Suzanne McDonald Kosmas won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, unseating a three–term incumbent. A successful business owner and state legislator, Kosmas brought a common–sense, bipartisan approach to her tenure in the House. She was a consistent 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,” said Kosmas. “I took a look around and decided it was time for a change of direction for the people of the district.”1
Born on February 25, 1944, in Washington, D.C., Susan McDonald was one of four children to Paul and Mary King McDonald. Susan’s father, Paul McDonald, 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 from 1971 to 1973. She then moved to Smyrna, Florida, in 1973, where she and her husband, Paul, started a family of four children—Paul, Jr., Michael, David, and Kristen. He started a real estate brokerage in 1978. She returned to school and graduated 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 as chair of the Southeast Volusia Zoning Board and on the board for the United Way of Volusia County, while sitting on 20 other community boards.
In 1996, Kosmas was elected as a Democrat to the Florida state house of representatives, where she served four consecutive terms, ending in 2004. In the state legislature, she supported increased funding for education and health care. She also pushed legislation to ban minors from riding in the back of pickup trucks and to abolish the statute of limitations on sexual assaults when there is DNA evidence. 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.
In 2008, Kosmas challenged Republican Representative Tom Feeney, the three–term incumbent representing Florida’s eastern coastline district encompassing the Orlando suburbs in Orange and Seminole County and Kennedy Space Center.3 Feeney’s reputation had been tarnished after he was fined by the House for ethics violations.4 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.5
Representative Kosmas was appointed to the Science and Technology Committee (given the large NASA presence in her district) and Financial Services Committee.6 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.”7 She also sponsored legislation to provide tax relief to students and teachers, and to promote small businesses and investments in distressed communities.8 With the Kennedy Space Center located in her district, Kosmas also focused on promoting a smooth transition from the current space shuttle program to the new Constellation program with its goal of interplanetary travel. To this end, she unsuccessfully pushed to earmark $2 billion to NASA in the Economic Recovery Package in 2009.9 Kosmas proved a reliable vote for much of the legislation proposed by the Democratic leadership. She voted in favor of the American Clean Energy and Security Act and the Wall Street Consumer Protection Act. Though she opposed the initial reform bill passed in the House in June of 2009, she voted for the final version in March 2010.10
From Kosmas’s election in 2008, she was widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Democratic freshmen. National Republican funding was funneled into the district in order to win back the seat. Kosmas lost her bid for re–election in 2010. She was defeated by her Republican challenger, state legislator Sandra Adams, by 19 percentage points.11
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.
3Almanac of American Politics, 2010 (Washington, D.C.: National Journal Inc., 2009): 405; “Meet Suzanne Kosmas,” http://webarchive.loc.gov/lcwa0008/20081119214554/http://www.kosmasforcongress.com/bio (accessed 6 May 2011; site discontinued); “Representative Suzanne M. Kosmas,” at http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/details.aspx?MemberId=4120&SessionId=48 (accessed 11 July 2011; site discontinued).
4Matthews, “Former Democratic Lawmaker Kosmas to Run Against Feeney”; Mark Matthews, “Feeney Tries to Dump Baggage: Abramoff,” 9 September 2008, Orlando Sentinel: A1.
5Almanac of American Politics, 2010: 406; Mark Matthews, “Feeney Stumps for Opponent in Race,” 20 August 2008, Orlando Sentinel: D4; "Election Statistics, 1920 to Present,” http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/index.aspx.
6Congressional Directory, 111th Congress (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2009): 414, 437.
7William Gibson, “New Lawmakers Take Their Places in Congress,” 7 January 2009, Orlando Sentinel: B2.
8H.R. 2434, H.R. 2431, H.R. 3812, 111th Cong., 1st sess.
9Stewart 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.
10Office of the Clerk, “Final Vote Results for Roll Call 887,” 111th Cong., 1st sess., http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/roll887.xml (accessed 25 April 2011); Office of the Clerk, “Final Vote Results for Roll Call 165,” 111th Cong., 2nd sess., http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll165.xml (accessed 25 April 2011).
11Jessica Brady, “Democrats Go All–In for Female Candidates,” Roll Call, 25 October 2010. “Election 2010, Florida,” http://elections.nytimes.com/2010/results/florida (accessed 20 December 2010).