TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — Two weeks after pulling off a major victory in a special election, Annette Taddeo was sworn in Tuesday as the first Hispanic Democratic woman to serve in the Florida Senate.
Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince administered the oath of office to Taddeo, who was joined by her 11-year-old daughter, Sofia, husband, Eric Goldstein, and mother, Elizabeth Taddeo. Annette Taddeo defeated former Republican House member Jose Felix Diaz during a Sept. 26 special election in Miami-Dade County’s Senate District 40.
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“I’m looking forward to serving with each and every one of you,” Taddeo told senators gathered in the Senate chamber for the ceremony. “It’s been a long journey to get here, to say the least. But I am very familiar with long journeys.”
The ceremony was held just minutes after the state Elections Canvassing Commission certified the results of the special election, along with Republican Daniel Perez’s victory Sept. 26 in a special election in Miami-Dade’s House District 116.
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The Colombia-born Taddeo replaces former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican who resigned in April after a crude, racially tinged tirade at a private club near the Capitol. Diaz resigned from the House District 116 seat to run for Senate, setting off a ripple that led to Perez’s election.
While the Senate has had Hispanic Republican women — and Hispanic Republican and Democratic men — lawmakers said Taddeo is the first Hispanic Democratic woman to serve in the chamber.
“Today is a wonderful and historic day,” Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, said before offering an opening prayer at Tuesday’s ceremony.
Taddeo’s victory also was a major boost politically for Democrats, who have been in the Senate minority for more than two decades. The GOP still holds a 24-16 advantage in the chamber, but Taddeo defeated the well-known, better-funded Diaz in a swing district.
Taddeo, a former chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party, was U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s running mate in Crist’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2014. She also unsuccessfully ran for a South Florida congressional seat in 2016.
But she handily defeated Diaz by a margin of 51 percent to 47.2 percent, with a no-party candidate receiving the rest of the vote.
Taddeo told reporters Tuesday said she wants to focus on public-education and environmental issues. She has been assigned to four committees and a subcommittee, including the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.
During the swearing-in, she also smiled as she gave senators a glimpse of her varied background.
“I do want to warn you that sometimes this Latina will start speaking with a little bit of a Southern accent. And I don’t want you to think I am being disrespectful to anybody with a Southern accent. I learned English in Alabama,” said Taddeo, who received a bachelor’s degree at the University of North Alabama. “So I just want you to know why sometimes you’ll hear the, `I’m fixing to tell you a story,’ or the Southern twang, with a little bit of Hispanic accent.”
“The News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders contributed to this report.”