Republican House District 44 candidate John Newstreet dismissed questions Friday about whether he actually lives in the district, and for how long, seeking to end a whisper campaign that publicly surfaced during a debate Thursday.
At the West Orange County Republican Women’s Club debate Thursday Newstreet fielded a question about whether he truly was an area resident, and if so for how long. The answer was: yes, off and on for 13 years, and continuously for the past 16 months.
“I have lived in this district long before deciding to run for office and have paid property taxes in this district for nearly a decade,” Newstreet said in a statement sent to FloridaPolitics.com to clarify the issue.
“I sit in the same traffic as everyone else, I buy my groceries at the Publix on Conroy, I’ve called Holy Family Catholic Church my parish for years and I have witnessed the growth of this district first hand,” he added.
The question raised Thursday may have been legally irrelevant; Florida law requires office holders, not candidates, to live in the district. In other words, any election winner who doesn’t live in the district simply has to move there before taking office. And Newstreet’s residency is established regardless.
But in HD 44, where four candidates are preparing for the Aug. 15 primary, the issue has become more about who has roots in the district.
HD 44 covers southwest Orange County, which has some historically-old communities, but also some of the newest and fastest growing communities in Central Florida.
Newstreet faces Winter Garden businessman Bobby Olszewski, Orlando businessman Bruno Portigliatti, and Dr. Usha Jain in the primary. The winner would face Lake Buena Vista businessman Paul Chandler, the Democrats’ nominee, in the Oct. 10 general election.
Newstreet first moved into the district in 2004, though job opportunities have occasionally moved him out. He bought his current house in the Orange Tree subdivision in 2008, and left in 2012 for a job in Broward County, renting out the house. When he returned in 2013 to become president and chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, his tenants still were under lease, so he rented a place in Osceola County, and moved back into the Orange Tree house in April, 2016.
“I never sold the home because I love this area,” Newstreeet said in the statement.
“A state legislator works on the issues affecting all Floridians. My experience across Florida is a distinct advantage in Tallahassee,” Newstreet added. “I’m not a perpetual politician.”