LGBTQ South Florida

Early endorsement: LGBTQ-rights group SAVE picks Richardson to succeed Ros-Lehtinen

State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, speaks June 16 at SAVE’s Champions of Equality reception in Miami.
State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, speaks June 16 at SAVE’s Champions of Equality reception in Miami. Miami Herald File

A year and a half before the general election, South Florida LGBTQ-rights group SAVE on Monday endorsed state Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Richardson, now 60, became Florida’s first openly gay lawmaker when elected in 2012. Ros-Lehtinen, 65, a longtime advocate and mother of trans activist Rodrigo Lehtinen, is considered the most vocal Republican in Congress favoring LGBTQ rights.

“This endorsement is the earliest SAVE has ever done, because Rep. Richardson is a true champion of equality and the ideal candidate to replace Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen,” SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima said in a news release.

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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen speaks in 2012 at SAVE’s Champions of Equality reception after being introduced by Joseph Falk, then SAVE’s board chairman. STEVE ROTHAUS Miami Herald File

Four other Democrats — state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person — also are in the race, as well as three Republicans: former Miami-Dade School Board member and Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and Maria Peiro, who unsuccessfully challenged Ros-Lehtinen in last year's primary.

Previously, SAVE has recommended Rodriguez and Barreiro in their respective races.

“We’ve supported and stood behind Jose Javier Rodriguez and Bruno Barreiro during past elections and we respect their candidacies. However, Rep. Richardson has consistently advocated for the LGBTQ community and, just as importantly, he has been able to get policy passed even while in the minority party,” Lima said.

Richardson ran for office after he retired as a forensic auditor. Drawing on a 30-year career unraveling corporate corruption and financial malfeasance, he turned his expertise into examining the financial records, policies and allegations of abuse in the state's troubled corrections system.

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State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, speaks Feb. 15 from Tallahassee during a SAVE town hall meeting in Miami. STEVE ROTHAUS Miami Herald File

“SAVE does groundbreaking work on the front lines in the fight for equality and I’m honored to have their support,” Richardson said in a statement. “We’re going to win this race by putting together a strong, diverse coalition and the gay community is a critical part of that. I’ve seen in the past that once SAVE gets on board, they commit 100 percent and I’m thrilled that they will be putting their army to work to help us win our campaign.”