New Members 2010 - Florida


House 02

House 05

House 08

House 12

House 17

House 21

House 22

House 24

House 25


Date of birth: May 28, 1971
Birthplace: Miami
Residence: West Miami
Occupation: Lawyer
Education: B.S., University of Florida; J.D., University of Miami
Previous office held: Speaker of Florida House of Representatives, 2007-2009
Family: Wife, Jeanette; four children

Within a decade, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) has risen through the ranks from city commissioner in a Miami suburb to win Florida’s vacant seat in the Senate.

Along the way, he served for eight years in Florida’s House of Representatives, including his last two as Speaker. His reign as state House Speaker has attracted the most notice, highlighted by the publication of a book he wrote titled 100 Ideas, which he developed from travels around the state. The book also served as the basis for his staunchly conservative push to shrink taxes and government.

A protégé of former Gov. Jeb Bush, Rubio attracted early and strong support from Tea Party activists in the Sunshine State.


Date of birth: Oct. 10, 1965
Birthplace: Panama City, Fla.
Residence: Panama City, Fla.
Occupation: Funeral home owner
Education: A.A., Jefferson State Junior College; B.S., Troy State
Previous office held: None
Family: Wife, Susan; four daughters

Steve Southerland comes to Congress after successfully unseating longtime incumbent Rep. Allen Boyd (D) in Florida’s 2nd congressional district.

The funeral home co-owner and director had never held elective office, despite having received several appointments to state and local boards by Florida governors in both parties. He emerged comfortably in a five-way Republican primary in the district and was quickly added afterward to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program.

His is a lifelong Panama City resident, and his family is the fourth generation of Southerlands to call Bay County home. He and his wife, Susan, have four daughters: Samantha (20), Stephanie (18), Allison (14) and Abby (12).


Date of birth: May 26, 1951
Birthplace: Evergreen Park, Ill.
Residence: Spring Hill, Fla.
Occupation: Military service member, law enforcement official
Education: B.A., St. Leo University, M.P.A., Troy State University; FBI National Academy
Previous office held: Hernando (Fla.) County Sheriff
Family: Wife Wendy, three sons

The hand-selected candidate of retiring Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) is hoping to use his law enforcement experience to get things done in Washington.

Rich Nugent served in the Illinois Air National Guard during the Vietnam War for six years, earning an honorable discharge in 1975. In 1984, he joined the Hernando (Fla.) County Sheriff’s office and eventually was elected sheriff in 2000, a position he has held since.

Nugent’s predecessor served Florida’s 5th congressional district, which contains exurbs of Tampa and Orlando, since 2003 until retiring for health reasons. The man she picked to succeed her ran against small businessman Jim Piccillo, a Republican-turned-Democrat.

Nugent ran on a pro-business, small-government platform in the district, picking up endorsements from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), a noted social conservative.

Nugent’s three sons all have or are planning to serve in the U.S. Army or Army Reserve. His oldest son Ryan graduated from West Point in 2004, and his youngest son Casey entered the academy in 2010.


Date of birth: April 27, 1949
Birthplace: Charleston, W. Va.
Residence: Winter Park, Fla.
Occupation: Air-conditioning contractor
Education: Georgia Tech
Previous office held: State senator

Dan Webster defeated maverick Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson (Fla.), one of the most outspoken members of Congress.

Grayson was a staple of cable news shows who fired up the left while earning enmity from the right. The broadsides against Republicans helped him raise money, but didn’t save his seat in a swing district that had been held by a Republican just two years ago.

During his campaign, Webster emphasized his support for repealing healthcare. A longtime state legislator, Webster in 1996 became the first GOP state House Speaker in 122 years. He served as state Senate majority leader from 2005-08.

In 2005, Webster led the State Legislature’s attempt to extend the life of Terry Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose case sparked a national debate over end-of-life issues.


Date of birth: Oct. 18, 1959
Birthplace: Lakeland, Fla.
Residence: Lakeland, Fla.
Occupation: State representative
Education: B.S., Auburn University; J.D., Cumberland School of Law
Previous office held: State representative
Family: Wife, Cindy; two sons

Dennis Ross was a member of the Florida House of Representatives since 2000. He ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 1996, losing to an incumbent.

Before that, he practiced law at Holland & Knight, as an in-house counsel for the Walt Disney Company, and in his own practice, which he formed in 1989 after borrowing $10,000 from a neighbor. It grew to have seven lawyers and 27 employees under the title Ross Veccio, P.A. Before law school, he worked for several companies in the micro-computer industry.

He has been active in the Republican Party since the late ’80s, including with local Young Republican organizations. He and his family have traveled to each of the 48 continental states, mostly by motor home. He grew up in Florida and met wife Cindy in high school.


Date of birth: Oct. 5, 1942
Birthplace: Miami
Residence: Miami Gardens, Fla.
Occupation: Politician, school principal, school board member, founder of 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project
Education: B.S., Fisk University; M.A, University of Miami
Previous office held: State representative, state senator
Family: Widowed, three children

Frederica Wilson took the seat Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) vacated to run for Senate. She succeeded him in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate as well, getting elected to the former in 1998 and the latter in 2002. She has worked as a school principal and teacher and founded the 5000 Role Models for Excellence Project, which seeks to intervene in the lives of at-risk boys. She began the program in 1992; it has since awarded more than $5 million in scholarships to minority boys. She also served as a member of the county school board. Her campaign says she was one of the first elected officials in Florida to endorse President Obama during the 2008 campaign. Her campaign also touted bipartisanship, noting that she worked with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol.


Date of birth: Sept. 25, 1961
Birthplace: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Residence: Miami
Occupation: Political assistant
Education: B.A., University of South Florida
Previous office held: U.S. congressman
Family: Wife, Tia; one child

Mario Diaz-Balart was elected to the House from Florida’s 25th district in 2003 but decided to run in a neighboring district this year. He will now hold the 21st district seat vacated by his brother, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R).

Born and raised in Florida, Diaz-Balart’s roots are in the Democratic Party, but he changed his affiliation to Republican in 1985. He started his political career as an aide to then-Miami mayor Xavier Suarez and was elected to the Florida House in 1988 and the Florida Senate in 1992. Diaz-Balart is a founding member and vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. His aunt, Mirta Diaz-Balart, was the first wife of Fidel Castro. His late father, Rafael, was a Cuban politician who served as majority leader of the Cuban House of Representatives.

Date of birth: Feb. 7, 1961
Birthplace: Atlanta
Residence: Plantation, Fla.
Occupation: Retired Army, Defense Department contractor
Education: B.A., University of Tennessee; M.S., Kansas State University; MMAS, U.S. Army Command and General Staff Officer College
Previous office held: None
Family: Wife, Angela; two daughters

Allen West first ran for this House seat in 2008, losing to former Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.). This time, he ran armed with an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and aligned himself with the Tea Party movement. He was born and raised in Atlanta and is the third in four generations of military servicemen in his family. He was in the Army for two decades. He served in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and as a contractor in Afghanistan, advising the Afghan army. West moved to Florida six years ago after retiring from the military and taught high school for a year. He is an avid long-distance runner.


Date of birth: Dec. 14, 1956
Birthplace: Wyandotte, Mich.
Residence: Orlando, Fla.
Occupation: Law enforcement
Education: B.A., Columbia College
Previous office held: State representative
Family: Husband, John; two children

Sandy Adams has served in the Florida House of Representatives since 2002. Before that, she served for 17 years in the Orange County Deputy Sheriff’s Department, obtaining the title of deputy sheriff. She was raised in a military family and joined the U.S. Air Force at 17. Her first husband, Frank, died in the line of duty as a law enforcement official.

Adams says the death of her first husband had a dramatic impact on her life. As a single parent, she worked two jobs seven days a week to support herself. She also became active on victim’s rights issues, helping to establish the Central Florida Chapter of the Concerns of Police Survivors. During her House campaign, Adams took a stern line on illegal immigration and also opposed the healthcare law. As a state representative, she sponsored the Florida Healthcare Freedom Act, which would allow the state’s residents to opt out of the federal system.


Date of birth: Sept. 16, 1965
Birthplace: New York
Residence: Miami, Fla.
Occupation: State Department official, political aide
Education: B.A., MPA, Florida International University
Previous office held: State representative
Family: None

David Rivera brings to Congress years of involvement in Florida politics and a deep knowledge of U.S.-Cuban relations, an important factor in a district that has a large Cuban-American population.

The fourth-term Florida lawmaker began his political career as an aide to former Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) and on the presidential campaign of Jack Kemp in 1988.

Later, he worked in the State Department’s Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which oversaw U.S.-sponsored radio and television in the communist island nation.

Rivera headed the Republican Party of Florida’s Hispanic outreach efforts before being elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2002.

Rivera faced Democrat Joe Garcia in his race to replace Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who opted to run for the House seat his brother vacated in the state’s 21st congressional district. During the campaign, Rivera emphasized local issues such as improvements to Florida International University, his alma mater, securing hurricane aid and overhauling the state’s property tax system. He also ran on an agenda of creating jobs by cutting taxes.