Could Erin Grall become ‘Madam Speaker?’

in Statewide by

Erin Grall first thought about making a run for legislative leadership during the 2016 election cycle.

At the time, she said it didn’t seem like there would be a chance for her to run for Speaker. But then Republican members voted to change the rules governing the election of their leader. Now every freshman had a full session to make an impression before the real campaigning was supposed to start.

“When the rules changed, I saw it as an opportunity to work really hard … and get to know my classmates and let them get to know me,” she said in an interview Wednesday.  “I feel like that’s the best approach to servant leadership.”

As the Speaker’s race speeds toward a June 30 vote, the 39-year-old Vero Beach attorney is one of five members of the Republican freshman caucus running for Speaker. If elected, Grall will be the first female to serve in the position.

Grall said that isn’t the only reason why she’s running, but acknowledged that she would offer a “new and different perspective.”

“I very much believe that role models are important. To the extent that I could get other women involved in the process, I think it’s important (they are involved,)” she said. “Our perspective is a little different. I think that it is lost in the process. It is important. I believe I was successful, but I think some women don’t feel there is going to be support.”

Grall was elected in 2016 after a tough primary election in House District 54. Four Republicans, including Grall, were vying to replace Debbie Mayfield, who was term-limited and running for the Florida Senate.

The House District 54 race marked the second time Grall has run for office. She ran in House District 29 in 2010, losing the race to Rep. Tom Goodson by just 1 percentage point. It was that race, though, that made Grall realize she wanted to be in public service.

Tough races, both in 2010 and again in 2016, have helped shape Grall. She said it’s shown constituents, as well as her colleagues in the Legislature and others in The Process, that she has a strong center and is a “voice for advocacy.”

Grall said she has started to have discussions with her colleagues about her candidacy in a more open way. She said she thought having discussions about it “during session could have provided a distraction,” and has recently started talking to members about her vision for the future.

“My conversation is about how do we bring new members to a collective vision of a 20-year plan, and not a 2-year election cycle,” she said.

That means building on the ideas put forward by current leadership and making sure future classes understand that vision; looking at ways to make sure “each and every member’s talents are being utilized” to their best potential; and offer training and mentoring to people who want it.

With about two weeks until the vote, Grall said she was “not certain” about her chances. Under new Republican conference rules, candidates for the office of Republican Leader-designate may not directly or indirectly solicit or accept any “formal or informal pledge of support” prior to June 30.

While Grall might not be willing to handicap her chances, a push for a secret ballot come election day might be to her benefit. Grall said that method will “allow people to vote for the best people to serve the class and Florida.”

Three candidates — Randy Fine, Jamie Grant and Paul Renner — have been in the race for a significant period of time, while Byron Donalds, like Grall, is a relatively recent entrant into the race.

Grall said there has been value in the conversations she has been having, and it is clear her colleagues “have a great deal of respect” for her. She said she’s hopeful that will translate to success come June 30.

“I know I will be able to work with all of them in success for Florida,” she said.