After two rounds of voting, state Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg topped Mia Jones of Jacksonville in the race to serve as the House’s top Democrat for the 2014-2016 term.
“Mia, thank you,” Rouson said after winning on a 23-21 vote. “Sister, we are going to work together.”
Jones echoed the tone of compromise.
“Our caucus has spoken, and we leave out of here tonight a united front,” Jones said after the vote.
The vote came on a heated race that saw both candidates take jab at one another.
In mid-January, Rouson was showing supporters and reporters a binder of 27 pledge-cards, enough to easily capture the win. After going public with the votes, he charged that current Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, was delaying a vote to help churn up support for Jones, a charge Thurston denied.
After Rouson went public with the cards, rumor began to circulate that some members were beginning to have second thoughts. Rouson at one point claimed 29-pledge cards, meaning seven early supporters jumped ship.
To fill time as the second round of votes were tabulated a host of speakers including Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux, former Minority Leader Ron Saunders, D-Key West, and state Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, took to the podium to preach party unity as the 22-22 vote hung over the room.
Jones said she came into the evening thinking she had enough votes to secure the win, and was surprised when the first vote tied.