Rep. Susan Valdés: ‘We Are Focusing on Culture Wars That Have Nothing to Do With Everyday Floridians’ Needs’

Image via Florida House of Representatives

By Giselle Balido

May 31, 2023

The Democrat of Cuban descent calls it as it is, placing the responsibility for the state’s problems—from a growing housing crisis to Republicans’ refusal to expand Medicaid —on more than twenty years of one-party rule.

With Gov. Ron DeSantis running for the 2024 presidency, many Floridians see a disconnect between the state he touts as a conservative success story and the Florida they live in every day.

For Rep. Susan Valdés, who represents part of northwest Tampa, DeSantis’ embrace of divisive culture war politics has distracted from the mounting problems that some of her fellow Democratic lawmakers would prefer to tackle. But Democrats will need a bounce-back in the Sunshine State before that happens.

Rep. Valdés spoke with Floricua about the dangers she sees ahead for the state she calls home and discusses how DeSantis’ culture wars are affecting everyday Floridians.

Floricua: While Gov. DeSantis prepares to run for the White House in 2024 and vows to “Make America Florida,” everyday, hardworking Floridians are feeling the effects of DeSantis’ culture wars. What are your thoughts on this?

Rep. Valdés: Just this morning I was with a constituent who is unable to work because of health reasons. And he’s being almost forced out of his home because the rent has gone up. The insurance issue has gone up and we have an insurance crisis. So rather than working on things that benefit everyday Floridians, such as expansion of Medicaid services, such as doing something about this increase in our property insurance, our auto insurance; instead of doing something that has to do with affordability for housing and things of that nature, we’re focusing on culture wars. We’re focusing on people’s lifestyles. We are focusing on things that have nothing to do with everyday Floridians’ needs.

For the last 20 years, the Republican leadership has been in charge of the state of Florida. And when they have the supermajority in both the House and the Senate and the governor’s mansion, they basically have a carte blanche for whatever it is that they wanted to do. So, all of these problems that the state of Florida faces are their responsibility, because the Democrats have not been able to find a balance.

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Democrats in Florida haven’t elected a governor since 1994. Why do you think Democrats have not been able to, as you say, “find a balance”? 

You know, here in Tampa we had a city election runoff and only 10% of the people came out to vote, and made 100% of the decisions for the whole city of Tampa. 

Why do you think people failed to go out to vote?

I think because they’re disgusted with government. They believe that their vote doesn’t count. A lot of people will say that neither party does anything to benefit them. And it’s problematic when people stop having faith in their electoral process. On top of that, the Florida legislature is making it harder with Senate Bill 7050 that makes it harder for third party organizations that register people to vote. Things are being done legislatively to restrict voting access.

Democrat Donna Deegan just made history when she won the Jacksonville mayoral race. Her victory came six months after state Democrats were bested in the 2022 midterm elections and considered left for dead by the national party. To some, Deegan’s win could mark a significant start to the 2024 election cycle for Democrats. What do you think Democrats need to do in 2024 to win statewide?

Democrats need to talk about the things that are important to Floridians. Let’s talk about the things that we weren’t able to accomplish because of the [Republican] supermajority that we have in both the House and the Senate. We didn’t talk much about the insurance crisis. We didn’t talk much about the housing crisis. We didn’t talk about expanding Medicaid to its full capacity. We’re going to have to organize, and we’re going to have to not take the bait [of DeSantis’ culture wars], and not join into that conversation, because that’s just going to be a distraction to the real issues that are facing Floridians.

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So far, you’ve talked about what the Democratic party needs to do to inspire Floridians to vote. In your opinion, what do Floridians need to do to ensure there is a more balanced representation in the state government? 

I always tell constituents, students, and folks that become citizens, that the biggest duty of being a citizen of these United States is your duty to vote. Know your candidates, know the party that you’re affiliated with. All the things that we’ve enjoyed for so long, we could possibly lose in a heartbeat if we don’t do our due diligence.

Finally, what are your thoughts on some of the legislation pushed by Gov. DeSantis that he recently signed into law?

Already the NAACP stated that the state of Florida was a hostile state to come visit, and you’re already seeing a lot of the crops just rotting because there’s nobody working the fields. This year we passed the permit less carry gun legislation. I believe that it’s just something that the NRA has been wanting for a long time. Maybe next session we might see open carry. Give it a year and we’re going to see the effects [of all these laws] negatively impacting the state of Florida.

Representative Susan Valdés was born in New York City to Cuban immigrant parents and moved to Florida at the age of 8. Currently a member of the Florida House of Representatives for District 64, she assumed office on November 8, 2022.


  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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