In 2008 Suzanne Kosmas won election to the U.S. House of Representatives after unseating a three-term incumbent. A successful business owner and state legislator, Kosmas brought a bipartisan approach to her tenure in the House. She was an advocate for small businesses, tighter regulations on Wall Street, and increased funding for the space program. “People want to see trust and faith and confidence in government,” Kosmas said. “I took a look around and decided it was time for a change of direction for the people of the district.”1
Susan Kosmas was born Susan McDonald on February 25, 1944, in Washington, DC, one of four children to Paul and Mary King McDonald. Kosmas’s father worked as a Treasury Department official for more than three decades.2 Kosmas attended Pennsylvania State University, State College, from 1961 to 1963, and George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, from 1971 to 1973. She moved to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, in 1973, where she and her husband, Paul Kosmas, started a family. They have four children: Paul Jr., Michael, David, and Kristen. Kosmas started a real estate brokerage in 1979, and eventually returned to school, graduating from Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, in 1998. As a resident of New Smyrna Beach for over 35 years, Kosmas was actively involved in her community. She served in numerous local organizations, including as chair of the Southeast Volusia zoning board and on the board for the United Way of Volusia County.3
In 1996 Kosmas was elected as a Democrat to the Florida state house of representatives, where she served four consecutive terms until 2004. In the state legislature, she supported increased funding for education and health care. She also supported legislation to ban minors from riding in the back of pickup trucks and to abolish the statute of limitations on sexual assaults when DNA evidence exists. As a member of the minority party in the Florida legislature, Kosmas developed a reputation as a moderate legislator willing to collaborate with members of both parties.4
In 2008 Kosmas challenged Republican Representative Tom Feeney, the three-term incumbent representing a coastal Florida district that encompassed the Orlando suburbs in Orange and Seminole County; the Kennedy Space Center was a major employer in the district.5 Feeney’s reputation had been tarnished after he was fined by the House for ethics violations.6 Kosmas easily won the Democratic primary with 72 percent of the vote and went on to defeat Feeney with a 57 percent majority in the general election.7
Because the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had such a large presence in her district, Kosmas was appointed to the Science and Technology Committee in the House, and she picked up a seat on Financial Services Committee, as well.8 As her first official act in the House, Kosmas cosponsored legislation to prevent an increase in congressional pay. “We are asking other people to tighten their belts,” she said. “We need to set the example by doing the same thing.”9 She also sponsored legislation to provide tax relief to students and teachers and to promote small businesses and investments in distressed communities.10 With the Kennedy Space Center located in her district, Kosmas also focused on promoting the transition from the current space shuttle program to the new Constellation program with its goal of interplanetary travel. In 2009 she worked to earmark $2 billion for NASA in the stimulus and economic recovery packages amid the fallout of the Great Recession, but was ultimately unsuccessful.11 Kosmas supported much of the party’s legislative agenda in the House. She voted in favor of the American Clean Energy and Security Act and, from her seat on the Financial Services Committee, she supported the push to reform and regulate Wall Street in the aftermath of the financial crisis.12 Though she initially opposed the major Democratic health care reform bill, Affordable Health Care for America, which passed in the House in November of 2009, she voted for the final version, the Affordable Care Act, in March 2010.13
Kosmas lost re-election in 2010, during a wave cycle that saw Republicans take back the House majority. Amid widespread conservative unrest following the first two years of the administration of Barack Obama, Republican Sandy Adams defeated Kosmas by 19 percent.14
1Mark K. Matthews, “Former Democratic Lawmaker Kosmas to Run Against Feeney,” 11 October 2007, Orlando Sentinel: B6.
2"Paul McDonald Sr. Dies; Treasury Dept. Official," 28 May 1993, Washington Post: D4.
3“Suzanne M. Kosmas,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, https://bioguide.congress.gov; John Bozzo, “Kosmas Gets Ready For Washington, New Representative Still Has to Select Staff,” 28 December 2008, Daytona Beach News-Journal: B1; Ann Givens, “House Hopefuls,” 28 October 2000, Orlando Sentinel: H1.
4Sandra Pedicini, “Voters Face Big Ballot on Tuesday,” 3 November 1996, Orlando Sentinel: K1; “Suzanne M. Kosmas,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; Mark I. Johnson, “Legislator Considers Life After Politics,” 2 March 2004, Daytona Beach News-Journal: 1A; Rachael Jackson, “Kosmas Plows Middle Ground in Intense Race,” 16 October 2008, Orlando Sentinel: B1.
5Almanac of American Politics, 2010 (Washington, DC: National Journal Group, 2009): 405; “Meet Suzanne Kosmas,” official campaign website for Suzanne Kosmas, https://webarchive.loc.gov/lcwa0008/20081119214554/http://www.kosmasforcongress.com/bio; Florida state house of representatives, “Representative Suzanne M. Kosmas,” accessed 13 March 2020, https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/details.aspxMemberId=4120& SessionId=48.
6Matthews, “Former Democratic Lawmaker Kosmas to Run Against Feeney”; Mark Matthews, “Feeney Tries to Dump Baggage: Abramoff,” 9 September 2008, Orlando Sentinel: A1.
7Almanac of American Politics, 2010: 406; Mark Matthews, “Feeney Stumps for Opponent in Race,” 20 August 2008, Orlando Sentinel: D4; Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”
8Congressional Directory, 111th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2009): 414, 437.
9William Gibson, “New Lawmakers Take Their Places in Congress,” 7 January 2009, Orlando Sentinel: B2.
10America’s Teachers Tax Relief Act, H.R. 2431, 111th Cong. (2009); College Tuition Tax Relief Act, H.R. 2434, 111th Cong. (2009); Distressed Communities Reinvestment Act of 2009, H.R. 3812, 111th Cong. (2009).
11Stewart Powell, “Stimulus Bill Leaves NASA with Less than Requested; The Agency’s Supporters Pin Hopes on Senate,” 29 January 2009, Houston Chronicle: A6; Suzanne Kosmas, “There’s a lot to Like in the $789 Billion Stimulus Bill,” 15 February 2009, Orlando Sentinel: A19.
12Susan Kosmas, “Clean Energy Good for Economy,” 2 July 2009, Orlando Sentinel: A13; Will Hobson, “Lawmaker Touts Wall Street Reform Bill,” 7 July 2010, News-Journal (Daytona Beach, FL): 7A.
13Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Final Vote Results for Roll Call 887,” 111th Cong., 1st sess., https://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/ roll887.xml; Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Final Vote Results for Roll Call 165,” 111th Cong., 2nd sess., https://clerk.house.gov/ evs/2010/roll165.xml.
14Jessica Brady, “Democrats Go All-In for Female Candidates,” 25 October 2010, Roll Call, https://www.rollcall.com/2010/10/25/democrats-go-all-infor-female-candidates/; “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”