State Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, has filed a notice of intent to seek the speakership of the Florida House in the 2014-2016 term. While Rouson is technically announcing his candidacy for speaker, his true goal is to be a future minority leader, since it is exceedingly remote that his party will win enough seats to get back in the majority again.
But Rouson, a 58-year-old lawyer who is one of the best debaters in the House, says Democrats have to start somewhere.
"I would like to see the Democratic members be a relevant minority, since we represent the majority of registered voters in the state of Florida," Rouson said. (Democrats are a plurality of voters; neither party has a majority on the voter rolls).
"My interest is in rebranding, recruitment and reinvestment," Rouson said. "And I just think we have an absolutely golden opportunity in 2014, if we start now." He recalled a comment he attributed to Tom Gustafson, a former Democratic speaker from Broward who's seeking to return to the House this fall from Palm Beach County. Rouson said Gustafson told him Democrats should "govern from the center, pulling the left and the right along with us." (That sounds a lot easier than it would be in reality).
While Rouson is a passionate Democrat, he also has a reputation for carefully picking his fights, and on occasion supporting the Republicans' agenda in Tallahassee. He notes that in his district, which includes parts of four counties, he is the only Democratic House member who will represent portions of Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee counties. "It would not behoove me to be a bitter partisan," Rouson said.
The election for the post Rouson is seeking will not occur for another two years. The incoming House Democratic leader is Rep. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer.
-- Steve Bousquet