Senate Democrats have a new leader, voting unanimously Monday to name Sen. Oscar Braynon as the Minority Leader for the 2016-2018 term.
“I want you, and others, to know that my greatest joy of being leader was the fact that you were the leader pro tempore and the leader designate,” said former Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner. “There was not one day during the two years that I served as leader that I had any doubt that you did not have my back. You were the wind beneath my wings.”
First elected to the Florida Senate in 2011, Braynon has spent more than a decade in public service. He was first elected to public office in 2003 as a member of the Miami Gardens City Council. The Miami Gardens Democrat was elected to the Florida House in 2008.
“We, as the Democratic caucus, will still fight for our core principles, making sure the middle class and working class people still have a voice in Florida; making sure the environment they love is protected; making sure those who cannot protect themselves are protected and the helpless receive help,” he said.
Braynon faced criticism following 2016 election. Although new political lines were more favorable to Senate Democrats than in years past, the Democrats saw few gains. The Senate is now split 25-15.
But Braynon told members he hopes to grow their ranks in 2018 and 2020.
“When I started in the Senate, we were 12. And now we’re 15. We’re heading in the right direction,” he said. “The work of the leaders before us is what led us to move in the right direction, and we will continue that movement. The work that we do today is the work that will allow us to see that horizon.”
Senate Democrats also unanimously approved the selection of incoming Sen. Lauren Book as the Democratic Leader Pro Tempore. While Book is a freshman lawmaker, she is no stranger to the political process. As founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids, she pushed for legislation to help child victims of abuse. And she is also the daughter of Ron Book, a well-known lobbyist.
“Standing here is almost surreal to me,” she said Monday. “I have had great respect to this process my entire life.”
Braynon also unveiled the rest of his leadership team. Sen. Jeff Clemens will serve as Democratic Whip, incoming Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez will serve as Deputy Whip, and incoming Sen. Perry Thurston will serve as the Democratic Caucus Rules Chair.