Six members of the House Democratic Caucus lost re-election bids Tuesday reducing their total to 39 in the 120-member Florida House; effectively limiting Democrats’ ability to block the Republican agenda. SPB had four questions for incoming House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford on his thoughts of Tuesday’s election and the 2015 Legislative Session. His answers were edited for brevity and clarity.
Gov. Rick Scott wins and the Republicans get a super-majority in the Florida House of Representatives, your thoughts on what happened?
On the House side of things we knew at the outset there would be a very difficult time protecting those seats and we started out making every effort to do that. Our fundraising is always going to be lagging behind quite a bit. I think the biggest factor was that this was a loss felt across the country; a loss felt in Congress, a loss felt in the U.S. Senate. Our nominee for governor loss and I think these mid-term elections are difficult for us to win.
I think the redistricting that occurred had an impact on this. Unfortunately the system is kind of geared towards the Republicans and they did a masterful job in keeping us in our cage.
After a loss where six of your members are defeated and your opposition wins a supermajority how do you rally your members, how do you move forward?
Losing a state type of cycle does not necessary mean issues aren’t important. Our message remains very strong. I think many of the same issues that we historically over the last number of years fought for, health care, environmental issues and those types of things are going to continue to need our attention. I don’t think the legislature or the governor has cared enough about those issues actually to make a difference. This comes down to the people of Florida and each district we represent.
There was a tight race in North Florida’s 2nd Congressional District and the divide there seemed to be between the Democratic voters in the Capitol City area and country voters in sparsely populated counties. The winning candidate forged a coalition of urban voters with just enough support from the countryside to prevail. Do you and the Democrats face a similar challenge in building a winning coalition statewide; bridging a divide between densely populated urban areas and the more sparsely populated suburbs and countryside?
Our coalition will be fine. A lot of us have been there before. This is something that has happened over the last 16 years numerous times. It’s an unfortunate pattern that occurs during these mid-cycle elections. The previous cycle we picked up five. Before that we lost five.
I would like to say that we did well considering some of the other things that occurred in Congress and not winning the governor’s race.
What do you expect is in store for the 2015 Legislative session?
I think over the next three years we’re going to see more of the same. I think you are going to see more dollars going to the very, very wealthy. You are going to see more dollars going to the big corporations. I think that is the pattern. The only year it was different was the most previous year, the past session. I would like to think he is going to change a little bit but I don’t see that in the tea leaves, right now.