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Hialeah lawmaker bids Florida House farewell

State Rep. Esteban Bovo gave a farewell speech on the floor of the Florida House Friday as he prepares to run for Miami-Dade County Commission in a special election scheduled for May.

"My kids are home, and I Skype with my daughter in the afternoon," he said, citing family reasons for choosing to seek ousted Commissioner Natacha Seijas' seat. "You know, raising kids through Skype is no way to do things."

Bovo, a Hialeah Republican first elected in 2008, also spoke in Spanish to his constituents -- many of whom he will be courting for the Hialeah-Miami Lakes commission district. "I've represented you with dignity and respect," he said in Spanish, mentioning Hialeah. "We can keep working together."

Many of his constituents, he noted, still have family members in Cuba who "don't know freedom."

"The debates on this floor, no matter how intense, it's a test to our democracy," Bovo said. "Whether I agree or disagree with an opinion or thought, I would defend that because there's others in other places that will never ever or have never experienced that."

To the Miami-Dade legislative delegation, who stood behind him as he spoke, Bovo urged unity: "For far too long, the joke was, divide them and you mess up with Dade," he said. "Stay together."

"I so want to be near my family, and I so want to be near a process that changes a culture of hate and animosity and embraces a culture of problem-solving and love," Bovo concluded. "And with that, Mr. Speaker, good-bye."