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Meet Florida’s first openly gay legislator

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – A Miami Beach forensic accountant became Florida's first openly gay state legislator after defeating three rivals in an open primary race Aug 14.

Democrat David Richardson, who has never run for public office before, got 33 percent of the vote, prevailing over his closest rival, Mark Weithorn, who received just over 26 percent of the vote, the Miami New Times reports.

Richardson will represent a district that includes a large portion of Miami Beach, including South Beach, a section of Little Havana, and a swath of Downtown Miami, the New Times says. 

Since there was no opponent on the general election ballot, the primary was open to all voters regardless of political affiliation, the Bradenton Herald reports.

Rod Smith, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, told media Richardson "represents the rich diversity that makes Florida great." Richardson, who served as an auditor for the US Department of Defense, was endorsed by gay rights groups, the AFL-CIO and the United Teachers of Dade, the New Times says.

Richardson may have more gay company in the state's legislature next year. Out gay candidate Joe Saunders won the Democratic primary in Orlando's District 49 on Aug 14 and will challenge Republican Marco Peña in the general election in a constituency that leans heavily Democratic, the New Times reports.

There's also Ian Whitley, another openly gay Democrat, who was unopposed in his party's primary for South Florida's District 120 and will apparently face Republican Holly Merrill Raschein in November.

Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida and a blogger for HuffPost, told the Washington Blade that Richardson's election "finally breaks through the lavender ceiling.

"We hope to shatter it forever in November . . . We've waited so long, we don't just want a single voice in Tallahassee, we want a caucus."

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund's Chuck Wolfe also points to the "remarkable victory" of Mark Pocan in his Democratic primary run in Wisconsin, which could mean another openly gay member of the US Congress.

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