The 38-member House Democratic Caucus will hold a special meeting next week to elect Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, as its next leader, succeeding Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach, who will hold the post through 2016.
Pafford said Wednesday he called the session for next Wednesday afternoon in the Democrats' office suite on the third floor of the Capitol. Cruz sent a letter to House clerk Bob Ward on Feb. 2, declaring her candidacy, as required by House rules. No one else has declared their candidacy, Pafford said.
Cruz's ascension to the minority leader's post appears to be on a much smoother trajectory than the last couple of contests. Pafford was chosen by his fellow Democrats in 2013 after months of turmoil in which Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg lost the support of caucus members in a dispute over control of the caucus' fund-raising apparatus.
Cruz, 58, is an optician, a fourth generation Tampa resident and mother of four children who was first elected to the House in a special election in 2010. Her duties will include recruiting Democratic House candidates in the next cycle in 2016, in a presidential election year when Democrats' political fortunes are generally brighter in Florida.
The Democratic caucus is expected to soon welcome back its 39th member following the expected re-election of Rep. Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville, in a special election next week.