Exit poll data here in Florida showed that when it comes to early voting Democrats just were not showing up. As the political machine of the GOP continued to fundraise against Democrat candidates, Florida is destined to become an entirely Red State in next week's election.
To fathom the impact of this election on the queer community of Florida, the Queer News Tonight anchor Al Ferguson sat down with openly gay state representative Carlos Guillermo Smith and discussed what we have to face here in Florida.
He is a respected leader in Florida. In November 2016, Central Florida voters elected Carlos to represent them in the Florida House of Representatives and re-elected him in 2018 and 2020 with overwhelming majorities. He currently serves as the Central Florida Outreach Coordinator for Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ+ community. He is a Democrat voice for the newly-drawn House District 37, including Orange and Seminole County.
The interview began with Carlos Guillermo Smith calling the election “a battle for the soul of
Central Florida”. He expressed his deep concerns over the gerrymandering of the district especially when the Republicans spent over a million dollars to remove one of the only LGBTQ+ voices on the front lines in Tallahassee. Injecting this kind of amount in a state house race was unusual and it shows how desperate the Republicans and the DeSantis are to curb the voice of equality and freedom.
However, there was hope for him, his allies, and all of us in the state as people within the state and even outsiders were showing support to Carlos. He received about 2000 unique contributions from his supporters who acknowledge the importance of putting people above politics.
When The QNT host Al Ferguson asked Carlos about his thoughts and understanding of the dedicated efforts and powerful will of the GOP to unseat him, Carlos said, “having this bullseye on this seat, me in particular, spending over a million dollars to try to unseat me in the Florida legislature; I'd be flattered if I wasn't so concerned that the folks will be without a very important and very strong voice in Tallahassee if GOP succeed in trying to buy the seat.”
Talking about the hate messages he received, Carlos said, “it's an interesting feeling when you open up your mailbox and you find a piece of attack mail that is lying about your record of public service that has your photos stretched out on a big piece of mail to make you look as horrible and as sinister as possible.” He said one has to have a thick skin to be in politics to bear with the personal attacks.
He added, that for 6 years that he has been in the Florida House of Representatives, he has taken a stand on so many issues, not just LGBTQ equality but also gun safety reforms. The first bill that he passed or the first bill he filed when he was a freshman lawmaker after being elected in 2016, was a bill to restrict military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. This became an example of gun safety reforms. After the horrific tragedy at Pulse that took the lives of 49 (mostly LGBTQ+ people of color) at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, his team held the republican administration accountable in a number of ways.
Even during covid-19 as the governor sought to conceal and make secret public health records that would really reveal the true extent of the pandemic he sued the governor and was joined by The Washington Post the New York Times and a number of other National organizations, compelling the administration to be transparent and follow the Sunshine laws which are the constitutional rights Floridians have. He said he was surprised that Ron DeSantis wanted to unseat him considering the people power Carlos is backed by. But Carlos warned the opponents that the fight is going to be tough.
Leveraging the opportunity, Al confronted Carlos about his take on the recent attacks on LGBTQ+ students, hateful TV ads, and demand for changes in curriculum. He also asked Carlos about the support he has been receiving from people outside of the state, including LGBTQ+ people.
Carlos shared his regards and gratitude for the wide support he received and he also requested people to donate to the campaign in whichever capacity they could along with offering sweat equity towards the overall fight. His work can be seen or donations can be made to the campaign on carlosguillermosmith.com.
As Al Ferguson, the host of the Queer News Tonight, rightly concluded, Carlos Guillermo Smith's story is so interesting in this midterm election in Florida not only because of Governor DeSantis but Carlos is somebody who won their House seat two years ago by nine points. The support for Carlos is important as the governer machine is not shying away from gerrymandering the house seats and pouring as much as 330000 dollars in anti-gay television advertising.