Florida can expect a historic candidate in the 2020 state Senate election.
Melina Barratt, a 40-year-old Gilchrist County resident and the Florida Legislative Director for the National Organization for Women, filed to run for the state Senate Thursday, Oct. 3. She is the first openly transgender candidate to do so.
Barratt has been active in politics since high school, speaking at City Council meetings, advocating for laws that would ban sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace and the separation of church and state.
She has an associates degree in political science from Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers. After raising her children McKenzie and Siguard, she began a secondary degree in computer programming at Santa Fe College, and also began her transition.
“Going back to school made me realize that I needed to do more,” she said.
Working for Alachua County Commissioner Mike Byerly’s re-election campaign in 2016 and serving as the campaign manager for the 2016 Gainesville City Commission write-in candidate, Chloe Goldbach, Barratt furthered her political presence by running for President of the Gainesville chapter of NOW in Dec. 2017, and won the election.
Earlier this year, she was elected to her position for NOW.
Locally, she has focused on increasing engagement in the community through candidate forums and workshops. As the State Legislative Director, she travels to Tallahassee to meet with lobbyists and fellow chapter members of NOW.
“We want to make sure we have a presence across multiple committees,” she said.
Additionally, in her role, she’s established an internship program for college students across the state and currently has three interns.
“We need to empower the future leaders of this organization, and an internship program was just the way to do that,” she said.
Why did she decide to file for election?
She expressed her intentions to protect rural Florida and its natural wonders, and is working on adding social issues to her platform.
“I will always love the city, but I’m at home in the country,” she said.
Amongst these natural wonders in District 5 is Ginnie Springs, which became a national story after it recently passed a contract that allows Nestle to funnel 1.1 million gallons of water a day out of the springs for profit.
“You don’t have to be a Republican or a Democrat to love fresh air, clean water and wide open spaces, ” she said. “Just living is an act of rebellion.”
Barratt also plans to address the proposed Suncoast Connector, an interstate toll road headed by the Florida Department of Transportation. Eight predominantly rural counties will be impacted in the project, four of which — Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette and Levy — are under District 5 jurisdiction.
“This project will have major implications for Gilchrist County residents,” Barratt said.
District 5 is, historically, a Republican controlled district. However, the current senator, Republican Rob Bradley, has reached his term limit. His wife, Jennifer Bradley, filed in August to run for the seat.
As for social issues, Barratt is currently working on her platform, but said she plans on hosting a workshop to educate the public on transgender identities in November.
“There are a lot of people that have a lot of questions, and I think that’s worth addressing.” she said. “There are a lot of folks that haven’t seen or interacted with someone who is transgender,”
Barratt said she wants to make the experience as positive as possible for those who attend and for the future of Florida.
“It’s activism to wake up and be happy.”
Featured Image: Unmodified photo by Jasmin Du Bois