On Thursday, a group of clergy, community leaders and residents of a South Miami-Dade community demanded action and the resignation of Sen. Frank Artiles for a diatribe the Miami Republican unleashed against two lawmakers at a Tallahassee bar.
On Friday, hours after Artiles, consumed by the scandal, resigned from the Florida Legislature, the same people gathered outside Second Baptist Church in Richmond Heights to applaud his decision. But the celebratory mood was tempered by a call for new leadership, a person mindful of the communities they must serve.
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“With the same strength we used to get Artiles to step down, this is the same strength we will use that whoever comes in, we will make sure you are held accountable to the same standard,” said Bishop Chauncey Brown, pastor of Greater William Chapel Freewill Baptist Church in Homestead.
“Who comes in this time will speak with the voice of the people, having met with this group of people and groups across the state,” Brown continued. “Our voices will not be silenced. Our people will not be marginalized. The people of South Dade and the Richmond Heights area can be proud of whoever comes to this seat. We will make sure this neighborhood, this church, our women of this neighborhood are respected and treated in a way we know is right.”
Only yesterday we met at our sister church at Bethel and made some demands and to make our feelings known. We weren’t asking for the resignation of Sen. Artiles. We were demanding the resignation. We come back here today really thanking God for hearing our prayers.
Pastor Alphonso Jackson Sr. of Second Baptist Church of Richmond Heights.
Tanika Bennett, a Kendall language arts teacher at Felix Varela Senior High, came to the small rally at the church with community support on her mind and a message for Artiles.
“I’m saying we can’t have someone who is a leader defaming other local politicians, other people who represent us,” she said. “It’s not right. I wasn’t elated, you can’t be elated by someone stepping down, but I am pleased with the decision he made to step down and bring some dignity to the situation.”
In a letter to Senate President Joe Negron, Artiles said he was resigning immediately for the sake of his family and the institution of the Senate. After word spread over his derogatory comments, work halted this week as Republican leaders pondered Artiles’ political future.
Artiles ran against Democrat Dwight Bullard for the Senate last year and won with 51 percent of the vote, 10 points ahead of Bullard and an independent candidate.
We come together as one and again we are standing together as brothers and sisters to make sure our community will go forward in a positive direction.
Rev. Theo Johnson, Sweethome Missionary Baptist Church in Perrine.
South Bay Community Council Member Johnny Farias, whose representation includes his Leisure City hometown and Goulds and Naranja, hopes Bullard takes the seat.
“I hope he does run. He represented the community well before and will do it again,” Farias said. As of Friday, Bullard has not committed but is on the list of likely Democrat and Republican possibilities.
In comments delivered in English and Spanish, Farias added, “He [Artiles] did the honorable thing” by stepping down. “The Latin community stands by this community and we stand with them to do the right thing for the right reason.”
Brad Brown, representative of international affairs for the NAACP’s Florida State Conference, praised the work of the pastors and the public who called for Artiles’ resignation on Thursday at nearby Bethel Church.
“We have struck a blow for decency and public discourse in the state of Florida with the resignation of Sen. Frank Artiles,” Brown said. “I congratulate all the people who called and emailed and spoke on this issue. But do not go to sleep. This is just a beginning and you need to stay involved.”
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ARTILES’ RESIGNATION LETTER
April 21, 2017
Dear President Negron,
Seven years ago, I began my public service with one goal in mind, and that was to serve a cause greater than my own.
Serving my constituents and improving their lives is why I serve. On many important issues, caring for the elderly, education and job creation, I have made it my personal mission to put others first. It’s the way I was raised, and the way I still choose to live my life today.
As a Marine, this attitude was embodied in our motto: Semper Fidelis, or “Always Faithful.” Be faithful to God, to country and to our fellow soldiers.
As a father and husband, despite the daily demands of elected office, I always keep the promises that I make to my two beautiful daughters, Bella and Giavanna, and my loving wife Aimee. I’m a fulfilled man, because of their unconditional love and support.
It is clear to me my recent actions and words that I spoke fell far short of what I expect for myself, and for this I am very sorry. I apologize to my family and friends and I apologize to all of my fellow Senators and lawmakers. To the people of my district and all of Miami-Dade, I am sorry I have let you down and ask for your forgiveness.
My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, and the citizens of our great State.
I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate.
It’s clear there are consequences to every action, and in this area, I will need time for personal reflection and growth.
I leave this office knowing that despite my shortcomings, I have fought hard to change the status quo while remaining true to myself. I’m grateful for those that have stood by my side, including my family, friends, and supporters.
Serving my community in the Florida Legislature has been the honor of a lifetime and I do not leave this process lightly. I will discover ways to continue to serve my community in the future.
God bless the great state of Florida and our great country.
Senator Frank Artiles