Guest Column: Senator Darren Soto’s Progressive Record

By Jimmy Auffant / FDP State Committee Member

While I respect Mr. Krishnaiyer and usually find his writing insightful and well-reasoned, I was shocked and disappointed to read his recent article about State Senator Darren Soto. Soto has dedicated his life to serving others as a Civil Rights attorney – where he provides pro bono representation for dozens of Central Floridians – and as an undeniably progressive Democrat in the state legislature. To call Soto “the poster child for conservative Democrats” by cherry picking an issue or two out of the body of his work in the state senate is unfair and wrong.

The record shows that Soto has been a reliable advocate for immigrants, consumers, and progressives who care about reforming the death penalty and protecting the environment.

In the Florida House of Representatives, Soto took the lead on a number of issues that were important to his community and to progressive causes in our state. He led the fight to protect homeowners’ access to the courts in foreclosure proceedings during the height of the Bush recession and housing crisis. He supported one of the largest expansions of public transportation in Central Florida by helping to pass SunRail. And, he brought real moral authority to the successful effort to derail a proposed “Arizona-style” immigration law.

In the Florida Senate, Soto has effectively advocated for an agenda that should clearly delight progressives. He passed multiple pieces of groundbreaking pro-immigration legislation that allowed greater access to driver’s licenses immigrants who arrived in America as children, gave DREAMERS in-state tuition, and allowed adult immigrant lawyers to be admitted to the Florida Bar. He led the questioning on the floor to pave a constitutional challenge of the 24 hour waiting period bill. He also supported limits on banks’ ability to collect foreclosure debt and helped start Florida’s Hardest Hit Principal Reduction Program to assist homeowners who struggled through our state’s housing crisis. Soto pushed back against Rick Scott’s effort to expedite the execution process for people on death row by proposing an amendment that would have raised the required jury vote from 7 to 10 for death penalty cases. On the environment, Soto was an enthusiastic supporter of aggressive Amendment 1 funding and he secured funding for the Lake Toho Restoration which will clean water flowing through the northern Everglades.

Soto also stood beside Democratic Senate leaders by proposing a fairly drawn congressional map during last year’s special session and assisted in drafting the motion to sue the House for their illegal early recess during the debate over Medicaid expansion earlier this year. He’s introduced legislation to ban fracking in Florida and to raise teacher pay to a minimum of $50,000 per year.

Soto has been the lead proponent for the Florida Justice Association in the Senate. He has consistently protected access to the courts. He has been endorsed by major organizations during his past five elections, including Planned Parenthood, the Classroom Teachers Association and the AFL-CIO.

And, in his campaign announcement yesterday, Soto made clear that he stands with progressives on the Affordable Care Act, raising the minimum wage, passing comprehensive immigration reform, equal rights, diplomacy over war, protecting Social Security and Medicare and using bold federal action to assist Puerto Rico through their current debt crisis.

It was a stunning progressive manifesto.

In a party as diverse as ours, we’re going to have disagreements on policy. But the overwhelming evidence shows that Soto’s professional life, public service and aggressive support of the Democratic Party is one that progressives ought to cheer. And his candidacy for Congress is one that could be groundbreaking for progressives as he would be the first Puerto Rican elected to Congress from Florida and the first Hispanic elected to Congress from central Florida. That is long overdue.

As Democrats, we take pride in breaking barriers and ensuring broad participation from everybody. Soto could well be an important voice in Washington on immigration issues, environmental issues and consumer protection issues. His record in the legislature underscores his expertise on those issues. He has the experience, youth, and intelligence to be a very productive, progressive member of Congress. Voters in the 9th district would be well served by his election.

10 comments

  1. floridian · · Reply

    And he voted for the “parent trigger” as well as the largest expansion of school vouchers in history. He supports giving what would be public revenue to unaccountable private schools. I cannot forgive or overlook that. Sorry. Voting for someone else in the primary. And I won’t vote for him in the general election if he were to make it.

    1. His record on vouchers is consistent over many sessions. We haven’t even gotten into some of his campaign contributions yet which might explain some of the votes.

  2. Ruth Ann Eaddy · · Reply

    Floridian’s attitude is the very reason we have Rick Scott as our governor. Any Democrat in Congress is better than a Republican. I am delighted to read this article.

    1. Problem with this logic is that this is a seat where Obama got 62% in 2012. It will stay Dem regardless.

  3. FloridaMan · · Reply

    And let’s not forget he got an A rating from the NRA for the past two times running. He even voted for the unconstitutional “Docs and Glocks” bill to ban doctors from asking their patients about gun ownership.

  4. Ralph W. · · Reply

    I like some of Mr. Soto’s record — trying to pass an amendment requiring reporting of skin rashes during algae blooms comes to mind. I like the anti-street racing bill, although I question how high a priority that issue really is. I like his call to investigate abuse at youth detention facilities.

    But I’m having trouble squaring “stunning progressive manifesto” with his vote to require women seeking abortions to first obtain a medically unnecessary ultrasound. That is one of the single most grotesque Republican attacks on women’s right to control their own bodies in the country, was a completely Republican-driven initiative, and relies on the disgusting underlying premise that women need to be “reminded” or “educated” on how their own bodies work. I do appreciate that he argued (correctly) that the equally heinous Republican measure to force a 24-hour “waiting period” on women seeking abortions was unconstitutional, but ask how he could have been persuaded that women needed any interference from the Legislature in the first place? He suggested to the Orlando Sentinel that he had been “mislead.” How does that happen? Will it happen again if he goes to Congress?

    I likewise don’t see the “progressive” value in voting to prevent employers from keeping employees from bringing their guns to work. The idea that a private property owner can’t keep firearms off its own premises doesn’t even track with conservative views; it’s simply gun nut logic run amok. The NRA doesn’t need any more help from Democrats in Congress.

    I am not clear on Mr. Soto’s stance on assisting Republicans in their ongoing, anti-democratic crusade to funnel public tax dollars away from public education and into unaccountable private corporations. I see reports that he was one of only three Democrats who supported the “parent trigger,” initially, but then see some claiming he opposed it somehow. I ask sincerely — which is is his position here? And if he has reversed course, how did that occur?

    I also understand Disney is one of Mr. Soto’s primary backers, and look forward to hearing where he stands on

    1. Disney’s blatant corruption of the Orange County Commission over the proposed sick leave initiative, in which Commissioners were texting with Disney lobbyists as they colluded to illegally prevent a proposal with the support of 75,000 Orange County citizens from reaching the ballot. Disney is on the wrong side of history proposing that restaurant and hotel workers (of all people) must come to work sick or lose their jobs.

    2. Disney’s alleged planned abuse of the H1-B visa program, allegedly forcing 30 American workers to train foreign “visitors” to replace them in their high-paying technology jobs to save money. It’s all well and good that Disney backed off the heinous plan after it was exposed in the press, but I look forward to hearing whether Mr. Soto is comfortable criticizing his sponsor in over its (alleged) horrific plan to undercut American wages, abuse the visa system, and force older Americans out of their jobs.

    I look forward to clarification on all of these issues in the upcoming Democratic primary and agree we need a real progressive. We must have a Democrat in District 9, but we need an examination of the respective candidates’ actual stances on all the important issues, not a cherry-picked few.

  5. He also voted yes on the alimony/custody bill which is EXTREMELY harmful to women and children. The laws on the books now are NOT protecting victims of abuse in family law court cases, and this law if it had passed, would remove even more protections by forcing children into 50/50 situations rather than 80/20. That extra 30% might not seem like a lot, but in reality it could mean the difference between a child living or dying.

    1. This is true and again, we’ve only scratched the surface of Soto’s record here. Some may think Patrick Murphy is the embodiment on conservative Dems but I actually think he looks quite progressive when compared to Soto.

  6. DuhDem · · Reply

    Looks like the Randolph bullshit shells are flying.

    1. Never met the Randolph’s in my entire life. Am aware of who they are since they are quite vocal in Orlando, Florida and national politics. However, my words are my observations of Mr. Soto’s voting record on issues that are important to me. One issue is education – his record is less than stellar there. A second issue is the abortion bill. Again no words for this. And lastly and among one of the most important to me is the alimony and custody bill. A bill that does NOT benefit women or children and in fact will leave women and child destitute should it pass. It will also place more children like Phoebe Jonchuck in harms way. How many more Phoebe’s must we have before we learn that judges need to spend time on these cases with a multi disciplinary approach that includes solid education and training in dv and child abuse? Or do those children not matter? Thirty seven (minimum) children who were killed in the context of a child custody battle by an abuser. MINIMUM. Do we not owe it to those children to listen. New research has been made available about ACE scores. Adverse Childhood Experience scores. Each adverse experience has the potential to shorten a child’s life. Not paying attention to that by voting for a bill with no protection for victims of child abuse and domestic violence shows no regard for those ACE scores and as such can shorten those children’s lives. Also if attention is paid to those ACE scores and the harm that being in the midst of a custody battle between a safe parent and an abusive parent with teams who understand and are trained (with solid educational and practical real world experience) these children can have a productive and good life. What choice did Soto make?

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