Could "Sexxxy" Scandal Lead to Florida's First Openly Gay Representative?

Rep. Richard Steinberg, a Democrat who represented Miami Beach in the state House, quickly resigned this week after it came to light that he was under investigation for anonymously texting a female assistant U.S. Attorney messages like, "Sexxxy mama?"

That means his seat is now open, and its possible that this straight sex scandal could pave the way for Florida's first openly gay state legislator to emerge. Florida, despite being home to gay hotspots like Wilton Manors, South Beach, and Key West, is interestingly the largest state in the Union to never have had an openly gay legislator. Yep, even Texas has had one.

Steinberg's district represents almost all of Miami Beach, and the latest redistricting plan would redraw the district, which is already among the most Democratic-leaning in the state, to be tighter and even more liberal.

So Marc Caputo at the Miami Herald reports that local gay groups are hoping to recruit an openly gay Democratic candidate to run for the seat. See, sometimes gay groups actually do recruit. Just not in the way homophobes think.

"We have never had the opportunity that this new district presents for the LGBT community," CJ Ortuno, executive director of Save Dade told Caputo. "We are going to be contacting people in the community ..planting the seed and watch for a reaction."

Michael Gongora is a natural possibility. He's openly gay and serves on the Miami Beach city council. One potential pratfall: his fellow commissioner Jonah Wolfson may also run. He's straight, though. (Not that anyone should hold that against him. We try to be open minded about the heterosexual lifestyle here at Riptide.)

It's not that Florida has never had a gay legislator before. Just not one who served openly. Mark Foley spent time in the Florida House and Senate before getting elected to the U.S. House, and we all know how that turned out. Bob Allen also served in the state House as a Republican until he got caught in a park restroom offering to blow a guy. And, uh, how do we put this? Maybe one day a Florida politician can buy a drink at the Green Iguana openly.

Assuming Gongora or someone else from the LGBT community ran, they wouldn't be the only gay candidate up for election in Florida next year.

Scott Herman, a gay Republican from Wilton Manors, has plans to run against incumbent Democratic Rep. Gwendolyn Clark-Reed, and up near Orlando, gay activist Joe Saunders plans to run in District 49 as a Democrat.

Caputo does some weird theorizing that an openly gay Dem could cause friction in the caucus, especially with religious African-American members. That hasn't seemed to be too much of a problem in other states however.

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Kyle Munzenrieder