Joe Saunders (Florida politician)

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Joe Saunders
Joe Saunders House portrait.jpg
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 49th district
In office
November 20, 2012 – November 18, 2014
Preceded by Darren Soto
Succeeded by Rene Plasencia
Personal details
Born (1983-04-12) April 12, 1983 (age 33)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Political party Democratic Party
Alma mater University of Central Florida (B.A.)
Profession Community organizer

Joe Saunders (born April 12, 1983) is an American community activist and politician. He was a Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing the 49th District, including northern Orange County and the main campus of the University of Central Florida, from 2012 to 2014.


Saunders was born in Fort Lauderdale and attended the University of Central Florida, from which he graduated with a degree in political science in 2005. While in his undergraduate career, he was active on campus, serving as the President of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Student Union and the co-chair of the UCF Progressive Council.[1] Upon graduation, Saunders took a job as an organizer with Equality Florida, where he continues to work as the Director of Civic Engagement.[2]

Florida House of Representatives[edit]

Following the reconfiguration of state legislative districts in 2012, the 49th District was created, centered around the University of Central Florida campus, and Saunders ran in the open seat. In the Democratic primary, he easily defeated Shayan Elahi, winning the nomination of his party with 65% of the vote. Advancing to the general election, Saunders faced Marco Peña, a development officer for Florida Hospital and the Republican nominee. During the campaign, the Republican Party of Florida targeted the district, referring to Saunders as "Special Interest Joe" due to his work with Equality Florida and claiming that he was "new to the neighborhood," to which Saunders responded by noting that "he has lived in Orlando for more than a decade and attended UCF at the same time as Peña."[3] The Orlando Sentinel endorsed Peña over Saunders, noting that voters had to choose between "two smart, successful candidates" and praising Saunders as a candidate who "knows state issues and has good ideas about many of them," but recommending Peña due to his experience.[4] In the end, Saunders was able to defeat Peña by a fairly wide margin, winning his first term in the legislature with 56% of the vote.

Along with fellow State Representative David Richardson, Saunders is the first openly gay member of the state legislature.[5]


  1. ^ Pereda, Jessica (October 24, 2012). "Joe Saunders discusses equality, candidacy for Florida House of Reps". Central Florida Future. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Our Staff". Equality Florida. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  3. ^ Garcia, Jason (October 31, 2012). "Amid heavy spending on ads, House race between rookie candidates turns ugly". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  4. ^ "For House Districts 49, 50, 43". Orlando Sentinel. October 9, 2012. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Florida's first openly gay state lawmakers say equality just part of their priority list". The Palm Beach Post. December 24, 2012. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 

External links[edit]