Rouson stripped of state House minority leader post

Miami Herald/TribuneSeptember 24, 2013 

TALLAHASSEE -- House Democrats voted 24-17 to oust state Rep. Darryl Rouson as incoming House Minority Leader after a three-hour Monday night meeting.

"I'm disappointed but undaunted," Rouson said after the meeting, saying he supported the party's decision.

Current House Minority Leader Perry Thurston of Plantation said Democrats would vote on a new leader Wednesday night.

At least one candidate to replace Rouson, state Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach, confirmed he was going to run.

"There may be squabbles, we're under the limelight," Pafford said afterward to reporters. "But I think we're all on the same page."

But Rouson's supporters left the meeting frustrated by the outcome. As he left, Rouson said he was undecided if he was going to make another run at the post. He said he may file to run again.

Rouson, 59, whose district includes parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties, had struggled to hold onto his post as designated Democratic House leader, where he would oversee the 2014 House Democratic candidates before taking over after next year's election.

In February, he defeated state Rep. Mia Jones of Jacksonville, 23-21, after a second round of balloting when Democrats deadlocked on a 22-22 vote. Although he beat Jones, Rouson had said before that he had a 29-15 lead over her.

"I'm a little disappointed that seven Democrats may have done something differently, secretly," he said after the initial vote.

That mistrust would prove mutual and haunted Rouson's brief reign as leader. A trial lawyer with a compelling life story as a recovered crack addict, Rouson is a former Republican who was close to two former governors: Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. One of his chief selling points to Democrats was that he had ties to Crist, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor. Yet Rouson was continually vexed by questions about his loyalties.

During a June caucus meeting, he fended off criticism aimed at his consultant, Barry Edwards, who has worked with Republicans, and a charge that he had not done more to work with key Democratic constituencies like the Florida Education Association.

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