The growing list of “firsts” in Florida’s election season

It’s hard to ignore all the examples: Florida’s election season is remarkable in that there are so many “firsts.”

That means a particular candidate who wins would stand out as the first of his or her kind, relating to gender, race, religion and sexual orientation.

An AP story highlighted several instances that reflect the diversity on the 2018 campaign trail and throughout the state:

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham could become the first female governor in Florida.

Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum could become the first black governor in Florida.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine or businessman Jeff Greene could become the first Jewish governor in modern times (The AP reported that a Jewish governor, David Sholtz, served from 1933 to 1937).

But that’s not all.

The Florida Phoenix reported earlier that Broward County resident Saima Farooqui could make history if she wins the Aug. 28 primary in her South Florida district, becoming one of the first American Muslims to hold a seat in the Florida House of Representatives.

And the Miami Herald reported that if Cedric McMinn wins in Florida’s 109th House District, he’ll become the first elected openly gay African-American lawmaker in the state.

As to Florida Cabinet positions, it’s possible that lawmaker Sean Shaw, who represents Tampa in the Florida House, could become the first elected black Cabinet official. He’s campaigning for Attorney General, a member of the Florida Cabinet.

Whether that happens would take some research, in part because Cabinet positions have changed over the years. Now, Florida has three elected Cabinet posts: Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture and Chief Financial Officer. The Secretary of State and Commissioner of Education positions are now appointed. And the elected Treasurer and Comptroller Cabinet positions fused into the Chief Financial Officer post.

An archivist at the State Archives of Florida researched the issue for the Phoenix and found that Florida’s first black Cabinet official was Jonathan C. Gibbs, who was appointed by the governor in 1868, to serve as Secretary of State. Gibbs later served as Superintendent of Public Instruction.


Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.


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