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Rouson who? Williams and Pafford vie for House Dem top job

If House Democrats were hoping it would be easy after ousting a leader because he couldn't unify the party, they might be in for a disappointment.

At about 4:45 p.m., Rep. Alan Williams filed his candidacy for Florida Democratic House Leader.

The 38-year-old lawmaker, who is currently the House's black caucus leader, had been considering a run for Tallahassee City Council.

But a day after Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, was ousted as Democratic leader by a 24-17 vote, Williams decided to try for the post.

He's challenging Rep. Mark Pafford, D-St. Petersburg, who announced Monday night that he would likely run for the job. On Tuesday morning, he filed to run. A few hours later, Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, threw her support to Pafford.

Willaims said he didn't want his candidacy to divide the caucus.

"It’s a selection but its still an election. Our goal is not to divide our caucus anymore I believe I could provide leadership to our caucus at a time when we need it the most. Whether it's ensuring that we first and foremost win the Amanda Murphy (candidate for District 35 in Pasco) seat or moving forward to having a productive session under leader (Rep. Perry) Thurston and going out and fundraising and recruiting candidates that we feel have a viable chance at winning some very competitive seats both open and sealed.

"When I came into this process in 2008 I believe that I had the ability to reach out to our traditional base as well as business groups and I believe those groups can coexist under the big tent of the Democratic Party and someone needs to bring those groups together. A vote for me doesn't mean they don’t support the leadership style of Mark Pafford. Mark is one of my dearest friends in this process and someone I believe is a very good Democrat.

"I’ve had several members come to me and ask me to put my name in the hat as early as late last night. That process has continued throughout the day and I have mediated on it. I’ve spoken with my family and we’ll see wha the outcome is. Whether its myself or Rep Pafford it will not divide our caucus.

"Early on when it was a three-way race prior to last session, we had an opportunity to put forth a message that resonated with a lot of our members.

Asked if he had the votes, Williams would't say. 

"We’ve had several members reach out. We’re not collecting cards in the traditional way."

-- with Mary Ellen Klas