Former Democratic Rep. Joe Saunders is back at Equality Florida as its senior political director, the LGBTQ rights organization announced Wednesday.

“Joe Saunders is a proven LGBTQ and progressive leader who brings an incredible wealth of skill, knowledge and talent to our work,” said Equality Florida Deputy Director and EQFL PAC Chair Stratton Pollitzer. “We stand at the edge of incredible opportunity for progress even as we see new and emboldened attacks coming from Washington and some leaders in our state Capitol. Under Joe’s leadership, Equality Florida stands ready to hold elected leaders accountable at the ballot and to lift up those who stand on the right side of history.”

Saunders worked with the organization for nearly a decade before winning Orlando’s HD 49 in the 2012 election cycle and becoming the first openly gay lawmaker in Florida alongside fellow Democratic Rep. David Richardson, also elected in 2012.

Saunders lost his re-election bid in 2014 to Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, who has since shifted over to the more GOP-friendly HD 50.

In the two years since his exit from the legislature, Saunders worked for the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization. In that role, the UCF alumnus led campaigns across the country, including a successful effort to defeat incumbent North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory — a champion of the notorious transgender bathroom bill.

Saunders said he “can’t think of a more important place to be in 2018 than Florida” and that he is “excited to be back” at Equality Florida.

“As the largest swing state in the country, Florida will hold a defining role in the national response to the politics of Washington, and we have hugely important races for U.S. Senate, Governor, Congress and a chance to reshape our state legislature,” he said.

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