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August 31st , 2023  Political Note #585 Darren Soto Florida 09

2024                                    General Election

Florida 09 is south of Orlando and west of Melbourne.  The district shifted east to central Florida. Previously, its western border was the Gulf Coast.   The current Florida 09 is plurality white – 43.9% white.  It is 37.5% Hispanic and 13.3% Black.

In Florida, knowing that a district is more than one third Hispanic does not tell you much.  You need to know more.  Cubans are hugely influential in Florida politics and are mostly Republican.  Darren Soto is not one of them.  His father’s heritage is Puerto Rican.  His mother is an Italian-American.  He was born and grew up in Ringwood, New Jersey and graduated from Lakeland Regional High School there.

High School shaped Darren Soto’s life.  He wanted to go to Yale.  However, the teachers and the Regional School District were in the midst of a dispute. The teachers’ job action included not writing letters of reference.  Yale’s alumni interviewer tried informally to persuade two or three teachers to write letters for Darren Soto.  He went to Rutgers, instead, graduating in 2000.

Darren Soto became a musician in high school. He played in multiple bands and wrote songs.  Now music is a hobby.  He is a singer, songwriter, and a guitarist in a folk rock band.  He hosts a radio show and a podcast.  On the podcast and with the band, he combines his music with his politics.  The band played at Planned Parenthood’s Rock and Roe Concert.  The radio show and the podcast are called Rock and Politics.  If you are in Florida and come across a rock band called the Orange Creek Riders, you have found the Congressman from south of Orlando.

After graduating from Rutgers, Darren Soto got his JD from George Washington University. He graduated in 2004 and moved to Florida, He opened a solo practice doing the variety of law that a solo practice requires – family law, real estate work, civil litigation.  People got to know him as he joined the County Young Democrats and was willing to do the work of treasurer and vice president.  In 2006, he was appointed to the civil service board.  Not at all shy, later in 2006 he ran and lost a race for the Florida House of Representatives against an incumbent.  When John Quinones, a Republican Puerto Rican, resigned from the Florida House in 2007 to run unsuccessfully for the County Commission, Darren Soto won the crowded Democratic primary.  He won the general election by less than 300 votes.

Darren Soto was on his way.  He had learned how to raise money and won the 2008 race against his predecessor by a 2-1 margin.  He was virtually unopposed in 2010 and was elected to the State Senate defeating William McBride by a 2-1 margin in 2012.  In 2014, his victory over the Republican was close to 3-1.

Darren Soto ran for Congress in 2016 when Alan Grayson, the Democratic incumbent, ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate.  Darren Soto won the primary by 3,200 votes and the general election over Wayne Liebnitzky by more than 50,000 votes. That election made him Florida’s first Member of Congress of Puerto Rican descent.

Alan Grayson came back to run for Congress in 2018.  Darren Soto turned him away in the primary by a 2-1 margin and defeated Liebnitzky again in the general election.  Darren Soto kept on winning, defeating Republican Bill Olson by more than 50,000 votes in 2020 and, in the redistricted Florida 09, Republican Scotty Moore by 15,000 votes in 2022.

What has made Darren Soto such an appealing candidate?  He combines hard work on the process of governing while demonstrating that his interests are not just politics.  His music career is an asset because it proves his broader interest.

Elected to Congress in 2018, he had previously been credited with successful education, health care, and environmental initiatives in a Republican dominated legislature.  Nancy Pelosi saw him as Congressman to work with and appointed him to the party Steering and Policy Committee.  He was tied for the second most bills proposed as a freshman and had the most bills passed as a freshman.  He gets credited along with former Democratic stars Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy for bringing housing and transportation funds to Central Florida and for the Pulse National Memorial in memory of the mass shooting at the predominantly gay Pulse Nightclub.

As Darren Soto runs for election again in the redistrict FL 09 which he won in 2022 with a narrow majority, he reminds his constituents of his support for hurricane disaster assistance for both Puerto Rico and Florida. He ties his support for gun safety legislation to the shootings at Pulse and at Parkland.  He recalls his opposition in the State Senate to a draconian anti-abortion bill that the Florida Supreme Court rejected – using some of the arguments he had used opposing the bill.  He warns against the danger to social security that has been raised by Republicans and points to problems in the Everglades as evidence of the global climate crisis.

Darren Soto will need to work hard to win again.  He has not raised enough money to face a serious opponent, beginning July with only $270,000 available.  He will see familiar names among the Republican possibilities.  The now former County Commissioner John Quinones has announced, but has not begun raising money.  Former opponent Scotty Moore raised a modest amount and spent it all.  Four others have expressed interest in a campaign.  Darren Soto cannot take anything for granted. Neither can we. He needs to raise more money. Help him defend this Florida seat.

Don’t forget the 2023 races in the Southeastern US.  November, 2023 is just around the corner.  Financial support now is important for November.


Incumbent Governor Andrew Beshear. Len’s Political Note #533

State Rep and Coionel Pamela Stevenson for Attorney General  Len’s Political Note #561

Former Fire Chief and State Rep Buddy Wheatley for Secretary of State  Len’s Political Note #582



Secretary of Transportation Shawn Wilson for Governor Len’s Political Note #549

Financial Advisor Dustin Granger for State Treasurer Len’s Political Note #562



Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley for Governor Len’s Political Note #535

Disability Rights Litigation Director Greta Kemp Martin for Attorney General. Len’s Political Note #563



For the House of Delegates: Kimberly Pope Adams, Jessica Anderson, Joshua Cole, Michael Feggans, Susanna Gibson, Joshua Thomas. See Len’s Political Note #573 of July 6, 2023

For the State Senate: Clint Jenkins, Monty Mason, Russet Perry, Danica Roem, Schuyler VanValkenburg.   Len’s Political Note #573 of July 10, 2023

Southeastern candidates who could flip a Republican seat

House of Representatives

Former high tech Exec John Liccione is the Democrat running against Anna Paulina Luna, #26 in Len’s List of Vulnerable Republican incumbents.  It is hard to know how to describe Luna because of her inconsistencies.  She may not be George Santos, but she may tell her various stories better.  After all, she has written a couple of books. Help John Liccione


US Senate

Florida Former Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell announced and almost instantly attracted the Florida Democratic establishment when she announced her candidacy against increasingly vulnerable Incumbent Rick Scott.  She will need that entire establishment with her as she raises money.  Scott is a billionaire who began his campaign with $12.5 Million.  After spending a bunch, is down to $2.9 million.  Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has just begun raising money.  Help her.

Missouri Lucas Kunce.  Consider Missouri, a border state, an honorary member of the Southeast.  The incumbent is faux super-masculine Josh Hawley who deserves to be defeated by a veteran who blames corporate America for what it has done to Missouri’s small towns. Hawley began July with $4.5 million.   Lucas Kunce had $1.2 million.   If there is justice and if you help, Lucas Kunce will win this election.

Mississippi Ty Pinkins is an improbable opponent of Incumbent Roger Wicker.  Wicker is not the Republican Senator who urged Donald Trump to withdraw from the Presidential race.  Wicker had $4.2 million in his pocket on July 1.  Ty Pinkins had $8,000.  Ty Pinkins’ family picked cotton.  So did he.  He was struggling financially through Tougaloo College when he decided to join the army.  He finished college in the army, served in the White House, went to law school at Georgetown where he also got a Master’s Degree.  Then he went home to represent the indigent.  He has done impossible things before. You may not get him elected, but money invested in Ty Perkins is not a waste.