Gary Farmer, a Broward County state senator, was elected Monday to lead Democrats in the Florida Senate.
Farmer, 56, a trial attorney who lives in Lighthouse Point, will have his work cut out for him. Republicans control the governor’s mansion and the Legislature, holding 24 of the 40 Senate seats.
Farmer called for lawmakers to fix the state’s faltering unemployment website and work across the aisle to tackle other problems caused by the pandemic.
He said his primary goal as Democratic leader will be addressing gaps in mental health care services.
“I fear we are seeing only a very small tip of an approaching iceberg in the form of additional mental health issues created by this pandemic and the isolation that has been associated with it,” Farmer said during a socially distanced meeting in Tallahassee.
He also listed some Democratic priorities that will have slim chances of passing in the GOP-controlled Legislature — expanding Medicaid to provide health care to the poor, prohibiting fracking, banning assault weapons and passing legislation in response to Black Lives Matter protests.
Farmer will also need to unite his own party, which has been embroiled with tension between moderate and liberal members and finger-pointing over a poor showing in the Nov. 3 election.
Democrats hoped to pick up three Senate seats and achieve parity with the Republicans. Instead, they lost one.
Ileana Ydolia Garcia, co-founder of Latinas for Trump, defeated incumbent Democratic state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez of Miami.
Farmer has served in the Senate since 2016, representing eastern Broward County.
His term as leader will run through 2022. Another Broward County Democrat, Sen. Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale, is in line to serve as Democratic leader next.
Sen. Bobby Powell Jr., D-West Palm Beach, will serve as leader pro tempore alongside Farmer.
Skyler Swisher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 561-243-6634 or @SkylerSwisher.
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