Florida's first openly gay rep to represent 'all'

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The first openly gay candidate elected to the Florida Legislature said this week that he didn't run as a one-issue candidate and intends to represent all of his constituents regardless of sexual orientation.

David Richardson, a certified public accountant from Miami Beach, defeated three other Democrats in the Aug. 14 primary and is unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election.

"I did not run as a gay candidate and I'm not going to serve as the gay legislator," Richardson said in a telephone interview.

His election is significant for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community because LGBT issues seldom advance in state legislatures until they have openly gay members, Richardson said.

He plans to push for legislation that would outlaw employment discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation but also wants to put his accounting background to use on the state budget.

Richardson, 55, grew up in Orlando and began his career as a contract auditor for the U.S. Department of Defense in Tampa.

He said he's realistic about the chances of passing LGBT legislation in the Republican-controlled Legislature but believes his auditing background and experience in conflict resolution will help him work across the aisle.

"I know how to bring people together," Richardson said.

He said he knocked on thousands of doors during the campaign and never had a negative reaction to his sexual orientation although it had been well publicized in the community.

"Not one person closed their door to me because I'm gay," Richardson said. "Not one person brought it up."

Richardson could be joined by at least two other openly gay lawmakers.

"I'm proud of him," said Ian Whitley, a gay Democrat from Key West who will face Key Largo Republican Holly Raschein for the District 120 House seat in November.

Whitley, who did not have primary opposition, noted a number of local public officials in the Florida Keys are openly gay and said his sexual orientation has not been an issue in the campaign.

"People may have adjusted to it," he said. "It's something that doesn't come up."

Another openly gay candidate, Joe Saunders of Orlando, won the Democratic nomination in House District 49. He'll face Orlando Republican Marco Pena in the general election.