Darren Soto and the 2015 Session

The reaction to my article published Thursday morning about State Senator Darren Soto was visceral in some quarters while favorable in others. Let me explain why Soto is a target of mine and why I find some of defenses of him disingenuous.

Democrats in Florida are badly in need of developing a values based party that represents something beyond simple electoral and political “moderation”.  Right now we don’t have a clear set of values that drive us as a party collectively forward.

The defenses of Darren Soto by many across the state are either based on a denial of his voting record or on some other principle as to how the party should look. But the reality is most of the people who took offense to my characterization of Soto as a bad Democrat do so because they have distinctly personal and political considerations at stake which have almost ZERO to do with ideology.

It’s not an accident that the Sunshine State News, the website of record for conservatives that are political insiders in this state said:

“Soto is about as good as conservatives can hope for from his liberal Democratic district.

This observation from a publication that makes its name by promoting pro-business initiatives and bashing the Democratic Party isn’t an accident. Soto’s record even while sitting in a safe Democratic seat is shocking – arguably the worst or second worst record from a progressive perspective among any Democrat in the legislature who has served continuously since 2008.

While it is true Soto voted for the onerous HB 71 “personhood” bill days after winning a Special Election in 2007 and also cast anti reproductive-rights votes in 2008 and he voted for Parent Trigger in 2012 (one of only two Democrats in either chamber to do so), and that he got an “A” rating from the NRA in 2010 and 2012, and numerous other bad votes let’s focus on his more recent record in the Florida Senate this very calendar year.

Before walking through this it is important to remember President Obama got close to 65% of the vote in Soto’s current Senate district in 2012 and that Congressional District 9 where Soto is running currently is an area where the President got about 62% of the vote in 2012.

Let’s review what some of the conservative special interest groups that lobby the Legislature thought of Soto’s 2015 performance.

-Soto scored 100% on Jeb Bush’s Excellence in Education Foundation which advocates for the privatization of public education;
– Soto scored 100% on the Florida Chamber scorecard; This was higher than many conservative Republicans. 
– Soto scored 96% on the Associated Industries of Florida scorecard; This was higher than many conservative Republicans. 

Keep in mind Soto was casting these votes with right-wing interest groups just as he was planning on launching a campaign for Congress in a liberal seat. With one eye one must surmise toward who could help him raise the most campaign cash in a safe Democratic district, Soto cast his lot for the past several months with conservative Republicans. Or perhaps Soto is just a conservative who will serve the interests of the US Chamber of Commerce and other business interests were her to be elected to Congress? Either way, progressives throughout Florida should be alarmed.

It is worth noting that , former State Rep. Ricardo Rangel when serving in the House in 2013 and 2014 consistently voted differently than Soto on numerous issues. Rangel, who is Hispanic is also seeking the Congressional District 9 seat  was one of the most liberal, and outspoken members of the caucus even challenging conventional orthodoxy on some issues where Democrats had simply decided not to fight. Rangel lost a primary in 2014 quite possibly because he clashed with Soto all too often. But he stood on principle in the legislature even when it cost him a seat and that needs to be pointed out in the midst of this debate.

If Democratic activists come forward and say “we need a conservative, transactional Democrat like Soto in office,” I would probably respect it more than the claims that he is somehow a progressive. His record speaks for itself, and as a progressive I feel pointing out the reality of his record is not in any way a “low blow” or personal attack but simply holding those who sit in and seek public office advocating a set of principles accountable for abandoning said principles.

Soto’s game has been like that of any transactional politician. Find allies in other offices, schmooze special interest lobbyists while pretending to be a good progressive in front of local audiences that will have a bearing on future runs for office. For us at TFS, this is exactly the type of politics we abhor and are committed to opposing it while trying to reform our party.


  1. Ron Baldwin · ·

    Kartik, your logic and arguments are compelling.


  2. David Jones · ·

    The responses were visceral? Take a look at the sucker punch of an article that you posted in the first place if you want to see visceral.


    1. Maybe the tone people didn’t like but I don’t think pointing out bad votes for a candidate and the praise he has gotten from conservatives is a personal attack. Guys who run for office, in fact have spent most of their adult life running office like Darren Soto should be able to take the heat for votes that after are all public.


  3. David Lutrin · ·

    Is Darren Soto Raul Labrador’s twin brother separated at birth?


  4. This right here is core: “If Democratic activists come forward and say “we need a conservative, transactional Democrat like Soto in office,” I would probably respect it more than the claims that he is somehow a progressive. His record speaks for itself, and as a progressive I feel pointing out the reality of his record is not in any way a “low blow” or personal attack but simply holding those who sit in and seek public office advocating a set of principles accountable for abandoning said principles.”

    It’s bad faith when candidate activists attack the commentariat for analyzing and revealing core tactical orientations. The record the candidate should be running on is the one they crafted for themselves. In the case of this candidate, his brand is essentially “no permanent friends,” and hopefully “no permanent enemies.” If it’s easy enough to please the Chamber of Commerce under these rules of engagement, he shouldn’t have trouble understanding why women’s health advocates and public school teachers (for instance) would create a fuss about not being treated with the same respect. If he valued their approval, he would have voted in a manner that reflected that. Clearly, these constituencies are deemed not important enough during legislative session. If you want them during the campaign, it’s going to take more than rhetoric on social media.


  5. Millie Herrera · ·

    Charlie Crist did all that and worse, and you still defended him for Governor in 2014! Which way is the wind blowing for you today???!!!!

    And by the way, I do not deny his voting record, nor do I have “distinctly personal and political considerations at stake”. My point is that you conveniently target candidates who do not meet your “distinct personal and political considerations”, instead of looking at hoping to win more Democrat seats and exercising pressure from inside to move the candidates to the progressive side.


    1. Actually it’s well-known that this site nor myself personally supported Crist in the primary. We did however support him once he was the Democratic nominee.


    2. I also reiterate this particular Congressional seat is going to be won by a Democrat regardless, whereas the Governorship has been held by the GOP since 1999. It’s not acceptable from a progressive perspective to have elected officials say one thing locally and do another in Tallahassee. Soto is far from the only example of this, but he is the subject now because he has chosen to run for Congress in a SAFE Democratic seat after compiling a voting record that by some standards isn’t even moderate – Getting 100% from the Chamber isn’t moderate it’s conservative. Same for the 96% from AIF and 100% from Jeb’s education group.


  6. Blue Dog · ·

    Still no one from the Soto camp has explained his votes – why did he vote for the mandatory ultrasound bill? He brags about his fight against the 24-hour waiting period but women still are mandated by the legislature to have a mandatory, trans-vaginal ultrasound courtesy of Soto and his Republican co-signers.

    What about scoring 100% on Jeb Bush’s Excellence in Education Foundation? Are Soto’s supporters standing in solidarity with the effort to ultimately privatize public education at the k-12 level? Are you?

    Please let us know. Crying foul about this blog only goes so far as his ACTUAL record on the issues. If you defend Soto, please by all means tell us why YOU support government intrusion into a woman’s private health care decisions and the privatization of public education.

    Otherwise, just admit that you forgot to check your candidate’s record before checking a box to alleviate your guilt.


  7. Frank's Red Hot · ·

    Isn’t this the same website that praises Katie Edwards? Hypocritical at the least!


    1. We’ve hit her plenty of times and if she ran for a safe democratic seat (ie DWS’ seat where she lives) I’m sure we’d have a similar reaction to what we have to Soto. The one difference between Edwards and Soto though is one openly flaunts that she is a moderate or conservative while the other says he’s a progressive. The records of both however are very similar so one of the two is misrepresenting themselves.


  8. Rafael C. Benitez · ·

    This people you are backing ransacked the OCDEC coffers and are the reason we lost 3 seats in the Florida House in 2014.
    So now you want us to lose Congressional District 9?
    Numbers are dumb they can show but they can’t tell a story. Talk to Darren so you can tell a story rather publish dumb number.


  9. Tampa Bay Demo · ·

    It’s really sad when you nit pick every vote. If you did this for any Democrat you’d have similar results.


    1. So votes aren’t fair game?


  10. Votes on key issues are very important when people’s lives are on the line. He voted for a mandatory 50/50 shared custody and alimony reform and this would cause many women and children to either be poverty stricken or worse – children being killed.


  11. […] of any Democratic state legislator who has been in office since before the 2012 reapportionment. His record prior to the 2016 Legislative Session was a contradiction of this as he voted a far more liberal line. But  given the extensive history […]


%d bloggers like this: