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Evan Jenne

Evan Jenne’s ‘tipping point’: A run for House Democratic Leader

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

It’s tough to be a top Democrat in Florida, but Evan Jenne is going for it.

Jenne, of Dania Beach, recently announced his intention to seek the leadership of the House Democrats in 2020-22.

In a state where Republicans have controlled the Legislature for the last two decades, “you can’t promise definitively that something will happen,” he said.

That said, he added, “If I say I’m going to do something, you can stick to my word.”

The 39-year-old first served in the House 2006-12, stepping out when he and former lawmaker Elaine Schwartz, also a Democrat, were redistricted into the same House district. When Schwartz was term-limited, he ran for the seat in 2014 and won.

Now, he’s Democratic Ranking Member of the House Commerce Committee and the Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee.

Jenne says he “grew up in the process”: He’s the son of Broward power broker Ken Jenne, who was a county commissioner, a state senator for nearly two decades, and then spent almost a decade as county sheriff.

The elder Jenne fell from political grace when he pleaded guilty in 2007 to federal corruption charges and served 10 months.

The son said his interest in becoming the House Democratic Leader was something he “always thought about.”

But when his own Democratic colleagues in the House asked him to pursue it—he didn’t say whom—”that was the tipping point.”

The job is as much as about politicking as it is legislative leadership. One job of a leader is to chase the dream of winning back a House Democratic majority, or at least helping to elect as many “D”s as possible.

“During session, you have to show leadership skills, and after a session, you have to prove you can be a valuable political ally,” he said.

And Jenne said he’s already helped raise “hundreds of thousands” of dollars for Democrats.

As House leader, “it would be more about getting involved in the district level, working for (candidates) in the field,” he said.

Of course, with fundraising banned during the Legislative Session, that’s all “just planning in my head” for now.

Moreover, it’s a long walk from now to 2020. Janet Cruz of Tampa is leader for 2016-18, and Kionne McGhee of Miami was recently selected leader for the 2018-20 term.

So for the present, Jenne’s job is to “go out and get as many people on board as I can.”

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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