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David Richardson: 'I am the first openly gay legislator in the history of Florida. And forever will be'

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

David Richardson, a 55-year-old forensic accountant and political newcomer, says he’s comfortable having made Florida history on election night.

“I am the first openly gay legislator in the history of Florida. And forever will be," said Richardson, who on Tuesday defeated three other candidates to represent state House District 113 in Miami Beach.

Richardson grew up in Orlando, earned biology and accounting undergraduate degrees at the University of Central Florida and a Master in Business Administration at the University of Tampa. After starting as a $10,000-a-year Pentagon auditor in Tampa, he joined what is now Ernst & Young. In 1993, he started his own CPA practice. Business brought him to Miami Beach in 1995 and he became a permanent resident in 2001.

“I often thought about getting involved in state government or helping some way. I decided this race would go to a newcomer and it was possible for me with my background to win," he said. "I’m a completely American dream story."

His father was a cab driver and factory worker; his mother worked in a meat-packing plant.

Now, Richardson says he is comfortable enough to invest in startup companies and work as an expert witness when he feels like it.

“I intend to dedicate the significant portion of my time to being a Florida state legislator,” he said.

Richardson, who won 33 percent of 9,458 votes cast in the Democratic primary, defeated Waldo Faura Jr., an insurance adjuster and activist; Adam Kravitz, an attorney and entrepreneur who co-founded the popular Jewish dating website JDate.com; and Mark Weithorn, husband of Miami Beach City Commissioner Deede Weithorn. There is no Republican challenger for the seat.

Until this election season, Florida was one of 17 states “with zero out state lawmakers,” said Denis Dison, spokesman for the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, one of several gay-rights organizations that supported Richardson. The other groups: Equality Florida, Florida Together and SAVE Dade, which invested about $50,000 in the Richardson campaign.

“It was a combination of hard dollars to the candidate and soft dollars for communications,” SAVE Dade Executive Director C.J. Ortuño said.

SAVE Dade, the county’s largest gay-rights group, and its political action committee also provided volunteers, phone banking, cellphones and office supplies to the campaign.

“Even though it was a grueling race and everyone worked really hard — and David was a phenomenal candidate — this is just the beginning,” Ortuño said. “This is one of those first steps.”

Richardson may be joined this year in Tallahassee by other gay lawmakers: Democrats Ian Whitney of Key West, Joe Saunders of Orlando and John Alvarez of Brevard County, along with Republican Scott Herman of Wilton Manors will be on the ballot in November’s general election.

“I’m very hopeful that there will be an LGBT caucus,” said Richardson, who during the campaign said, "I don't want people to vote for me or not vote for me because I'm gay. I just want people to look at my record.”

Richardson, who is single, said he and his volunteers “had a huge ground game” and that by Monday night they had attempted to knock on 15,092 front doors.

“And not one person in this very diverse district closed their door to me because I’m gay,” he said. “The people in this district wanted to elect the most qualified person. I did not have one person question me about my status as a gay man.”

His legislative priorities: schools and the state budget.

“The issue that’s most important to me is education,” Richardson said. “I got an incredibly good public-school education and went to UCF, which is a publicly supported university in Florida. I’m concerned about the cuts made in the last five years. I intend to get my hands very dirty and get into details of a $70 billion state budget. I have to believe there is a lot of waste and abuse.”

He has another priority, one that befits his place in history: passing state employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“One of the first things that I would like to put on the table: Most people don't realize that in Florida you can be fired from a job for being a gay person,” he said. “I find that unconscionable. I’m going to be talking about that.”

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No one cares that he puts his blank in another man's blank. He should keep his sex life to himself.

With all due respect...but who cares???? This is becoming a big joke.
Mr.Legislator, you don't know what you are missing...and forever will !

A true historic event! Well done!

Go right back in that proverbial closet. Nobody cares.

Congratulations to him! Up until now, Ken Keechl was the highest ranking "out" gay official elected in Florida... Not too many people know that. There were city Mayors before, but Keechl was County Mayor. Now we have a State Legislator... We're just moving on up! It's a good thing - Don't hate just because we legislate! LOL

This "wef" person needs some attention. He or she said "go right back in that proverbial closet. Nobody cares." Well, it's a good thing that education ranks highly with your new legislator. Maybe he can tell you how you've misused the word "proverbial". If you read the Bible, you're probably familiar with Proverbs. In order for something to be proverbial, it must relate to a proverb... Just sayin'. Aren't you a little glad anyway that you have a forensic accountant watching over the budget? I know I am. I don't know if the person whose claim to fame is that they created a dating site would have quite the same qualifications.

Congratulations and I hope this paves the way for others who want to run for public office. Let's bring Florida into the 21st century.

Congratulations and good luck my good brother. Make the people of MB proud. God bless...

I predict he will last only 1 term and lose by overwhelming margins to a woman.

Why not start working on the problem of voter's registration? If matters of the State includes voting for mayor and governor, why the State has to intervene with matters of the Federal Government such as voting for President?

Well I guess it is a good thing he does not mind getting "screwed", because in the political process in Tallahassee it is quite common.

And, being a freshman in the minority party, in a House led by very right wing conservative republicans, he does not stand a chance. Reality!

He won, despite Equality Florida and Florida Together.

I am all for openly gay legislators, but Joe Saunders ... are you serious?!

If he asks the right questions and refuses to take the pat, back-side covering answers from the bureaucrats ... he'll probe why such a low percentage of our public school dollars are spent in the classroom.

But ... I'll betcha he just ends up being another whiny Democrats voice demanding more taxes to pour more of our money down the public school bureaucracy rat holes ... and into politically-connected administrators' and contractors' pockets.

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