Scott Powers – Page 6 – Florida Politics

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

Ten Central Florida house seats set for primaries August 28

Ten seats in Central Florida’s portion of the Florida House of Representatives will have primaries on August 28, with four Republican and six Democratic in-party battles set by Friday’s ballot qualifying.

The big primary battles among Republicans are preparing for two open seats now held by Republicans, and among the Democrats for four places where they see prospects to knock off incumbent Republicans.

Meanwhile, five other seats are lined up for November showdowns between one Republican and one Democrat.

Two other races already have been decided, as Democratic state Reps. John Cortes in House District 43 in north Osceola County and Kamia Brown in House District 45 in western Orange County drew no opponents and won. In House District 46, Democratic state Rep. Bruce Antone has all but won but still must go into the November election because a write-in candidate qualified to challenge.

The most intriguing primary matchup for Democrats emerges in House District 44, where five Democrats jumped in wanting to take on Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski, and then started dropping out. The third withdrawal, Eddy Dominguez, occurred this week, leaving former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson and activist Melanie Gold, both of Orlando, remaining for the Democrats’ primary.

Olszewski gets the HD 44 Democratic primary winner in November election to represent southwest Orange County.

A winnowing of potential candidates also occurred in House District 27, in western Volusia County, leaving Democrats Neil Heinrichsen and Carol Lawrence, both of Deltona, set to meet in a primary after another Democrat dropped out.

Republican state Rep. David Santiago of Deltona will meet the HD 27 Democrats’ winner in November.

In House District 29, lawyer and social worker Darryl Block of Lake Mary faces lawyer Tracey Kagan of Longwood in the Democratic primary, again after another Democrat dropped out.

Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood will get the Democrats’ HD 29 primary winner in November for that north-central Seminole County district.

In House District 30, Clark Anderson of Winter Park, Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil, and newly-entered Brendan Ramirez of Orlando all have qualified for the Democratic primary.

The winner will face Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes in the November election for HD 30, covering south-central Seminole and north Orange.

House District 47 is the only seat that will see primaries for both parties, thanks to the late entry of Lou Forges on the Democrats’ side this week. Forges, of Apopka, meets Anna Eskamani of Orlando on the Democrat side, while Mikaela Nix of Orlando meets Stockton Reeves VI of Winter Park in the preliminaries. The seat will open up with the departure of Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Miller.

In House District 50, covering part of east Orange and north Brevard County, incumbent state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando will meet George Collins of Orlando in the Republican primary.

The Republicans’ HD 50 primary winner meets Democrat Pam Dirschka of Titusville in November.

In House District 51, an open seat representing central Brevard, Republicans Tyler Sirois, and Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish will meet in the Republican primary, with the eliminations of two other Republicans who also had filed for that seat. It’s opening up with the departure of Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson.

The HD 51 Republican primary winner faces Democrat Mike Blake of Cocoa in November.

In House District 52, incumbent state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic meets Matt Nye of Melbourne in the Republican primary for the central-Brevard district.

Democrat Seeta Durjan Begui gets the winner of that HD 52 Republican primary in November.

In House District 53, covering south Brevard, Democrats Phil Moore of West Melbourne and FiorD’Aliza A. Frias of Palm Bay meet in the Democratic primary.

The winner of the Democrats’ HD 53 primary will face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Fine in the general election.

The head-to-head general elections set for the November 6 general election include:

— Republican David Smith of Winter Springs versus Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry, battling for the open seat for Florida’s House District 28, covering eastern Seminole. That’s an open seat, being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur.

— Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora will meet Debra Kaplan of Eustis battling for House District 31, covering northern Lake County and a piece of northwest Orange.

— Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of Saint Cloud will meet Democrat Barbara Cady of Kissimmee for House District 42 covering east and central Osceola.

— Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando will face Republican Scotland Calhoun of Orlando for House District 48, including parts of south and east Orange.

— Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando will face Republican Ben Griffin for House District 49, covering parts of north and east Orange.

Dennis Baxley, Dorothy Hukill and Kelli Stargel avoid primaries in Central Florida state Senate runs

Republican state Sens. Dennis Baxley, Dorothy Hukill, and Kelli Stargel all managed to avoid Republican primaries as they seek re-elections in their Central Florida districts this fall.

With qualifying for the ballot closed at noon and nearly all the elections officially updated to final status, Baxley of Ocala, whose Senate District 12 covers Lake County and a broad swath of West Central Florida, will be in a showdown with Democrat Gary McKechnie of Mount Dora in November. Both qualified for the ballot, as did a write-in candidate.

In Senate District 14, covering much of the Space Coast, Hukill of Port Orange is in, as is Democratic challenger Mel Martin of Cocoa. Another Democrat, Brandon Maggard, appears to have dropped out as he has not filed any paperwork in months. But the Florida Division of Elections was slow Friday updating some races and still listed Maggard as “active” after 5 p.m. Friday, even though qualifying closed at noon Friday.

In District 22, covering Polk County and part of Lake County, Stargel, of Lakeland will get the winner of a Democratic primary. Former Circuit Judge Bob Doyel of Winter Haven and former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel of Auburndale will be battling in the August 28 Democratic primary for that honor.

Orlando Democratic guberatorial debate canceled

The Orange County Democratic Party has canceled efforts to have a gubernatorial debate in Orlando next Tuesday because Philip Levine and Gwen Graham would not agree to participate.

Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge expressed regret over the last-week cancellation he announced Friday and that voters in Orange County “will not have the opportunity to hear from the candidates seeking to be their governor in one open, public forum.”

Hodge said Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King had committed weeks ago, but not former U.S. Rep. Graham nor former Miami Beach Mayor Levine. The fifth candidate, newly-entered Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene, also had recently committed, his campaign said.

“Regrettably the Orange County Democratic Party has been forced to cancel the planned Democratic gubernatorial debate scheduled for next Tuesday, June 26th, due to an inability to secure all of the candidates for the event,” Hodge said in a statement. “We have been working hard over the past six weeks to make this event a success, and I would like to thank all of our volunteers who worked to make this happen. It is unfortunate that the voters of Orange County will not have an opportunity to hear from the candidates seeking to be their Governor directly in one open, public forum.”

The debate was being planned for Barnett Park on Orlando’s west side, for a 7 p.m. forum.

“The Democratic Executive Committee will be working to find another way to connect our voters directly with our five candidates seeking the governor’s office, and hope to announce another event in the near future,” Hodge added.

Gillum and King blasted their rivals for not being willing to join them. The first four Democratic gubernatorial candidates have debated three times, and Gillum and King have done well, getting strong reviews for their performances. But now Levine and Graham are showing signs of pulling ahead in polls heading toward the August 28 primary.

Gillum said he’s going to come anyway.

“It’s critical that Orange County voters hear about our priorities for this state, and since my opponents refuse to join me for a debate, I’m looking forward to hosting a town hall in its place on Tuesday night,” Gillum said in a statement. “Floridians need to know where we stand, and who we stand for.”

King said it was too bad that neither Orlando nor Jacksonville are getting to see the Democrats go head-to-head.

“Politics and politicians, as usual, have failed progressive values and ordinary Floridians for too long and Democrats deserve to judge for themselves whether the other candidates for governor offer a fresh vision and a break from the past. That’s why I’m disappointed that some candidates in this race have refused invitations to debate in Orlando and Jacksonville,” King said in a statement. “We must compete in every corner of our state and take no one for granted, and that means making sure Spanish language, African American, Caribbean and other diverse media outlets are included as well.”

Levine’s campaign responded with a reminder that the Democrats initially had agreed to five debates, even though that included none in Orlando or Jacksonville.

“Our campaign worked successfully with the Florida Democratic Party on a number of agreed-upon debates and forums. After weeks of negotiations, all campaigns agreed to five debates, including a statewide televised debate that will air in Orange County,” Christian Ulvert, senior advisor to the campaign, said in a statement. “The Mayor is excited and proud to continue to share his vision for Florida and his progressive record of accomplishments directly with voters in the upcoming three debates and town halls.”

Orange County mayoral race becomes 3-man contest it always was

The non-partisan Orange County mayoral contest was already a slugfest between Jerry Demings, Rob Panepinto and Pete Clarke.

With three minor candidates dropping out (or failing to qualify for the ballot), the race for Orange County mayor Friday is now the same three-person contest it mostly has been, pitting Orange County Sheriff Demings against businessman Panepinto and Orange County Commissioner Clarke.

Those three qualified Friday for the August 28 election ballot, while Robert Melanson withdrew and Jose Colom and David Quiros failed to qualify as the window closed at noon.

The non-partisan contest between the three is to succeed outgoing Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who is term-limited and running for Orange County School Board.

If no one gets at least 50 percent of the vote in August, the top two will move on to a Nov. 6 runoff.

Orange County Sheriff election set for November with three candidates

There will be no primaries in the Orange County Sheriff’s election this year as only one partisan candidate, Darryl Sheppard, qualified for the ballot while Jose “Joe” Lopez switched to run as an independent.

Another Democrat also failed to qualify.

Consequently, Orlando Police Chief John Mina, already running as an independent candidate, will face Lopez and Sheppard in a November election to decide the successor to longtime Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.

Both Mina and Lopez had registered last year as Democrats, but both did so too late to qualify for this year’s ballot as Democrats. Consequently, Mina initially filed to run as an independent when he first submitted candidate paperwork in February. Lopez initially filed to run as a Democrat in February but changed that in new filings presented this week to run as an independent. There are no Republicans in the partisan election. Republican Thomas Stroup initially entered the race but withdrew.

Mina, retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Lopez, and Sheppard all qualified for the ballot this week, while former Eatonville Police Chief Eric McIntyre, who’d filed as a Democrat, did not qualify to run when the window closed at noon Friday.

Moneywise, Mina and Lopez started close, but Mina has been raising far more campaign money over the past few months. Through May, Mina raised about $113,000, Lopez about $49,000; Sheppard, $3,000.

Four candidates make ballot for Orange Co. School Board chair

Four candidates, including Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orange County School Board Member Nancy Robbinson, have made it onto the ballot for the August 28 election for the countywide chair position of the Orange County School Board.

Jacobs and Robbinson were joined by Orange County teacher Robert Prater and Orange County Public Schools administrator Matt Fitzpatrick.

Prater has been running since November, Robbinson since December, Fitzpatrick since January, and Jacobs since April in a quest to succeed outgoing Orange County School Board Chair Bill Sublette, the only person to hold the position since it was created

If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the August 28 election, the top two finishers move on to a runoff in November.

Many consider this a two-person contest as Robbinson, long a fixture in Orange County politics, entered the race with widespread support in the nonpartisan contest, while Jacobs, completing two terms in the county’s highest post, is among the best-known politicians in Central Florida. Prater and Fitzpatrick have taught and worked as administrators in the district for decades.

Through May, Robbinson had raised more than $122,000 for the campaign and Jacobs $69,000, in less than two months. Fitzpatrick’s campaign had attracted about $7,000, and Prater’s about $3,000.

Chris King digital ad offers his highlights from Democrats’ debates

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is launching a new digital video ad offering two minutes of his highlights from the three Democratic debates this month.

Swing for the Fences,” provides eight clips of King’s better moments in the debates, plus one of Democratic front-runner Philip Levine‘s response to a King attack that leaves Levine getting jeered. There’s also a shot of rival Gwen Graham looking annoyed as King makes an indirect attack on her. Democrat Andrew Gillum appears in some of the debate shots but doesn’t get a close-up or a line. Democrat Jeff Greene has not yet appeared in any debates.

Interspersed in the video are text compliments lifted from media coverage about King’s debate performances.

King’s campaign said the ad would target Democratic voters on Facebook, statewide, as part of the campaign’s ongoing six-figure online media buy.

The ad shows King, the Winter Park entrepreneur, mentioning his positions on such topics as affordable housing, criminal justice reform, marijuana legalization, wage growth, immigration, and abortion.

“If you want the status quo, I’m not your guy,” King says in one of the debates, as the ad wraps up. “If you want to swing for the fences and dream again, I’m Chris King, and I want to be your governor.”

Anna Eskamani gets primary opponent

Anna Eskamani, campaigning for the Orange County seat opening up in Florida’s House District 47 for more than a year, drew a Democratic primary opponent with the unexpected entry of Ocoee real estate agent Lou Forges, provided he qualifies for the ballot.

The entry came as a surprise to Orange County Democratic Party leadership, leaving the party scrambling, with little success Thursday, to talk with Forges, find out who he is, and why he chose to enter a last-week challenge to a candidate the party has strongly backed.

Orange County Party Chairman Wes Hodge said Forges declined to talk to him about his campaign Thursday, telling the party chair he was waiting until after qualifying. Hodge said he has questions about Forges’ residency, and about his campaign consultants, who’ve previously largely worked on Republican campaigns, including that of state Rep. Mike Miller, the incumbent in the district.

“We have serious concerns,” about his candidacy, Hodge said.

Forges did not return calls Thursday from Orlando-Rising.

Forges, who turns 48 on July 1, filed his paperwork Wednesday.

Eskamani, of Orlando, is aiming for the seat being vacated by Miller, who is running for Congress. Two Republicans, lawyer Mikaela Nix of Orlando and businessman Stockton Reeves VI, also have been campaigning for the seat.

Through early Friday morning, only Eskamani and Nix had qualified for the ballot.

HD 47 covers north and central Orange County, including much of Winter Park and Orlando, including downtown Orlando and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Hodge said the address Forges lists on his voter registration a house in Ocoee, well outside HD 47, which Forges apparently sold 18 months ago. And the address Forges uses for a homestead exemption is in Apopka, also well outside HD 47, Hodge said.

Forges is working with Corridor Consulting Group, an agency that has worked on the campaigns of Republicans Miller, former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey, and Orange County Commission candidate Bobby Lance, among others, Hodge said.

Eskamani, an official with Planned Parenthood, has been a grassroots organizer for years, and has a strong ground game to go along with more than $244,000 in campaign money she has raised. At the end of May, she still had more than $178,000 left in the bank. Reeves, who has lent his campaign about $95,000, ended May with about $104,000 in the bank. Nix, who entered the race in January, had about $36,000 going into June.

Donald Trump makes clear his endorsement of Ron DeSantis

No more speculation about whether President Donald Trump‘s kind words Ron DeSantis were just praise for the moment: Trump Friday morning tweeted out a full-throated endorsement of the Republican congressman’s bid in Florida’s gubernatorial election.

“Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes – Loves our Military & our Vets. He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!” the president tweeted.

DeSantis, who’s been campaigning largely on FOX News, has been trailing Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in most polls, including a FOX News poll Thursday that gave Putnam a 15-point lead. Heading toward the August 28 primary, the Trump factor is expected to be significant, as polls have shown overwhelming support from the party. Weekly tracking polls from Gallum has put Republican approval of Trump at 90 percent for the second week of June.

Yet while Putnam, too, has sought to offer support for Trump, DeSantis always portrayed a close and supportive two-way relationship with Trump, and has been one of the most reliable and hardest-hitting members of Congress pushing back on the Russia probes and arguing that the Democrats, not Trump, have done wrong.

Earlier this week DeSantis posted on Facebook that he was “proud to have President Donald Trump’s endorsement.” But until Friday that was a little unclear, as Trump hadn’t actually spoken or written the word endorsement.

Until now.

“We’re proud to have the full support of President Trump.” DeSantis campaign spokesman David Vasquez stated Friday morning. “As a top conservative leader in Florida, taxpayer superhero and an Iraq veteran, Ron DeSantis will make a Great Governor of Florida.”

Putnam’s campaign responded with this:

“Floridians know that Adam Putnam will always put Florida First. As the FOX News poll indicates, grassroots momentum behind Adam Putnam’s Florida First vision continues to grow. Adam looks forward to working with President Trump as Florida’s next governor to keep our economy thriving, taxes low and our borders secure.”

Space Coast Business Force endorses Rene Plasencia, Thad Altman, Dorothy Hukill

Business Voice of Florida’s Space Coast has endorsed the re-elections of state Sen. Dorothy Hukill and state Reps. Rene Plasencia and Thad Altman in Brevard County districts, the organization announced.

Those endorsements are in addition to the previously announced nod toward Tyler Sirois for the open seat for House District 51.

All four are Republicans and all of them except Hukill have Republican primary challenges on August 28.

The organization, established to be the political voice for the Space Coast business community, also made endorsements of Chuck Nelson and Curt Smith in the Brevard County Commission District 2 and 4 elections, respectively; and Misty Belford and Andy Ziegler in the Brevard County School Board District 1 and 5 races, respectively.

“The state legislature, the county commission and our local school board have an incredible impact on the local economy,” said Kathryn Rudloff, executive director for the group, in a news release. “Ensuring the Space Coast remains a great place to live, work and do business is our priority. That is why local job creators are excited to support these proven leaders who are committed to the long-term health and sustainability of our diverse regional economy.”

Hukill is clear until November when she faces the winner of the Democratic primary, either Brandon Maggard or Mel Martin, for Senate District 14.

Plasencia faces George Collins in a Republican primary for House District 50, while Altman faces Matt Nye in the primary for House District 52. Democrats will be awaiting the winners in November.

“These candidates are asking the voting public for a job. The business community takes very seriously the opportunity to interview candidates and consider their qualifications for the office they seek,” Rudloff added.

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