A Progressive’s Guide to the 2015 Legislative Session: Democratic Players


Session overview here

Legislative session kicks off tomorrow in Tallahassee and the Democrats have six less members of the House than last session and continue with 14 Senators. The Republicans have basically maxed out on potential seats (TFS estimates 83 as the maximum number of House seats the Republicans can win under this current map –  they currently have 81 seats, while TFS estimates the most seats in the Senate the Republicans can win under this map is 26, and that is the number they sit at in the upper chamber) and thus might have an unwieldy caucuses to deal with. Despite the reduced numbers a few Democrats can still make a meaningful impact. We profile them below.

Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner

Joyner an outspoken liberal who unlike many in the legislature has actually walked the walk on progressive issues will need to keep a disparate caucus full of ambitious pols together. Joyner’s priorities are clear and her relationship with former Minority Leader Nan Rich, who proved an adept coalition builder should help her in this role.

House Minority Leader Mark Pafford

Coming off a six seat loss in the November election, Pafford has worked hard to unite the remaining 39 members of the Democratic Caucus. An outspoken progressive, Pafford’s legislative skill will be tested this session. Pafford also has an expertise on environmental and water issues, which is a session priority. So both in his role as Minority Leader and environmentalist, Pafford will have a major say on what happens with the important water legislation.

Senator Darren Soto

One of the few genuine stars the Democrats have in the legislature, Soto begins his ninth session with a higher profile than ever. A moderate whose public stature makes him a powerful member of the Democratic caucus, Soto has the ability to make a big splash this session.

Representative Janet Cruz

The incoming Democratic leader is well respected by her colleagues and has a good relationship with the Florida Democratic Party leadership. Cruz can provide an important bridge if fractures occur in the caucus during the 2015 session.

Senator Jeremy Ring

Respected on both sides of the aisle, and with term limits kicking in will he will be a true free agent this session. Ring’s moderation has irked many activists in his local area, but freed from placating them now, he might have a major role this year in trying to build consensus. Ring’s business background has often been called upon by Republicans in the chamber and may be used again this session.

Representative Alan Williams

As a legislator, Williams doesn’t make a huge impact but he has developed a statewide profile and has a network of activists around the state who are responsive to him. Williams has formed an independent power base both locally in Tallahassee and statewide separate from the Democratic Party. If an issue of racial justice appears this session, Williams is sure to be in the middle of the discussion.

Senator Joe Abruzzo

The Palm Beach County based Senator is being talked about actively for higher office. Abruzzo also has been a proponent in the past of gambling legislation which could be a big issue this year in the Senate. With all of this in mind, he will be one to watch this session.

Representative Katie Edwards

One of the few potentially strong statewide candidates the Democrats could field, Edwards has immersed herself in pushing for serious and impactful legislation. A moderate, who nonetheless has some very aggressively progressive positions and a rare combination of rural and urban knowledge, Edwards is a sure bet to have an active session.

Senator Dwight Bullard

Bullard who inherited a South Dade political dynasty from his late mother and has quickly emerged as perhaps the strongest progressive voice in the entire legislature. Bullard’s outspoken defense of public schools has made him a hero to education advocates across the state, and his strong liberal voting record has elevated his name among activists to potential statewide candidacy levels.

Representative Evan Jenne

Returning to the House as a “freshman,” Jenne whose dad served in the State Senate for 19 years is one of the most intelligent and liberal elected officials in the state. A close ally of Leader Pafford’s Jenne will have an important role in safeguarding progressive principles this session. He will also have a major role in steering the freshman class away from the sort of dissent that characterized the 2012-2014 freshman class.

Representative Darryl Rouson

Listed here for no other reason than he might be a wild card this session. But in all likelihood he will have a minimal impact on proceedings.

Katy Burnett contributed to this article. 



  1. Fla Dem · ·

    This post is insulting. No mention of Allison Tant the chair of the party who is the leader and of Scott Arcenaux who is the Executive Director and the most important Democrat in the state besides Bill Nelson.

    You have also listed Democrats who are not in good standing with the party and are not team players. Alan Williams is a self promoter and has done nothing to help the Democratic Party. Katie Edwards might as well be a Republican and your constant claims that she is a potential statewide statewide candidate would make me want to vote for a Republican against her. But seriously a Democratic primary something she will not get through.

    Jeremy Ring and Darren Soto make this list because they do nothing but cut deals with Republicans.

    This is a disappointing list considering your advocacy of a strong party. Perhaps you have sympathy with the Sotos and Ring’s of the world now?


    1. Allison Tant has nothing to do with legislative session. Nor Scott Arcenaux. They are not elected officials voting on bills, which is what happens during legislative session.


      1. Fla Dem · ·

        Katy you are totally wrong. The party sets the agenda. They are the ones who have tried to bring party discipline and a unified agenda.

        Legislators go off and do their own thing but the reality of the matter is the social media operation that the Florida Democratic Party has put together is the best in the nation. Other parties have come to Chairwoman Tant wanting pointers. These legislators that defy that party and then want to run statewide are fools. The best media operation in the country is run by the FDP. The most new followers and likes in the country over the past two years.


      2. Unfortunately, the ‘most new followers and likes’ do not win elections.


      3. Fla Dem’s lack of understanding the basics of government might explain a lot.


  2. Concerned Democrat · ·

    Its the party’s own fault they do not have a bigger role to play in session. Poor structure, no relationship with many legislators, and no role on the county level with legislators.


  3. get over it · ·

    Fla Dem is obviously a defensive and insecure FDP employee.

    I’d ignore him people.


  4. FlaDem is hack…what a joke. The legislators win without party help and thus have no loyalty. They are free agents to steal your term from yesterday.


  5. Clemens should just run…not for office just run
    Jenne is great
    Abruzzo is scarface and should go back to Chicago
    Edwards who knows
    Bullard is awesome why is he on this list with these conartists?
    Alan Williams are you kidding?
    Ring is good for $ but that’s it
    Pafford I thought is FDP chair? Guys this is pathetic. Go green!


    1. Scarface took place in Miami by the way not Chicago.


      1. Al Capone was known as Scarface. But yes, the movie was based in Miami. Say hello to my little friend!!!


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