The first LGBTQ+ lawmaker ever sworn into the Florida Legislature could soon make a return to the statehouse. Former Rep. Joe Saunders announced he will run for Florida House District 106.
More than a decade after becoming one of Florida’s first openly gay lawmakers, Saunders sees a greater need to return to Tallahassee. Calling the Florida Legislature “out of balance” with the state’s moderate mindset, he called out lawmakers who bow down to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The former lawmaker is currently the senior political director of the LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Florida.
Saunders needs a seat in the Legislature before taking on DeSantis head-on. First, he’s challenging Florida state Rep. Fabian Basabe, a Republican elected last year by just a 242-vote margin.
While Basabe ran as a moderate and won during a year when Republicans over-performed at the ballot box, he has since faced calls for his resignation from LGBTQ+ leaders in South Beach. That’s because, in the Legislature, he has supported an array of socially conservative bills including a book ban and a bill dropping Florida’s concealed carry permit to bring guns into public spaces.
At a recent Miami Beach Pride event, thousands chanted “Resign!” at the Republican lawmaker.