House Democrats elected Kionne McGhee, a former prosecutor whose challenges as child included poverty, the murder of two family members, and a diagnosis of mental retardation, as their leader-designate Monday.
He won 23 votes against 17 for Bobby Dubose. McGhee now stands to lead his caucus effective at the beginning of the organizational session that will follow the 2018 elections.
“I want to say, together, he and I are going to move this caucus forward,” McGhee, of Miami, said of his colleague from Fort Lauderdale.
The vote came on the 13th anniversary of McGhee’s marriage to his wife, Stacy McGhee.
“Don’t you ever, so long as you step foot in this great country, allow critics to tell you that your past will define you,” he said.
“If I can walk way from a title of mental retardation; if I can walk out of a jail cell facing prison time for a crime I didn’t commit and later exonerated; if I can walk out of the housing projects; if I can walk out of the bean fields from picking beans with my mother,” McGhee began.
“If I can get through the reality of having lost my little brother and my father — but to go on to become an assistant state attorney in this great state, an author in this great state, a legislator in this great state, and also preparing to move this great caucus forward with the moral caucus of empathy,” he continued.
“Let today be a reminder that so long as you have breath in your body, we will continuously fight on your behalf. Because there is no time for apathy, but there is always room for more empathy toward those who truly need our help and our love and our compassion.”