David Richardson, LGBTQ+ Florida Rep Who Took-On the Prison System, Sets His Sights on Congress
David Richardson has been described in the media as the fix-it lawmaker, legislature’s financial sleuth, and the one-man crusade. Behind his pragmatism, stands a principled man, passionate about improving the quality of Floridians’ lives.
“Throughout my life, I have looked for ways to unite people”, those were David Richardson’s words when he removed himself from the race for Florida's Democratic House Leader. Once considered a front-runner, Richardson (whose own district is 60% Hispanic) put his career on hold so that the party's leadership would better reflect it’s commitment to diversity, “In keeping with my life’s work of uniting communities and celebrating the diversity of our team, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration to be your next Leader.” It is this selfless commitment to unity that has defined his working life. And in our divided times, it is this same trait that makes him such an important congressional-candidate.
David made Florida his home when he was 11 years-old. His Floridian education began at Lyman High-School, a public school in Longwood. Two bachelor’s degrees (Biology and Accounting) and a master’s degree (Business Administration) later, and his formal education was complete. Alongside his masters, he started working as an auditor for the Department of Defense. Over the next 30 years, that auditing experience helped him to acquire a forensic eye for detail, budgeting, and nuance.
He’s already broken records. In 2012, he was elected to be a Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives for the 113th District, an area that includes parts of Miami and Miami Beach. That election win made him the first, openly-gay member of Florida legislature. In 2014, he was re-elected without challenge.
It wasn’t his record-breaking election win, but his ground-breaking work on prison reform that earned him his reputation. His ‘one-man-crusade’ against corruption and malpractice in the prison systems has been praised across the board. It started when David decided upon a surprise trip to a women’s prison. Little did he know at the time, it would be one of many. Over the course of 30 visits to 23 different corrections facilities, Richardson spent over 700 hours interviewing more than 120 inmates. He discovered some truly shocking conditions, including but not limited to, under-equipped facilities, teacher-less classrooms, abuse of youth-offenders, beatings, flooded rooms, rationed water, and prisoners living without heat and hot water (despite state-approved funding to fix it). David is not afraid to plunge head-first into difficult issues. He intentionally under-publicized his work, discreetly visiting institutions without a media presence. It was here that he cemented his reputation as a hands-on, caring fixer; someone who would work day and night to ensure that all Floridians are treated humanely and their tax dollars spent wisely. As a politician who can truly walk the walk, it’s no surprise that his integrity has received considerable cross-party praise.
That said, he’s by no means a one-issue politician. David is running based on his steadfast commitment to: civil liberties; women’s rights (he recently spoke at Women’s March Power to the Polls: Miami Day of Action); LGBTQ+ rights (he’s been endorsed by Victory Fund, Equality PAC, SAVE LGBTQ, Pride Fund, and us here at Run with Pride); sensible gun-violence prevention; traditional public schools; a single-payer healthcare system; climate protection (he has stated his aim to reinstate the Paris Climate Accord); and equal rights for minorities.
He’s aiming to win Florida’s 27th Congressional District, one of the most targeted seats in the nation. Since 1989, the seat has been held by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who this year announced her retirement. In 2016, CD27 voted for Clinton over Trump by 20 points; a fact that’s given Democrats hope that the seat could be flipped. It’s shaping up to be one of the biggest battleground-seats of 2018.
Though final figures are yet to be confirmed, there are currently 15 announced candidates vying for the seat. Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, and University of Miami adviser Michael Hepburn are among the candidates competing with Richardson in the August 28th primary. The Republican primary is no less competitive. Their six candidates include Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, former Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado, and Mario Peiro who unsuccessfully ran against Ros-Lehtinen in the 2016 primary.
While the competition is crowded, David has strong institutional and grassroots backing. His vision for an inclusive, fairer society has earned him strong support across the voter-base. Miami businessman Scott Fuhrman (who initially challenged Ros-Lehtinen) has come out in support of David, describing him as “the best candidate among a crowded field”. Fuhrman went on to make comments that have been interpreted to suggest that David’s motivations are genuine, as compared to other candidates with political opportunism in mind. David’s support doesn’t stop there, he’s received a broad array of official endorsements, including local mayors, equality groups, and 14 Florida lawmakers. These include Barbara Watson, who describes David as a hardworking, passionate, and relentless public servant. It seems that everyone who has worked with him or near him, praises him for his commitment to the public good.
David’s campaign recently passed $1,000,000 dollars in donations, with 80% of contributions being $25 or less. While he stands a good chance of victory, he’ll be competing against plenty of other six-figure campaigns, and it will be far from a walk in the park.
In our divided times, a candidate who is not afraid to put unity and the greater good above personal ambition is the exact sort of candidate America needs. If we really want the swamp to be drained, we should be electing people like David; a politician with a track record of unravelling corporate corruption, bureaucratic waste, and financial misconduct. His forensic focus on efficiency and liberty should appeal to those across the political spectrum.
The best leaders have an eye for both big-picture thinking and precision thinking. David’s work in prison reform evidences both his genuine care for those in need and his skills as a logistical, hand’s-on politician. If he can apply the same critical, courageous ethic to other issues, then the progressive movement could have a powerful, new ally. David Richardson is a remarkable individual, let’s hope his progressive, pragmatic ideals allow him to make history for a second time.