Dems turn to W. Palm Beach peacemaker as minority whip

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauSeptember 26, 2013 

TALLAHASSEE -- After months of inner turmoil over who would lead them during the 2014 elections, Florida House Democrats on Wednesday chose state Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach as their next minority leader.

By a 29-12 vote, with one abstaining, Pafford beat state Rep. Alan Williams for a job that earlier in the week had belonged to Rstate ep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg.

"The first thing is getting everybody comfortable, understanding that we've hit the reset button and we are one," Pafford, 47, said to reporters after the vote, acknowledging the disarray that awaits him. "I have some work to do immediately."

Pafford heads a 44-member House Democratic caucus heavily outnumbered by 75 Republicans. Along with the removal of Rouson by a 24-17 vote Monday night, the staff director overseeing fundraising for 2014 House races was fired earlier in the

month, leaving oversight of a critical special election in a New Port Richey district in question.

Rouson lost the confidence of a majority of the caucus after he opened a campaign account only he could control without informing party leaders. Much of the frustration with Rouson spilled out into the open via e-mails members leaked to reporters and during Monday's closed-door meeting in which he was removed.

While not a proven fundraiser like Williams, who raised twice as much money since both joined the Legislature in 2008, and more to the left of most Democrats, Pafford was viewed as someone who could bring the caucus together.

A graduate of Florida International University with a bachelor's degree in public administration, Pafford is steeped in party politics. He was Bill Nelson's driver during his campaign for governor in 1989, and in 1996 and 1997 served as the legislative aide for Rep. Lois Frankel when she served in the Florida House.

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