement of President Barack Obama.

“This is Barack Obama,” said the President, in an ad. “This election isn’t just about defeating extreme Republican candidates. It’s also about electing strong Democrats, like Jose Javier Rodriguez. Our children need us to keep working to make this country stronger, fairer, safer, and cleaner, and Jose will do just that. [Lady: Jose took on the power companies and won. Now, he’s fighting rate hikes that hurt our families and working to restore public school funding.] This is Barack Obama. Vote for the candidate that has my back and yours: Jose Javier Rodriguez.”

Still, it wasn’t all bad for Republicans because they still maintain a majority in the Senate. Of that chamber’s 25 Republicans, nine will be new.

And, incoming Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart) says that’s a good thing.

“Well, I’m very pleased with the significant majority we’re going to continue to have in the Florida Senate, and I’m grateful to the voters for returning such a strong majority,” he said, speaking to Florida Channel, on Election Day. “When you look at Miami-Dade County, where we are right now, they’ll still have three Republicans that are part of the Miami delegation, so.”

But, the loss of Diaz de la Portilla was a surprise upset for Republicans. Millions of dollars were poured into maintaining the state Senator’s seat. The Miami Republican—who had served as the Senate Judiciary chairman—also had the backing of multiple law enforcement groups.

Still, Negron remains optimistic.

“I’m really proud of the race he ran in a tough climate, but other than that, if you look at the open seat that we competed for in Tampa and also in Gainesville, our candidates—Dana Young and Keith Perry—have won those races,” Negron added. “So, we were really involved in five races in a significant way, and so, to win four out of five, and then Senator Diaz de la Portilla lost in a very narrow way, I feel really good about the effort.”

Meanwhile, Democrats gained one more seat in the state Senate, and incoming Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens) says he’s happy Jose Javier Rodriguez will be one of the 15.

“So, we had some victories and we had some disappointments,” said Braynon, speaking to Florida Channel, on Election Day. “We’re here at Jose Javier Rodriguez’s party, and this was a victory for us. So, we’re very excited about that. Linda Stewart, Victor Torres, Bobby Powell…we had a lot of people that we’re happy that they’re coming to the Senate.”

While some have attributed the GOP wins to President-elect Donald Trump, Braynon credits current and future Democratic wins to past redistricting efforts.

“Now, that the seats are drawn more evenly, I think that still gives opportunity, right,” he added. “This year, we dealt with a lot of incumbents whether it be Senator [Anitere] Flores, or event [Miguel] Diaz de la Portilla, people that take a lot of money to defeat or a lot of time to defeat. I think eventually this will lead to a new Senate. 15 is still a good number.”

Meanwhile, of the 46 new members elected to the House, most were Republicans as well. And, incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran has already put out a list of other House leaders who will head various legislative committees.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.