Rep. Fentrice Driskell makes history as first Black woman to become House Democratic Leader

By: - May 24, 2022 5:25 pm

State Rep. Fentrice Driskell. Credit: FL House of Representatives.

Florida House Democrats have elected its new leader, Fentrice Driskell, the first Black woman to serve in the role of House Democratic Leader in the Florida Legislature.

Driskell, an attorney, was unanimously selected by the House Democratic Caucus as the Leader Designate of the Florida House Democrats. A Democrat representing part of Hillsborough County, she will lead the caucus during the 2022-24 term.

“I am humbled to have earned your confidence today,” Driskell said.

“I am the first Black woman to serve as House Democratic Leader. I grew up in Polk County from very humble beginnings,” she said. “My dad was a truck driver and a dispatcher, and my mom was a public school teacher for over 35 years. They instilled a number of values in my sister and me. The values my parents taught me, hard work, honesty, doing what you say, are the values that always guided me. They will guide me in this new role as well.”

She will be succeeding Leader Evan Jenne, a Democrat representing part of Broward County who served as leader during the 2020-22 term.

“I’m proud to leave the House Democratic Caucus in the incredibly capable hands of my friend Fentrice Driskell,” Jenne said. “I know that she, and the caucus, are going to have a bright future and will continue fighting for Floridians in Tallahassee and across the state.”

Driskell said that if Democrats “were in charge” that they would “focus on the issues that everyday Floridians care about,” such as affordable housing and education. “Not this culture war nonsense,” she said. (That would be a reference to certain bills in 2022 such as restrictions in classroom instruction related to gender identity and sexual orientation.)

State Sen. Lauren Book, the Senate Democratic Leader, said in a written statement: “With an unshakable commitment to making life better for everyday Floridians, Leader Fentrice Driskell has officially made history as the first Black woman elected to lead the House Democrats.”

Book added: “But Leader Driskell is remarkable far beyond simply being the ‘first’ — her exemplary legal career, service to others and tenacity to do what’s right will continue to bolster not only our Democratic colleagues in the House, but our collective, efforts to defend Floridians’ rights and freedoms across both chambers.”

Following Driskell’s event, the Florida House convened for a special session Tuesday afternoon to address property insurance issues.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls didn’t address a protest led by Black Caucus members that took place on the floor during the last special session in April because they were outraged by a redistricting plan that would eliminate two Black seats. Black lawmakers but didn’t engage in any demonstrations on the floor during Tuesday’s special session.

Sprowls said that the House will quickly move through all the bills during the current special session and “will conclude our business tomorrow.”

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.