Tiffany Hughes dives headfirst into District 39 election

By Reggie Connell, Editor

Tiffany Hughes is used to challenges.

As a 31-year-old African American, business owner, immigrant from St. Vincent, it comes with the territory. But his entry into the Florida House District 39 election definitely turned heads.

In April 2021, Hughes was elected the 25th president of the Orange County NAACP, the youngest in its 93-year history. She was also named Orlando Business Journal 40-under-40 honored. Then in 2022, Ruth’s List and the Florida Democratic Party approached Hughes for a new challenge.

According to her website, Ruth’s List Florida”helps women lead inspiring campaigns that WIN. We recruit, train and support pro-choice Democratic women in state and local offices in Florida,” it is said.

Ruth’s List and the Florida Democratic Party endorsed Hughes on March 1 when she announced her candidacy for District 39.

“I work very closely with Ruth’s List and the Florida Democratic Party,” she said. “So the campaign team infrastructure is solid, and I feel good about that.”

District 39 is brand new to the Florida Legislative Assembly. Redrawing his maps for Florida House, it’s a neighborhood created from parts of those once held by Reps. Kamia Brown (45th), Scott Plakon (27th) and Keith Truenow (29th).

“I’m the voice I don’t hear enough in the Florida Legislature. Someone who’s a business owner, a mother, and a wife who can understand the nuances of a diverse community.”

There is no incumbent for 39, but it is an Apopka district at its heart. All of Apopka, including unincorporated South Apopka, is part of the 39th. This represents the majority of voters, so it stands to reason that the eventual winner will need a strong connection to Apopka.

Hughes, a Longwood resident who owns a business in Orlando, isn’t deterred and plans to make Apopka her home away from home in the coming months.

“I jumped headfirst into the Central Florida community,” she says. “And I take the same approach to Apopka whether I’m from here or not. I love Central Florida. I love Apopka. I love my district, and getting involved and involved in all facets of a community is what I love. I don’t feel any different than anything I’ve done in Central Florida or anything I’ve done in downtown Orlando or anything what I’ll do to engage with the Apopka community. I’m one of those types of people who dive in head first.”

Hughes, owner of KBI Staffing Solutions, believes that a community revolves around its small businesses. But why does a 31-year-old Orlando business owner from Longwood want to represent that district?

“I’m the voice I don’t hear enough in the Florida Legislature,” she said. “Someone who is a business owner, a mother and a wife who can understand the nuances of a diverse community.”

According to the voter rolls, District 39 will be a battleground where the number of registered Democratic and Republican voters is roughly equal. There aren’t many contested districts in the Legislature, but Hughes thinks that’s what this region needs.

“Knowing that Apopka is the second largest city in Orange County, I thought it was a good idea to make it a cohesive neighborhood,” Hughes said. “District 39 is needed to bring a collective community voice to Tallahassee.”

“I talk to voters about what keeps them up at night, because that’s what we want to translate to Tallahassee.”

But even if Hughes does arrive in Tallahassee, what can a first-term Democrat from a brand-new district accomplish in the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature?

Hughes relied on the wisdom of Representative Geraldine Thompson, a veteran member of the Florida Legislature currently representing District 44, for guidance.

“She told me to find the bills that closely match the needs of your community,” Hughes said. “It doesn’t matter who bears the name or gets the glory as long as your community gets what they need. Then make a friend and learn how to fit elements of what you need into someone else’s bill. ‘other. And that’s what I’m going to in Tallahassee. It doesn’t matter how we get there as long as it’s doable and reasonable. But the thing is, I need my community to be supported and have the things they need. need. So, I take that mindset with me.”

And which Republicans will she befriend? Hughes casts a wide net.

“Everyone,” she said with a smile. “We may be on different sides of the aisle, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get things done together. I like to say there are no enemies in the community where you work. So if we can work together to get things done for my community, let’s go. I know we won’t agree on everything. But I’m sure we can agree on some things. And on these things, let’s get them going.

Apopka comes out of an electoral cycle where the stakes were clear. But the challenges for a city council may differ from what is possible in Tallahassee. So what will Hughes advocate in the Legislative Assembly on behalf of Apopka and District 39?

“I hear a lot about supporting small businesses,” she said. “Apopka has a thriving small business community, so as a small business owner myself, making sure we look at how best to support businesses will be a priority.”

“In many plays, I’m the youngest, or I’m the only woman, or I’m the only African American. None of that plays a role in how I best communicate a point or feel in confidence in a room or getting to know everyone, getting engaged and learning to love the people around me.”

Hughes would also like to improve housing and health care for Apopkans and residents of District 39.

“We know Florida is going through a housing crisis,” she said. “I like to say that when our students come home, they shouldn’t have to live in their high school room if they want to go back to Apopka. We need to create a more realistic housing market. So certainly affordability housing and health insurance. But COVID is still here. Our health care system is fragile. It’s important to be healthy and have access to affordable health insurance and what that looks like for our communities. I don’t I don’t know of any small business owner who would say, “I don’t want to give people health insurance,” but we say it’s expensive. And how can I advocate for small business owners and members of our community ensure there is an environment where health insurance is more readily available is a priority for me.

Being a newcomer to Apopka politics, Hughes plans to be aggressive in connecting with voters in District 39.

“The game on the pitch is vital,” she said. “Knocking on doors, meeting community members and talking about issues are always very important, no matter what type of election or office you are running for. Connecting with voters is always top of the list. C “This is how we organize this election. We take every opportunity to communicate with voters.”

Hughes has a central question to gauge what’s vital to voters, whether they’re in Apopka, Longwood, Altamonte Springs, Winter Garden or any part of the district.

“I talk to voters about what keeps them up at night, what keeps us up at night? or work with someone across the aisle to get ahead.”

And like his goal of making friends in the legislature, his door-to-door goals for voters in District 39 are ambitious.

“I want to knock on every door in District 39, but we will definitely do our best to hit as many as possible.”

Hughes acknowledges the possibility of an uphill battle to win District 39, but luckily she has the attitude of a mountaineer. And even though she’s new to Apopka, she’s not new to be new.

“As the daughter of immigrant parents, you become very comfortable in what some would call an uncomfortable situation. In many plays, sometimes I’m the youngest, or I’m the only female, or I’m the only Afro None of this plays a role in how I best communicate a point or feel confident in a room or get to know everyone, engage and learn to love the people around me. Apopka community, and jump in head first.”

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