Darren Soto

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Darren Soto
Darren Soto 115th Congress photo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 9th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Preceded by Alan Grayson
Member of the Florida Senate
from the 14th district
In office
November 6, 2012 – November 8, 2016
Preceded by Redistricted
Succeeded by Victor M. Torres Jr.
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 49th district
In office
April 24, 2007 – November 6, 2012
Preceded by John Quiñones
Succeeded by Redistricted
Personal details
Born (1978-02-25) February 25, 1978 (age 40)
Ringwood, New Jersey, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Amanda Soto
Education Rutgers University–New Brunswick (BA)
George Washington University (JD)
Website House website

Darren Michael Soto (born February 25, 1978) is an American attorney and politician from Orlando, Florida, who is the U.S. Representative for Florida's 9th district. He defeated Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in the 2016 general election, 57-43%.[1] Prior to being elected to Congress, Soto served for four years in the Florida Senate and five in the Florida House of Representatives, representing parts of the Orlando area.

Early life and education[edit]

Soto was born in the borough of 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. 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. He 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.

"My family's history is the Puerto Rican history in Florida," Soto has said.[2]

Florida House of Representatives[edit]

In 2006, Soto ran for the Florida House of Representatives from the 40th District, unsuccessfully challenging incumbent 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.[3] In the general election, Soto defeated Tony Suarez, the Republican nominee, by 285 votes. Soto was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2008 and 2010.[4][5][citation needed]

During his three terms in the Florida House, Soto supported laws to curb illegal street racing,[6] protect families of deceased firefighters, and maintain school safety. He fought to protect homeowners' access to the courts in foreclosure proceedings and to assure adequate funding to address the unprecedented housing crisis in Florida. Soto was a key voice in securing the passage of Sunrail to bring commuter rail to Central Florida.[citation needed]

Florida Senate[edit]

In 2012, Florida Senate districts were redrawn, and Soto opted not to run for re-election in the House but instead to run for the newly created 14th District, which included predominantly Latino areas of Orange, Osceola, and Polk Counties. He won his party's nomination uncontested and faced Republican Will McBride.[7] Soto defeated McBride with over 70% of the vote.[8]

In his first term in the Florida Senate in 2013, Soto played a major role in the passage of legislation that would have expedited driver's license access for DREAMers, but it was ultimately vetoed by Governor Rick Scott,[9] setting off statewide protests.[10] 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 establish Florida's Hardest Hit Principal Reduction Program. He unsuccessfully proposed an amendment that would "raise the required jury vote from seven to 10 for death penalties."[11]

In 2014, Soto passed legislation answering the Florida Supreme Court's call to give it the authority to admit immigrant lawyers to the Florida Bar. He also strongly advocated legislation giving DREAMers in-state college tuition. He secured the initial state funding to establish a Poinciana Valencia Campus and to initiate the Lake Toho Restoration, which will clean water flowing through the Northern Everglades. In addition, he led the Democratic House and Senate Caucuses in drafting a Congressional Map during the 2014 Special Session on Redistricting.[12]

During the 2015 legislative session, Soto was fundamental in securing $11.9M in funding for Valencia College's Poinciana campus.[13] Soto also successfully pushed for $20M to restore the Kissimmee River.[14] This earned him the "Champion of the Everglades" award from the Audubon Society of Florida.[15] Soto also proposed legislation to ban fracking in Florida.[16] He secured $10M in Florida's budget to promote economic growth in Osceola County for a new facility to manufacture high-tech sensors. However, the project was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott.[17] Soto also introduced a bill to boost minimum teacher pay to $50,000 per year.[18][19]

Senator Soto steered funding to his district, including $15M for the UCF Sensors Manufacturing Center, $12M to complete the construction of the Poinciana Valencia College campus,[20] $4M in supplemental school construction money,[21] $750k for the Northern Everglades and Lake Toho initiatives and $150k for a transition house that offers temporary housing for veterans. In 2016, Soto supported Chloe's Law to construct barriers around water bodies adjacent to state roads,[22] the Deaf Floridian's ID bill,[23] 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.[24]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Elections[edit]

2016[edit]

Soto won the Democratic nomination to succeed Rep. Alan Grayson, who had stepped down to run in the primary for U.S. Senate in Florida's 9th congressional district.[25] Soto earned 36% of the vote in a four-way primary election.[26] The district is Democratic-leaning and contains all of Osceola County and parts of Orange and Polk counties. Soto has represented the majority of this district while serving in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate. The Orlando Sentinel endorsed him in his primary race, calling him an "effective lawmaker."[27] Soto won the general election for the seat, defeating Republican Wayne Liebnitzky, 57-43%.[1]

2018[edit]

Soto successfully defeated his predecessor, Alan Grayson, with a 32% margin of victory.[28] Soto received endorsements from almost every Democratic organization in his reelection campaign: National Organization for Women,[29] Pride Fund to End Gun Violence,[30] Giffords PAC,[31] Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida,[32] National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare,[33] Equality PAC,[34] League of Conservation Voters,[35] Human Rights Campaign,[36] Florida AFL-CIO,[37] Florida Young Democrats,[38] Orlando Professional Fire Fighters International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1365, Central Florida Police Benevolent Association,[39] Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus,[40] eMgage PAC,[41] Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC,[42] and Planned Parenthood.[43] Soto also has the backing of Vice President Joe Biden,[44] Congressman John Lewis,[45] Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Florida State Senator Vic Torres, along with every Florida Democratic Member of Congress.[46]

Congressman Soto will face Republican candidate Wayne Liebnitzky in the general election.[47]

115th Congress (2017-2018)[edit]

Tenure[edit]

Soto is the first Congressman of Puerto Rican descent elected from Florida.[48] In his first few weeks, Soto was named by Nancy Pelosi as one of only three freshmen Members to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. He was also named co-chair of the House Democratic Caucus New Economy Task Force.[49]

On December 23, 2017, Soto passed his second bill the "Foreign Spill Protection Act" along with co-introducer US Rep. Carlos Curbelo. The bill eliminates a $1 Billion cap on damages for foreign oil drillers, whose oil spills pollute America’s waters, to better protect Florida’s beautiful coasts.[50]

Soto introduced a bill to rename a Kissimmee Post Office (HR 4042) at 1415 West Oak St after the Borinqueneers. Recently this bill passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law on March 23, 2018. The Borinqueneers were a U.S Army segregated unit of Puerto Ricans who fought in WWI, WWII and Korean War with great distinction and valor. In 2014, they were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for their brave service to our country.[51]

Congressman Soto passed a law to protect billfish, such as marlin, spearfish, and sailfish. H.R. 4528 closes a loophole in the Billfish Conservation Act making it illegal to sell billfish in the continental United States. The law passed the U.S. House on June 25, 2018 and was signed into law on August 2, 2018.[52]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucuses[edit]

Political positions[edit]

Immigration[edit]

Soto is a staunch advocate for DREAMers and is working with fellow members of the Hispanic Caucus to pass the DREAM Act.[56] In June 2018, Congressman Soto traveled to Homestead, Florida to tour a detention facility with several Democratic Members of Congress where he argued against Trump's zero tolerance policy and the separation of children and families.[57] He has been the strongest advocate in Congress for Alejandra Juarez, the wife of an Iraq combat veteran and mother of two American daughters, who was deported to Mexico recently due to Trump's zero tolerance policy. "Zero tolerance literally ripped this family apart," said Rep. Darren Soto "The administration is so extreme on immigration that they’re deporting the spouses of military veterans."[58]

Environmental Policy[edit]

Darren is officially the greenest Member of the Florida Congressional Delegation for 2017. He received a perfect score of 100 for his environmental issues voting record from the National League of Conservation Voters.[59] He introduced the Wild and Scenic River Study Act of 2017 (H.R.3961), which passed unanimously out of committee on January 17, 2018. On April 16, 2018, this bill passed unanimously out of the U.S. House.[60] Soto led strong opposition to Trump Administration proposals to permit oil drilling off Florida's Gulf and Atlantic coasts during the House Committee on Natural Resources meetings.[61][62][63] Soto has also championed funding increases for the National Estuary Program the National Wildlife Refuge System program.[64]

On June 6, 2018, Soto passed his Shark and Billfish Protection Act out of House Natural Resources Committee. Senator Bill Nelson passed the Senate companion bill on October 2, 2017.[65]

Gun control[edit]

Soto received an "A" rating from the NRA in 2012,[66] but his views on the Second Amendment changed after the 2012 Newtown Shooting. In the Florida Senate, he became a reliable vote for gun safety, which ultimately led to earning a "D" rating from the NRA for his service there from 2013-2016.[67]

After the Pulse tragedy, Soto called for a special session to prevent those on the FBI's No Fly List from purchasing firearms.[68]

Since 2017 to present, he has been a reliable vote for gun safety reform. After the February 2018 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting, he proposed his "Gun Safety Action Plan." He listed five steps: universal background checks for gun purchases, keeping guns away from those who are a danger to themselves or others, banning assault weapons and bump stocks, creating a "red-flag" system to issue gun restraining orders, and disallowing anyone on the federal terrorism "no-fly" list from buying a gun.[69]

Following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida in 2018, Soto stated that gun control will be "one of those litmus test issues" in the 2018 midterms.[70]

Hurricane safety[edit]

Working with Senator Bill Nelson, Soto passed his first law in Congress on April 18, 2017 creating a backup fleet of hurricane hunter aircraft to monitor hurricanes affecting Florida and other nearby areas.[71]

Recovery assistance[edit]

Soto is working on debt reduction and tax, healthcare, agriculture and small business relief to assist Puerto Rico in its economic recovery.[72] He also successfully led a bipartisan letter requesting FEMA Designation of Individual Assistance for the citizens of Orange, Osceola, Polk, Lake and Seminole counties after Hurricane Irma.[73] In 2018, he voted to bring back billions of dollars in recovery funding to Central Florida and Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Personal life[edit]

On April 1, 2018, Soto's wife, Amanda Soto, was arrested at Walt Disney World and charged with disorderly intoxication. [74]

In a statement, Darren Soto said his wife had been in treatment for depression for years and had recently stopped taking medication in accordance with her treatment plan and under her doctor's supervision. He went on to say that "she deeply regrets her actions and takes full responsibility for them."[75]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Finally! Darren Soto makes history as the first Puerto Rican to represent Florida in the U.S. Congress, Latina, BY Raquel Reichard, November 11, 2016. Retrieved November 13, 2016.
  2. ^ Delgado, José A. "Darren Soto: "My Family is the Puerto Rican History in Florida"". El Nuevo Día. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  3. ^ "6 Democrats vie for Quinones' seat: Winner of March 20 primary faces GOP's Suarez in April". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Florida House of Representatives elections for 2008", Ballotpedia
  5. ^ "Florida House of Representatives elections for 2010", Ballotpedia
  6. ^ "Florida House of Representatives - CS/HB 97 - Street Racing". Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Senate District 8 Leaning Toward Darren Soto". Sunshine State News. Retrieved May 17, 2013. 
  8. ^ "For State Senate Districts 12, 13, 14 we endorse..." Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 17, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Senate Bill 0986 (2013) - The Florida Senate". Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Protesters Want Florida To Allow Illegal Immigrants To Obtain Driver's Licenses « CBS Tampa". Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Timely Justice Act, Measure Speeding Up Executions, Approved By Florida Senate". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 17, 2013. 
  12. ^ "S014C9040 - The Florida Senate". Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Sen. Soto, Rep. La Rosa Announce $11.9 Million for Poinciana Campus". Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  14. ^ Mitch Perry. "Nancy Watkins will not run for the Tampa HD 60 seat". SaintPetersBlog. Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  15. ^ "Darren Soto named "Champion of the Everglades"". The Orlando Political Observer. October 25, 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Senate Bill 0166 (2015) - The Florida Senate". Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Gov. Scott's veto hurts new research center in Osceola County". Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Senate Bill 0280 (2015) - The Florida Senate". Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Bill List - The Florida Senate". Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Gov. Scott Approves $12.1 Million for Poinciana Campus". Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Official community newspaper of Kissimmee, Osceola County including Kissimmee, St. Cloud, Celebration, Poinciana, Harmony and surrounding areas". Osceola News-Gazette. Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  22. ^ "KnightNews.com » Chloe's Law, a bill filed in memory of a UCF student, passes Florida House & Senate". knightnews.com. Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  23. ^ Sascha Cordner. "Bills Filed To Help Deaf Floridians Who May Face Arrest". Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  24. ^ FOX. "Clean slate for juveniles bill moving forward". WOFL. Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 22, 2015. Retrieved July 19, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Florida Election Results 2016". August 1, 2017 – via NYTimes.com. 
  27. ^ Sentinel, Orlando. "Darren Soto, Val Demings: Our picks for Congress: Endorsements 2016". Retrieved February 7, 2017. 
  28. ^ By $${element.Contributor} (August 28, 2018). "Florida's Darren Soto Easily Holds Off Alan Grayson Comeback Bid". Rollcall.com. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  29. ^ "National Organization for Women endorses U.S. Rep. Darren Soto". Orlando Sentinel. August 30, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  30. ^ "Pride Fund endorses Darren Soto, Val Demings, Carlos Guillermo Smith". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  31. ^ "Giffords PAC endorses Darren Soto in CD 9 race". Florida Politics. July 31, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  32. ^ "Darren Soto picks up Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida nod". Florida Politics. July 24, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  33. ^ "Alan Grayson returns to seek old seat in Congress". Orlando Sentinel. August 30, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  34. ^ "Equality PAC Endorses Rep. Darren Soto (FL-09) - Equality PAC". Lgbtequalitypac.org. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  35. ^ "League of Conservation Voters endorses Darren Soto". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  36. ^ "Darren Soto picks up Human Rights Campaign endorsement in CD 9 race". Florida Politics. June 19, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  37. ^ http://flaflcio.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018-Florida-AFL-CIO-Endorsements.xlsx
  38. ^ "Florida Young Dems endorse Sean Shaw, Jeremy Ring, Darren Soto, Val Demings". Orlando Rising. May 15, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  39. ^ "Darren Soto picks up nods from fire fighters, police unions". Florida Politics. June 5, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  40. ^ "Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus". Floridalgbtademocrats.org. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  41. ^ "The policy home for American Muslims". Emgage PAC. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  42. ^ "Progressive Caucus Endorses Soto – WON". Westorlandonews.com. March 8, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  43. ^ "Planned Parenthood backs Darren Soto in CD 9 primary". Florida Politics. May 15, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  44. ^ "Biden endorses Soto over Grayson in Florida congressional primary". Politico.com. May 29, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  45. ^ "Darren Soto picks up endorsement from U.S. Rep. John Lewis". Florida Politics. May 17, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  46. ^ "Darren Soto endorsed by 10 other members of Fla. congressional district". Florida Politics. March 16, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  47. ^ "Candidates and Races - Candidate Tracking system - Florida Division of Elections - Department of State". Dos.elections.myflorida.com. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  48. ^ "Darren Soto elected first Puerto Rican congressman from Florida". Retrieved July 4, 2018. 
  49. ^ "Darren Soto named to Congressional Democrats' jobs task force - Florida Politics". floridapolitics.com. 
  50. ^ "Carlos Curbelo's, Darren Soto's Foreign Spill Protection Act Signed into Law". December 13, 2017. Retrieved July 4, 2018. 
  51. ^ Darren, Soto, (March 23, 2018). "Amendments - H.R.4042 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1415 West Oak Street, in Kissimmee, Florida, as the "Borinqueneers Post Office Building"." www.congress.gov. Retrieved July 4, 2018. 
  52. ^ "New Law Prohibits Sale of Billfish in United States". Florida Sportsman. August 13, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  53. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Retrieved January 30, 2018. 
  54. ^ "Members". New Democrat Coalition. Retrieved February 6, 2018. 
  55. ^ "Members". Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Retrieved May 15, 2018. 
  56. ^ "Column:". September 5, 2017. 
  57. ^ "Wasserman Schultz: Two more South Florida facilities holding children separated from their families. | Tampa Bay Times". Tampabay.com. June 23, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  58. ^ "When a Trump supporter's wife is deported". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 20, 2018. 
  59. ^ "Darren Soto gets perfect score from Conservation Voters, tops Florida members". March 1, 2018. Retrieved July 4, 2018. 
  60. ^ "Darren Soto's Bill Protecting Kissimmee River Clears House Without Opposition". April 17, 2018. Retrieved July 4, 2018. 
  61. ^ D'Angelo, Chris (January 19, 2018). "Florida Waters Could Still Be Leased For Oil Drilling, Despite Ryan Zinke's Tweet". Retrieved July 4, 2018 – via Huff Post. 
  62. ^ "Darren Soto pins down Everglades, drilling assurances from interior secretary - Florida Politics". floridapolitics.com. 
  63. ^ Conroy, Cathy (July 20, 2017). "Rep. Soto Opposes Oil Drilling, Seismic Testing, in Remarks to Natural Resources Committee". orlando-politics.com. Political Observer. 
  64. ^ "Column: Congress should find money to support estuaries in Tampa Bay, Florida". October 27, 2017. Retrieved July 4, 2018. 
  65. ^ "Center for Sportfishing Policy". www.sportfishingpolicy.com. Retrieved July 4, 2018. 
  66. ^ Schneider, Elena (December 15, 2015). "Gun control becomes a litmus test in Democratic primaries". Politico. Arlington County, Virginia. Retrieved March 1, 2018. 
  67. ^ Weiner, Jeff. "Entering GOP-led Congress, Democrat Soto no stranger to being outnumbered". Retrieved July 4, 2018. 
  68. ^ Rohrer, Gray (June 17, 2016). "GOP, Democrats still battle over gun control in Florida". Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, Florida. Retrieved March 1, 2018. 
  69. ^ White, Gary. "Polk lawmakers seek gun law changes, but differ on details". Retrieved July 4, 2018. 
  70. ^ "Florida Rep. Darren Soto: Gun Reform Will Be a "Litmus Test" at the Midterms". Cheddar. Cheddar, Inc. February 28, 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2018. 
  71. ^ Torres, Frank (April 5, 2017). "Darren Soto applauds passage of Hurricane Hunter Aircraft back-up bill". orlando-politics.com. Political Observer. 
  72. ^ Soto, Darren. "Darren Soto: Give power back to people of Puerto Rico". Retrieved July 4, 2018. 
  73. ^ Shanklin, Mary. "Trump approves greater FEMA aid for 37 Florida counties". Retrieved July 4, 2018. 
  74. ^ Ruiz, Stephen; Lemongello, Steven. "Congressman Darren Soto's wife arrested at Walt Disney World". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved August 2, 2018. 
  75. ^ Lemongello, Stephen Ruiz, Steven. "Congressman Darren Soto's wife arrested at Walt Disney World". Retrieved July 4, 2018. 

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Alan Grayson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 9th congressional district

2017–present
Incumbent
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Lloyd Smucker
R-Pennsylvania
United States Representatives by seniority
416th
Succeeded by
Thomas Suozzi
D-New York