Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rep. Darryl Rouson to be next House Democratic leader

TALLAHASSEE — In dramatic fashion, Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg narrowly won a caucus vote Wednesday night to be leader of House Democrats in 2014.

Rouson defeated Rep. Mia Jones of Jacksonville, 23-21, after the two deadlocked on a 22-22 vote and a second round of balloting was held. Lawmakers voted by secret ballot, so who switched sides and why remains a mystery.

As caucus leader, Rouson will be chiefly responsible for recruiting candidates and raising money in the 2014 elections, and being a forceful spokesman for his party in the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions. Florida Democrats gained five House seats in 2012, thanks in part to President Barack Obama's strong grass roots campaign, and hope to keep the momentum going in 2014.

In the highly unlikely event that Democrats were to win a majority of seats in 2014 (a net gain of 17 seats) he would be speaker of the House.

Rouson has a commanding style that some lawmakers find overly intense, but he forged bonds with several freshman members by helping them in their campaigns. He began collecting signed pledges from fellow lawmakers in November and claimed Wednesday to have a 29-to-15 lead over Jones, which quickly evaporated.

Following a tie vote that shocked most lawmakers, Rouson sat slumped in a chair and sounded resigned to defeat.

"I'm a little disappointed that seven Democrats may have done something differently, secretly. I gave it all I had," he said.

Ten minutes later, he was declared the winner. His voice breaking, Rouson said: "In my heart, the best interest of this caucus is at stake. … This is surreal for me right now."

Rouson, 58, a lawyer, has spoken freely about his religious faith and his ability to overcome substance abuse. A onetime Republican who supported Jeb Bush for governor, he recalled in a victory speech that he was the underdog candidate to run St. Petersburg's NAACP chapter and in his first run for the House.

"I've always been the underdog and the insurgent," Rouson said.

Jones, who was favored by most members of the current House Democratic leadership, pledged to work with Rouson in fighting the Republican agenda in Tallahassee. She said she wasn't concerned about who might have abandoned her. "Our caucus has spoken," Jones said. "People change their minds. … Our strength is in us being able to stand together."

Rep. Darryl Rouson to be next House Democratic leader 02/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 11:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs WR DeSean Jackson knows only one direction: full speed ahead

    Sports

    TAMPA — DeSean Jackson is the "1."

    Actually, Jackson, the Bucs' latest weapon for quarterback Jameis Winston, with his blazing speed and game-changing splash plays, wears No. 11 in games.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  2. Karen Bail, who helped Gibbs kids get to Broadway, retires

    Stage

    ST. PETERSBURG — When neatnicks retire, they leave no trace behind. Their desks are clean, like a runway after the plane has taken off.

    Retiring musical theatre teacher Karen Bail warms up seniors Jonathan O'Brien, left, as Juan Peron and Addam Setzer as Che Guevara before the dress rehearsal of Pinellas County Center for the Arts (PCCA) magnet program's production of "Evita" at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, FL,  April 24, 2017.  The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical ran for three days in April at the school and was PCCA's last play of the year. CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times
  3. Florida's economy growing faster than other big states and far better than U.S. overall

    Business

    When it comes to economic growth, Florida's running alongside the leading states and well ahead of the United States as a whole.

  4. Florida wrestling forefathers to be honored

    Human Interest

    TAMPA -- Nicole Alonso and Belinda Romano never had to worry about defending their fathers in a "my dad can beat up your dad" kind of argument.

    A building at the Boys Ranch in Live Oaks was once named in honor of Tampa wrestler Eddie Graham for his financial contributions to the residential care facility for troubled boys.
  5. Tampa's bid for fifth Super Bowl means secret and expensive promises to NFL

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Before Tampa is officially named the host of the 2021 Super Bowl, local organizers have 90 days to convince NFL owners the city can meet certain conditions.

    What are they? That's top secret.