WTSP: Tampa’s Driskell makes history as first Black woman elected to lead party in state House

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — State Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Hillsborough, has made history as the first Black woman to lead a party in the Florida House.

At a ceremony Monday night in Tallahassee, Driskell was officially designated as the House Democratic leader by her Democratic colleagues.

Driskell was elected leader-designate at a special legislative session in May and won re-election in November. The Tampa attorney was first elected back in 2018 and is currently serving her third term in the state House.

Driskell joins another barrier-breaking Tampa-Bay lawmaker, former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, who was the first Black woman elected to lead a party in the Florida Senate. She served as minority leader from 2014-16.

At the ceremony Monday, Driskell addressed her Democratic colleagues in the Capitol while standing next to photographs of Joyner. 

“It’s not lost on me that I stand on very strong shoulders,” Driskell told 10 Tampa Bay in May. 

“Every woman and especially every black woman owes a debt and a homage to [Joyner],” said Driskell.

“When I was 17 years old, I did the Florida Girls State program and that was my first time stepping inside the Florida capitol and I was filled with awe and amazement and made a commitment to myself that someday I’d run for office,” Driskell explained.

“It took a little while to get there, but now that I’m here I couldn’t imagine I’d be in such a role and it’s just amazing to me. It’s an amazing feeling,” she added.

Driskell will serve as minority leader as Republicans hold a supermajority in both chambers of the Capitol. State Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, will serve as the next House Speaker.

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