BY KRISTEN M. CLARK
Beginning her service in Tallahassee this week as Florida’s newest state senator, Miami Democrat Annette Taddeo said she aims to be “a voice of inclusion, a voice of opportunity for all.”
“Just bringing the voice of the people,” Taddeo said at the state Capitol Tuesday morning after she was officially sworn in as District 40’s next senator. “It was not just a hashtag when we said it was ‘a people-powered campaign’ — it was truly born from the community and I’m very proud of that.”
Taddeo won a special election on Sept. 26 to replace disgraced former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican who resigned in April. Her upset win over former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, helped the Democrats secure an additional seat in the Senate, narrowing the Republican majority to 24-16.
Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince administered the oath of office to Taddeo during a brief ceremony in the Senate chamber, with almost all of the members gathered. Taddeo’s husband, Eric Goldstein, 11-year-old daughter Sofia Taddeo-Goldstein and her mother, Elizabeth Taddeo, stood around her as she took the oath.
In remarks afterward, Taddeo expressed gratitude to her family, saying Sofia was “instrumental and always has been a great inspiration in my life” and specifically thanking Goldstein: “It’s not easy for a man to have a woman that much in the limelight and he sure has put up with a lot — and I love you.”
Taddeo talked about her “long journey” to the Senate, likening it to her first marathon she ran in Dublin, Ireland, soon after she had graduated from college and started her own translation business.
“I think it’s a good training for politics, because marathons are very tough on your body — and knowing me, I never pick the easy route,” she said.
She recalled that a hurricane that had struck Florida had wound its way back up north through the Atlantic and east to Ireland by the time of her race — forcing her to run in 45 mile-per-hour winds with rain that “felt like they were needles hitting me in my face.”
“Sometimes when you’re running for office, you feel as though there are so many things hitting you,” she said. “But as long as you keep your goal and you know that you really want to do this, and this is what you want to accomplish — that’s how I feel about being here. I really feel that we can do so much good.”
Taddeo’s Senate victory was her first campaign win after losing four elections in recent years: for Congress in 2008 and in 2016, to be a Miami-Dade County commissioner in 2010 and as Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial running mate in 2014.
As a senator, she said her biggest priorities will be focusing on education and environmental issues.
“I really believe that I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for public education,” Taddeo told reporters. “I also care very much and am very passionate about the environment. I think we’re at a time with all of these storms, we need to pay attention and I know we’re working on it. We need both houses to do it, not just the Senate.”
As an aside in her remarks, Taddeo — who was born in Colombia to a Colombian mother and an American father — told her new Senate colleagues not to be surprised if they hear “this Latina” drop a little “southern twang” from time to time amid her Hispanic accent.
“I don’t want you to think I’m being disrespectful to anybody — I learned English in Alabama,” she said with a small laugh.