Florida Democratic freshman Rep. Darren Soto, 40, talks about his music, how hard it is to form relationships on the Hill, and green spots on his GPS.
Q: What about Congress didn’t you expect?
A: That you could actually get some things done that are big back in the district even if nationally they may not make headlines. I expected it to be partisan, because I served in the Florida House. That was very partisan, and the Democrats were in the minority. So none of those things surprise me, which I would suspect surprised a lot of my peers.
Q: If you could change one thing about Congress, what would it be?
A: I think us meeting more and having more fellowship would be a huge plus around here. I developed a lot of relationships when I was in the Florida legislature that I brought here on both sides of the aisle, and I’ve met a lot of freshmen on both sides of the aisle.
There’s a whole swath of sophomore-and-above Republican members of Congress that I have very little relationship to. The situation around here does not lend itself to having a particularly good relationship, because of all the tough issues we’re voting on. So an ability to foster more relationships outside of those who are in our class, who are from our state, I think would do wonders to more functionality around here.
Q: Tell us about your band.
A: I’ve written songs and played in a band since I was in high school. Right now I’m in a folk rock band called Orange Creek Riders.
I have to make a conscious effort to participate in some of the hobbies that I traditionally had over the years. One, because it’s a great diversion, and two, my constituents want to know that I’m not some legislative robot, you know? I’m a human being and have interests like anybody else, whether it’s music — I play guitar and write songs — or whether it is kayaking or hiking in our state and national parks.
Q: What other members have you played music with?
A: I have had some interesting experiences so far. I got to have an event with our chairman, Joe Crowley, and also played at our caucus retreat with Joe Crowley. I backed him up on bass. We found that each of us separately playing individual sets was a better fit. He plays a lot of great covers and has great musical talent, particularly a booming voice, much like on the floor in Congress. While I write all originals, I really don’t know how to play a lot of covers. I have written hundreds of songs.
I tried to play bass to back up Collin Peterson, but Collin is on a whole other level. Collin played professionally in cover bands.
Q: You’re pretty outdoorsy. What activities do you like?
A: I usually get to hike or kayak probably about once or twice a month, maybe sometimes more often, usually on Sundays. Sometimes I’ll take our dog Xena. My rule of thumb is when I have a little bit of open time every now and again on a weekend, I’ll pull up on the GPS, look for green spots on the map, which are our national or state parks, and I’ll head to some of them that I haven’t been to before.
Last book read: “Winter of the World” by Ken Follett.
Pet peeve: Arrogance.
Cats or dogs: Dogs. We have a dog, Xena.
If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead: Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Closest friend across the aisle: Rep. Jack Bergman.