|Member of the Florida Senate
from the 14th district
|Preceded by||Steve Oelrich|
|Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 49 district
|Preceded by||John Quiñones|
|Succeeded by||Joe Saunders|
|Born||February 25, 1978|
Darren Michael Soto (born February 25, 1978) is an American attorney and politician from Orlando, Florida. He is a Democratic member of the Florida Senate, representing the 14th District, which includes parts of Orange, Osceola, and Polk Counties in central Florida. He is running to succeed Alan Grayson in the United States House of Representatives.
Soto was born in Ringwood, New Jersey to a Puerto Rican father, O. Lou Soto, and an Italian-American mother, Jean Soto. From 1998 to 2001, he worked for Prudential Insurance in finance while he attended college. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rutgers University in 2000, a Juris Doctor from George Washington University in 2004, and opened his law practice the following year.
Soto has a bachelor's degree in Economics, and attended Law School at George Washington University. Soto is a commercial and civil rights attorney proudly practicing law in Central Florida. He is ardent defender of civil rights and is committed to rendering legal services pro bono to the community. In 2006, he was named class counsel in the federal class action brought on behalf of Hispanic voters against the City of Kissimmee in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
Soto is a former member of the Civil Service Board for the City of Orlando, served as the Treasurer of the Orange County Democrats and the Vice President of Communications for the Orange County Young Democrats (YD's). He was also the YD Co-Host for their Speak Easy events that provide a monthly forum for local and state leaders to speak to young voters.
Florida House of Representatives
In 2006, Soto ran for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives from the 40th District, unsuccessfully challenging incumbent State Representative Andy Gardiner. In April 2007, he emerged victorious from a crowded Democratic primary in a special election to replace John Quinones, who had resigned to run for the Osceola County Commission. In the general election, Soto narrowly defeated former Democratic State Representative Tony Suarez, the Republican nominee, by 285 votes to win the election. Soto was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2008 and 2010.
During his first three terms in the Florida House, Soto passed legislation in several areas including curbing illegal street racing, protecting families of fallen firefighters, and maintaining school safety. He also fought to protect homeowners' access to the courts in foreclosure proceedings as well as assured adequately funded courts to deal with the unprecedented housing crisis in Florida. Soto was a key voice in securing the passage of Sunrail to bring commuter rail to Central Florida. He also played a critical roll through his debates in stopping the split of the Florida Supreme Court and preventing an Arizona-styled immigration law from passing in Florida.
In 2012, Florida Senate districts were redrawn, and Soto opted to run for the newly created 14th District rather than seek re-election in the House. He won his party's nomination uncontested and faced Republican Will McBride, who had previously run for the United States Senate in 2006. Soto won the endorsement of the Orlando Sentinel, which praised him as "the rare Democrat who works productively across the aisle," citing his work to get "Central Florida's SunRail commuter system approved." Though the contest was initially thought to be a toughly-fought one, in the end, Soto overwhelmingly defeated McBride, winning over 70% of the vote.
In his first term in the Florida Senate in 2013, Soto passed legislation expediting the time for immigrant children receiving deferred action to acquire a driver's license, which was ultimately vetoed by Governor Rick Scott setting off statewide protests. He also played a critical role in reducing the statute of limitations from 5 years to 1 year for banks to collect foreclosure debt and helped start Florida's Hardest Hit Principal Reduction Program to assist struggling homeowners. When confronted with legislation that would expedite the execution process for people on death row in Florida, he unsuccessfully proposed an amendment that would "raise the required jury vote from seven to 10 for death penalties," noting that Florida is the only state requiring a simple majority vote by the jury for the death penalty.
In 2014, Soto passed historic legislation answering the Florida Supreme Court's call to give them the authority to admit immigrant lawyers into the Florida Bar while being strong advocate for successful passage of legislation giving DREAMer's in-state tuition. He secured the initial state funding to start a Poinciana Valencia Campus and the Lake Toho Restoration which will clean water flowing through the Northern Everglades. In addition, he boldly led the Democratic House and Senate Caucuses in drafting and presenting an important Congressional Map during the 2014 Special Session on Redistricting.
During the 2015 legislative session, Soto was fundamental in securing $11.9M in funding for Valencia College's Poinciana campus. This allowed area students to seek higher education without traveling two hours round trip to attend classes. Soto also successfully pushed for $20M to restore the Kissimmee River, which helps preserve the Northern Everglades. This earned him the award of "Champion of the Everglades" presented by the Audubon Society of Florida. Darren continued to fight for one of his top priorities - the environment - by proposing legislation to ban fracking in Florida. He secured $10M in Florida's budget to promote economic growth in Osceola County for a new state of the art facility that will manufacture high tech sensors. However, the project was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott. Soto also introduced a bill to boost minimum teacher pay to $50,000 per year. He continues to fight for these priorities in the upcoming legislative session by introducing bills that will help Florida's families.
Senator Soto had a banner budget year in the 2016 Legislative Session bringing nearly $31 million back to the district. This funding included $15M for the UCF Sensors Manufacturing Center, $12M to complete the construction of the Poinciana Valencia College campus, $4M in supplemental school construction to address overcrowded Osceola County public schools, $750k for restoring the Northern Everglades and Lake Toho and $150k for the Transition House that offers temporary housing for veterans. In 2016, Darren also passed important legislation, including Chloe's Law to construct more barriers around water bodies adjacent to state roads in order to increase public safety, the Deaf Floridian's ID bill creating a deaf symbol on drivers' licenses and other state identification cards to prevent confusion in law enforcement interactions, and the Juvenile Clean Slate bill which automatically seals misdemeanor records for juveniles who reach 21 years of age and do not reoffend as adults.
- "6 Democrats vie for Quinones' seat: Winner of March 20 primary faces GOP's Suarez in April". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
- "Florida House of Representatives - CS/HB 97 - Street Racing". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- "Senate District 8 Leaning Toward Darren Soto". Sunshine State News. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
- "For State Senate Districts 12, 13, 14 we endorse...". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
- "Senate Bill 0986 (2013) - The Florida Senate". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- "Protesters Want Florida To Allow Illegal Immigrants To Obtain Driver's Licenses « CBS Tampa". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- "Timely Justice Act, Measure Speeding Up Executions, Approved By Florida Senate". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
- "S014C9040 - The Florida Senate". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- "Sen. Soto, Rep. La Rosa Announce $11.9 Million for Poinciana Campus". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- Mitch Perry. "Nancy Watkins will not run for the Tampa HD 60 seat". SaintPetersBlog. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- "Darren Soto named "Champion of the Everglades"". The Orlando Political Observer. 2015-10-25. Retrieved 2016-06-24.
- "Senate Bill 0166 (2015) - The Florida Senate". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- "Gov. Scott's veto hurts new research center in Osceola County". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- "Senate Bill 0280 (2015) - The Florida Senate". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- "Bill List - The Florida Senate". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- "Gov. Scott Approves $12.1 Million for Poinciana Campus". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- "Official community newspaper of Kissimmee, Osceola County including Kissimmee, St. Cloud, Celebration, Poinciana, Harmony and surrounding areas". Osceola News-Gazette. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- "KnightNews.com » Chloe's Law, a bill filed in memory of a UCF student, passes Florida House & Senate". knightnews.com. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- Sascha Cordner. "Bills Filed To Help Deaf Floridians Who May Face Arrest". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- FOX. "Clean slate for juveniles bill moving forward". WOFL. Retrieved April 20, 2016.