Democrat launches campaign to become first Latina governor of Florida

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MIAMI — A Democratic state senator from Miami announced that she is running for governor in Florida, and if she wins the Democratic nomination, she would be the first Latina in the state to run for governor representing a major party.

State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who had been contemplating running for months, said Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on school mask mandates and threats to sanction school districts that defied him led her to decide to run.

“Frankly, as a mom with a kid in public school, that was just a nonstarter. I was really flabbergasted,” Taddeo said.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will face off in the Nov. 8, 2022, general election against the Republican nominee. That is expected to be DeSantis, whose profile has risen nationally in his first term as he has fought lockdowns, school mask mandates and enforcement of vaccinations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Two other Democratic candidates have higher name recognition than Taddeo statewide: U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former governor, and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. Crist and Fried are taking turns leading in polls. Taddeo, who was born in Colombia, is popular in her district in Miami.

“Threatening to remove people from office who are duly elected by the people, taking funds away from our taxpayer dollars for our kids’ education, this is the kind of thing we see Maduro in Venezuela do,” Taddeo said about DeSantis, referring to the Venezuelan leader, Nicolás Maduro. “It’s unacceptable in the United States of America, and I’m not going to stand on the sidelines and not fight for us to have a governor that can represent us all and a governor that will actually be worried about Floridians and not primary voters in Iowa.”

Taddeo released a video introducing herself to voters, saying she learned early on what it means to have access to affordable health care after she had 19 operations for a cleft lip.

In the video, she also spoke about her father and her upbringing.

Taddeo has been outspoken about the lack of early and consistent Democratic outreach to Latinos, who make up nearly 27 percent of the state's population. Republicans performed well in Florida in the 2020 elections. Not only did former President Donald Trump win the state, but Republicans also flipped two congressional seats held by Democrats and won a series of state House and Senate seats, maintaining control of state government.

“I am clearly a Latina who has been warning Democrats about the erosion of Democratic support if we didn’t fight back. I’ve been able to create the coalition to win now twice in what is now a Trump district,” Taddeo said.

She said she has been able to push back against Republican attacks, such as calling Democrats socialists or communists, by speaking about her own experience.

Her father, an Italian American from New Jersey, moved to Colombia after having served in World War II as a fighter pilot. He was training Colombians to fly helicopters when he met and married Taddeo’s mother. Taddeo said the farm she grew up on was taken over by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a Marxist rebel group. Members of the group kidnapped her father. He was able to escape; fearing retaliation, Taddeo left alone at 17 for Alabama, where she graduated from high school and attended college.

“I am a lifelong Democrat and very proud of it,” Taddeo said, taking a discreet jab at Crist, who was a Republican when he was governor from 2007 to 2011. “I consider myself a progressive, and my progressive values do not ever leave.”

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