The Florida Capitol. Credit: Michael Moline
Following the midterm elections in Florida, Black representation in the GOP has increased in the state Legislature, compared to the last term from 2020-22 when there was only one lone Black Republican – state Rep. Webster Barnaby of Volusia County.
But now the Florida Legislative Black Caucus has increased to four GOP members overall in the Florida Legislature for the 2022-24 term.
That said, there are three African Americans who are Republicans in the Florida House. And in the Florida Senate, Corey Simon is the only Black Republican lawmaker. Simon represents parts of several North Florida counties: Dixie, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Wakulla.
In addition to Barnaby, the other two new Republican members in the Black Caucus from the Florida House are Berny Jacques and Kiyan Michael. Jacques represents part of Pinellas County, while Michael represents part of Duval County.
Overall, the Black Caucus is made up of 29 members from both major political parties, according to an analysis by the Florida Phoenix. Still, most of the Black members are from the Democratic Party. The Senate has seven Black lawmakers; the House has 22.
State Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat representing part of Miami-Dade County, told the Phoenix that “for the first time in a long time, in both chambers, Black legislators make up the majority of the Democratic caucus.”
He added: “It is going to be very important for the Black Caucus to use this as an opportunity to amplify the needs of our communities; that goes from infrastructure to economic development. This time is an opportunity to be strategic about what and how do we use our collective power at the table.”
What issues will be pushed by the Black Caucus in the upcoming legislative session has yet to be determined, according to state Rep. Patricia Williams, a Democrat representing part of Broward County.
“I don’t know at this time what we will focus on,” Williams said in a phone conversation Thursday with the Florida Phoenix. “We are meeting this weekend.”
She added that the interim chair of the Black Caucus is state Sen. Darryl Rouson, a Democrat representing parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. State Rep. Kamia Brown, who had campaigned for a Senate seat, lost that race. She had earlier been chosen as the chair of the Black Caucus.
Meanwhile, the Florida House Democratic Caucus will host a ceremony Monday for its new leader for the 2022-24 term, Leader-Designate Fentrice Driskell, according to a press release from the House Democrats.
Driskell, who represents part of Hillsborough County, made history as the first Black woman to serve in the role of House Democratic Leader in the Florida Legislature.
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