I recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with Annette Taddeo. She is a Colombian-American woman who happens to be the first latina democrat state senator that has ever been elected in Florida. However, getting there and making history was not an easy feat for her. She had to navigate through a tumultuous path to acquire her success. Now, she is using her own experience to help build up the latinas of tomorrow.
Throughout her life, Annette Taddeo has believed in turning the experiences she endured to something positive. For instance, when she made the move to the United States, she struggled a bit with the language barrier. Though she had learned english in Colombia, it was not enough to let her to be fluent at first. But that only motivated her more for the future. She told me that she used that part of her life to develop it into one of her many accomplishments — being a business owner. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a BS in Commercial Spanish, Taddeo founded and is the current CEO of a translation company, LanguageSpeak. This is one example of how Anette Taddeo chooses to take her adversaries and turn them into something positive.
Another example of her readjusting the difficulties she’s encountered is when she was running for office.
In 2017, Florida’s senate seat abruptly became vacant when former Senator Frank Artiles resigned because he had participated in a conversation that involved vulgar content, including racial slurs. This was the year Anette Taddeo was about to make history. Florida had seen latina politicians before, but never had Florida seen a latina in the democrat senate seat. In fact, she was the first person to flip the seat to the Democratic party in two decades.
Prior to her big win, Annette Taddeo had already attempted to win the senate’s office four times. Each time she gained more momentum and motivation for the next time when the seat entered the elections. She had ran twice for Congress and statewide. In one of her runs, she also made headlines when governor Charlie Crist asked her to be his running mate for Lieutenant Governor, which created another first because she then became first Latina to run statewide in Florida. This is something that is truly notable about Annette Taddeo — she doesn’t allow things to knock her down. In fact, she trekked down the political path despite the unnecessary challenges many politicians in Florida placed on her. According to them, she didn’t fit the typical Floridian politician. Or better yet, she didn’t fit the role of someone coming from South Florida.
Unsurprisingly, one of the challenges imposed on her was that she was not a man. You have to remember that there are much less women throughout our political system than men. Rutgers confirmed that only 25.9% of women hold state senate seats. That means only 510 seats out of the 1,972 seats are filled by women! If you ask me, that’s a huge difference. At least we are making progress and giving more seats to women as the years pass by. It’s still frustrating because it’s not happening fast enough, but we will get there.
An additional complication to her race arose when she was discriminated due to her nationality. She was told it was unlikely she would win because she wasn’t a Cuban-American candidate. This one may sound a little weird to some of you, but this is something that can very much happen in South Florida. I know because I grew up in South Florida.
Keep in mind that Cubans and people of Cuban descent have a large influence on South Florida. Don’t get me wrong. I love it. I’d be nothing if Cubans hadn’t introduced me to coladas, pastelitos de guayaba y queso, and their amazing writers such as Ana Menéndez. Now, that doesn’t mean that some Cuban-Americans don’t monopolize politics in South Florida. These are the ripened politicians that feel they have more power because of how South Florida is set up. At the end of the day, no one should ever be treated as less than because of their nationality by anyone.
As you can see, Annette Taddeo was up against some mighty challenges, but that never stopped her from moving forward. She continued on with full force.
This senate race became known as one of the most expensive races in modern history. Taddeo stated that ten million dollars were spent in total — three million dollars from the Democrats and seven million dollars from the Republicans. You can tell they really didn’t want her to win.
Nevertheless, Taddeo continued pushing her views, which included working for education and the environment. She had a pretty solid grassroots campaign and worked with the community to get to her desired goal.
During our conversation, she expressed the importance it was to represent the minorities of Florida. She has been serving the community for over 30 years, so she had plenty of experience in that field. Actually, one of her greatest supporters were leaders of the African-American community. They urged her to run for state senate from the get-go because they knew she was fit for the job. Taddeo had been showing up to their offices for years, even before the race, and had always worked alongside them to better the community. Their mutual support was organic and genuine as it should be.
Ultimately, Annette Taddeo won the race. She defeated her Republican opponent, Jose Felix Diaz, who had been a contestant on The Apprentice. On October 2017, Taddeo was sworn in to fill the seat for Florida’s state senate. She fought her way to gain this accomplishment and is well-deserving of it.
Now that she has been in office for nearly two years, she hasn’t stopped working for the positive progress of the community.
She has recently tried to start a new movement in South Florida named Latina Lista. Similar to Emily’s List, Latina List would serve as a political action committee, but for latinas in South Florida. Annette Taddeo created this because she felt as though as other political committees didn’t include many latinas. She wants Latina Lista to be a space where other latinas can find some guidance in their political endeavors and choices. This is important to her since she wishes she would have had that throughout her life.
Taddeo is frustrated that it’s usually the men making their marks in politics. However, she expressed that her frustration fuels her. So, she is now trying to look for the next latina voice or voices for our community. She just wants to make sure we elect more latinas and that latinas win the most seats possible. We can only hope that this movement catches on and not just in South Florida. We need this everywhere.
Annette Taddeo left an inspirational message for everyone reading this and I think we should follow it. “If a fight is worth fighting for, never give up!”
You’re absolutely right, Annette Taddeo. We should never give up.