The Florida House is on a 181-year streak. Guess what for?

Rep. Edna Giles Fuller in the 1931 Legislature Florida State Archives photo

Florida is in line to keep a 181-year streak alive.

Miami Republican state Rep. Daniel Perez has gained enough support in the state House’s GOP caucus to put himself in a position to hold the House speakership for a two-year term beginning in November 2024, Florida Politics reported this week.

Perez’s speakership isn’t an absolute certainty. But it’s a decent bet to assume, if the Republicans hold their House majority and Perez wins re-election, that he will lead the Florida House of Representatives through the 2025 and 2026 regular sessions.

If that is the case, when Perez steps down as speaker in November 2026, he will have continued a 181-year streak of the state House under male leadership. Pinellas County Republican Chris Sprowls and Flagler County Republican Paul Renner are already in line for the next two speakerships preceding Perez.

The male domination of the 120-member chamber was further amplified this week by the election of three new male members _ two Republicans and one Democrat. The new lawmakers bump the male membership in the House to 70 percent, with women holding 30 percent of the seats.

That compares to Florida’s population, where women account for 51 percent of the residents.

In a story earlier this year, the Florida Phoenix looked at the demographic and economic mismatch between the Legislature and everyday Floridians.

Women have long faced a challenge in winning election to the House, much less gaining leadership roles.

State Rep. Edna Giles Fuller of Orlando was the first woman to serve in the Florida House. She was elected in 1928, eight years after women won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A photograph of a newspaper page in the state archives demonstrates Fuller’s plight, showing her determined face surrounded by men in the 1931 Legislature.

The gender balance is no better in the 40-member Florida Senate where women are also outnumbered by a similar 70-30 percent margin. But women have held leadership roles in the Legislature’s other chamber, the Florida  Senate.

Miami-Dade County Democrat Gwen Margolis broke the gender barrier in 1990 with her election as the Senate president. Orlando Republican Toni Jennings followed in 1996. And Jennings did something that no male has yet matched – serving two consecutive two-year terms as Senate president.

Naples Republican Kathleen Passidomo is vying with St. Johns County Republican Travis Hutson for the Senate presidency that will begin in November 2022.

Although it doesn’t help the gender balance, Perez’s speakership does represent an important diversity trend. He will be the third Hispanic speaker in the Florida House. He will follow Miami-Dade Republican Marco Rubio (now a U.S. senator) who was elected speaker in 2006, and Miami-Dade Republican Jose Oliva, who is the current speaker.

More than 25 percent of Florida’s residents are Hispanic. And those residents are expected to be one of the faster growing segments of Florida’s population in the coming decades.

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