ST. PETERSBURG The state of Florida has the opportunity to elect five openly LGBT people to the State Legislature this election year. One of those seats is House Seat 70 where gay business owner Dan Fiorini is running against former St. Petersburg City Councilman Wengay Newton and Palmetto personal injury attorney C.J. Czaia.
“There are three of us in this race, and this is going to be won in the primary. No Republican has ever gotten more than 20 percent of the vote in this seat, so whoever wins on August 30 is going to win the general,” Fiorini says, sitting in Tyrone Frames and Mirrors, the framing shop he has owned and operated in St. Petersburg since 2010.
Fiorini is running on a message of experience, not only as a business owner, but also in the political arena. Fiorini, who is a first time candidate, has helped to run more than 25 political races in Florida, half of them primary races.
Fiorini ran the campaign for former State Representative Helen L. Spivey who won her seat in 1994, taking the seat from a sitting Republican. Spivey was the only Democrat to do so that year, partly thanks to Fiorini.
“I know how to do this job. I have a nonprofit background, a union background. I was a union organizer many years ago. I have a business background and a government background; I have these various backgrounds that I bring to the table. None of my opponents come close to that,” Fiorini says.
Since getting into the race for House Seat 70 earlier this year, Fiorini has gained several high-profile endorsements, including St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman, Councilmembers Lisa Wheeler-Brown and Karl Nurse, and from Spivey of course.
District 70 is one of the most diverse districts in the state, bending and stretching across four counties: Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota.
“It’s a very diverse district, and because of its diversity, we have some of the poorest and we have some of the wealthiest in the state in this district. So you have to be able to talk to people in the entire socioeconomic demographic,” Fiorini says. “What is important to people in South St.Pete is not necessarily important to people across the bay or down in Manatee, or North Sarasota.”
Being able to speak and work with all the social and political voices isn’t just something Fiorini says he is most qualified to do, it is something his opponents simply aren’t capable of doing.
“One of the reasons I decided to run was because when Wengay Newton decided to run. He is a former city councilmen of St. Petersburg; he didn’t get a lot done,” Fiorini says. “And [C.J. Czaia] is a carpetbagger who just moved into the district. When people look at a candidate for their experience and what they can do, I am the guy, hands down, especially in our community.”
Fiorini says he has been making his presence known in the LGBT community since moving to the Bay Area in 2000. Fiorini was a founding sponsor of St. Pete Pride, a founding charter member of the Stonewall Democrats and a board member of AIDS Service Association of Pinellas (ASAP).
“I’ve been involved in many of our issues over time as we’ve gone forward,” Fiorini says. “I mean really, Wengay Newton has never stepped into a gay venue that I’m aware of.”
Fiorini, who calls himself a “Bernie Progressive,” says he intends to be one of the loudest voices in Tallahassee.
“When I see what they’re doing to us in this state, Governor Skeletor[Rick Scott] and his sidekick [Florida Attorney General] Pam Bondi, I look at that and think there’s a real threat to our very existence. These people are an actual threat to our very existence as far as I’m concerned.” Fiorini says.