Jennifer Webb becomes first openly LGBTQ woman elected to Florida Legislature

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Democrat Rep.-Elect Jennifer Webb defeated Republican Ray Blacklidge in the race to represent Florida House District 69 (HD69) Nov. 6, becoming the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to the Florida Legislature in the process.

Webb replaces Republican Kathleen Peters in representing HD69. The district includes Gulfport, Kenneth City, Madeira Beach, Pinellas Park, South Pasadena, St. Pete Beach, parts of St. Petersburg and Treasure Island. As of Nov. 12, the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections reports that 78,363 votes were cast in the race. Webb received 41,298 to best Blacklidge’s 37,065, or 52.70 percent to his 47.30 percent.

Webb was endorsed by both statewide and national progressive organizations ahead of the election. She made access to mental health care and substance abuse programming a cornerstone of her campaign, something she advised Watermark ahead of the election can disproportionately affect the LGBTQ community due to societal rejection.

The incoming legislator also shared that she supports and hopes to sponsor Florida’s Competitive Workforce Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing and public accommodations. She noted that she supports legislation banning “conversion therapy,” which purports to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, opposes legislation restricting access to restrooms for transgender Floridians and supports school districts including specific protections against bullying and harassment for LGBTQ youth.

“We get better policy when we have greater diversity and more inclusion at the table,” Webb stressed.

“I am honored and privileged to represent all of our residents in HD69, and will strive to push forward our agenda for making HD69 a place where business and families can thrive together,” Webb shared with Watermark following her win. “I am proud of my voters in HD69 for casting their ballots for the best candidate regardless of who she is married to. I think it is so very important to recognize where progress is being made and biases and prejudice is being shed.”

She says she’s looking forward to working her hardest to impact HD69’s priorities in Tallahassee, noting that she’ll foster collegiality in the process. She believes “the combination will enable me to be an effective freshman legislator for my district.”

As for being one of the over 150 openly LGBTQ political candidates to win their races nationwide in the 2018 U.S. midterm election, a historic Rainbow Wave, Webb says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “It feels like family.”

“I am also grateful that my spouse, Cynthia Wurner, has the distinction of being the first same-sex spouse of a legislator, and thus will join me in our community’s book of firsts,” she adds. “This feels right. I couldn’t have done it without her.”

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