Orlando Archives - Florida Politics

Ron DeSantis to deliver keynote at Orange County Young Republicans summit

The Orange County Young Republicans announced Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis will be one of the keynote speakers at the Florida’s Future Policy Summit and Dinner next month.

In addition to the CD 6 congressman, the Aug. 26 event at the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel in Orlando will include a keynote from Master Sergeant Israel “DT” Del Toro, who re-enlisted in the United States Air Force after an IED explosion in Afghanistan severely burned more than 80 percent of his body.

Other speakers include Allie Stuckey of The Conservative Millennial as well as campus organizer and University of Miami graduate student Lauren Cooley.

The summit will run from noon to 9 pm, and will also include breakout sessions on transportation, education and jobs.

The Orange County Young Republicans bill the half-day summit as the “leading conservative event heading into the 2018 election cycle.”

Individual tickets to the summit start at $125 each, with many higher level sponsorship tiers available. Dinner only tickets are also available for $100 a piece.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit the event website.

Computers, phones are evidence against Pulse gunman’s wife

Authorities investigating the wife of a man who massacred Florida nightclub patrons have seized three computers, cellphones, an IPad and a Facebook account as evidence.

Documents filed last week show federal prosecutors have provided Noor Salman‘s defense team with those items.

Salman is charged with aiding and abetting her husband, Omar Mateen, and with obstructing law enforcement. She has pleaded not guilty and is set to go on trial next March.

Forty-nine patrons were killed during the Pulse massacre in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Salman’s attorneys asked a judge for the court to pay for a computer expert, who says he needs more than six weeks to go over the digital data.

A magistrate on Monday declared Salman a pauper, allowing her to waive court costs.

Marco Rubio to headline Seminole County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner

The Republican Party of Seminole County announced Monday that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will attend its Lincoln Day Dinner celebration in Altamonte Springs next month.

The Lincoln Day Dinner will be held at the Hilton Orlando Altamonte Springs on Aug. 22, with doors scheduled to open at 6:30 pm and the dinner set for 7 pm.

Lincoln Day dinners are annual celebrations held by various GOP organizations nationwide. After Ronald Reagan’s death in 2004, some Lincoln Day festivities evolved into a celebration of the former president’s life and achievements, as well as an occasion to honor the party’s successes over the past year.

The Seminole County celebration will be preceded by a VIP Reception and cocktail hour beginning at 6 pm, which Rubio will attend.

Individual tickets to the dinner are listed at $150 a piece, while an individual ticket that includes admission to the VIP Reception with Rubio is listed at $300.

Higher-tier sponsorships for the event, including a reserved table or seats at the head table, are also available.

For more information on the event, contact Kimberly Carroll or visit the event page on the Seminole County GOP website. Tickets may also be reserved through the website.

Barbara Cady bringing Democratic, feminist connections to HD 42 run

Are Osceola County and eastern Polk County ready for a determined, old-school feminist representing them in the Florida House of Representatives?

Democrat Barbara Cady, 59, of Kissimmee, filed last week to run against Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike LaRosa in House District 42.

She’s bringing a wealth of Democratic Party and feminist-leadership connections to run in a district where the Democrats have a solid advantage in voter registration but haven’t seriously backed a candidate in more than a decade.

Cady is determined to change that. A former secretary and real estate agent, and then longtime mother and homemaker, she transformed the direction of her life a few years ago when she attended college, in her 50s, in New York, majoring in women’s and gender studies. She became very active in Democratic and women’s issues activism.

And after President Donald Trump won election in November, she decided she wanted to do more, with a little nudge from Democratic state Rep. John Cortes from neighboring House District 43.

“I looked and I thought, well, I know a lot of my neighbors and I know my community, and they’re very much Democrats. We do have Republicans, sure,” she said. “So why is this Republican in this seat? So I looked at the area, and the stats, and said, ‘Well, I’m going to run.’ That’s what I need to do. We need to win this seat for the Democrats, and get the Democrats out to vote.”

She and her husband Patrick Clarke had owned a home in Kissimmee since 2004 and moved there full-time in 2014, and she decided she wanted to get involved full-time in Democratic politics, particularly since Hillary Clinton was running for president.

She worked as a volunteer for the Clinton campaign, knocking on doors, hosting events. She became a Clinton delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. and provided lodging in her home for visiting campaign surrogates such as Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock and former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis.

She joined the Osceola County Democratic Executive Committee, and joined and even formed some women’s Democratic political groups. She is president of the Greater Orlando National Organization for Women, and treasurer of the Osceola County Democratic Women.

“I met a lot of great people and formed some really solid relationships,” Cady said.

She also became a licensed community association manager, working with home-owners associations.

She’ll be heading to Washington D.C. next week to talk to potential consultants there.

Cady also professes a powerful streak of patriotism, borne from her upbringing as the daughter of a Navy intelligence officer who was posted around the world, including in Morocco and Cuba.

“I’ve always had a strong sense of country and being patriotic, that is just borne in me. I disagree with a lot of things government is doing, but I always believe the flag is important, and being of service to your country is just part of who I am,” she said.

“I’m inspired by a sense of believing in my country,” Cady said. “With what’s going on with Trump, I’m disappointed with what has happened with the Republican Party. I grew up Republican, with a military family, and I think I think my father would be rolling over in his rave right now if he could see what Trump is doing with those Russians.”

HD 42 takes in southern and eastern Osceola and southeastern Polk, a huge swath that includes enormous rural areas, and the city of St. Cloud, but also pieces of Kissimmee and Poinciana in Osceola and towns such as Frostproof in Polk. It is no longer dominated by the cattle and agriculture economy and old-school Florida population. It is transforming by an increasingly younger, largely Hispanic, primarily Puerto Rican population, that has flocked to bourgeoning Poinciana and Kissimmee, changing the population and political balance just in the past decade.

Today the district is 38.2 percent Democrat and 32.4 percent Republican. The 2010 census found the population was 28 percent Hispanic and 10 percent African-American, and those numbers have been expanding.

On the other hand, it’s a conservative brand of Democrat-leaning, with plenty of independent voters, and went for Trump by three points in the 2016 election.

“I think we have a shot, because this is a swing district and there is a lot of discontent, with the whole Republican agenda,” Cady said

She said she’s not ready to present a platform, and is talking to people in the community and developing her positions and priorities. Planks addressing equal rights, the low-wage economy, the area homeless problems, and support for immigrants are likely to be in it.

“I’d like to see a level playing field where everyone has the opportunity to pursuit the American Dream,” she said.

HD 47 hopeful Anna Eskamani opens political committee

Democrat Anna Eskamani opened a political committee this month which will allow her to raise funds for her campaign in Orlando-based House District 47.

Eskamani sent in the paperwork to open “People Power for Florida” in June and the Florida Division of Elections acknowledged the committee and added it to its database on July 13. The first campaign finance report for the committee, covering all of July, is due Aug. 10.

News of Eskamani opening a political committee was first reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida.

The Orlando Democrat is currently the only candidate running for HD 47, as current Republican Rep. Mike Miller announced in late June that he will leave the seat to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Eskamani filed for the seat a few days after Miller’s June 29 announcement, and is so far the only major party candidate running for the seat, which covers part of Orange County, including Winter Park and Belle Isle.

Though her campaign has not yet released its first campaign finance report, it should see a nice boost in August. The Planned Parenthood director of external affairs announced a fundraiser Thursday with many top Florida Democrats on the guest list, including Alan Grayson, Alex Sink, Bob Poe and Steve Schale.

HD 47 has a Democratic lean, with 45,213 registered Democrats, 43,323 registered Republicans and 30,189 voters not registered with either major party. Democrat Beth Tuura ran against Miller last cycle, but fell to 52-47 on Election Day.

Florida LGBTQ journalist, Orlando institution, Billy Manes passes

Orlando has lost its boldest conscience and Florida’s LGBTQ community its most passionate and omnipresent voice with the passing of Billy Manes.

Manes, 45, most recently editor of Watermark, the state’s leading LGBTQ newspaper, and before that a longtime columnist for Orlando Weekly, the city’s leading alternative journalism medium, died Friday. He was with his husband, Anthony Mauss, and others at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

His death led to an eruption of grief and memories on social media Friday, particularly within the city’s progressive and LGBTQ communities, but not limited to them. The journalist and advocate drew powerful eulogy messages from the city’s powerful, including Mayor Buddy Dyer, and even from those outside the usual Democratic and LGBTQ circles, such as socially-conservative Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon, who called to say he considered Manes a friend as well as a foil, and had valued that friendship.

Manes once ran for mayor against Dyer, in 2005, but the city’s longtime leader expressed deep regard for him Friday.

“Our hearts are heavy today as Billy Manes has passed away. Billy was a journalist, storyteller and community advocate. Sometimes a candidate for Mayor. Always a vibrant force of nature with a healthy dose of wit who loved Orlando and helped make our city fiercely unique,” Dyer stated in a Facebook post. “Billy will be missed.”

As a columnist for Orlando Weekly, Manes mixed fierce critical reporting of the follies and foibles of Central Florida politicians with biting, sarcastic wit that even had his targets usually smiling. At Watermark, a publication he left last Friday, he led the publication’s coverage of the June 12, 2016, massacre at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub, Pulse, bringing together hard reporting and heart.

“Manes became the voice of a grieving community, appearing on MSNBC and NPR,” Orlando Weekly said in an obituary published on its website Friday. “On the one-year mark of the tragedy, Manes reflected in a Watermark column that Orlando achieved the remarkable feat of pulling different people in the city together after Pulse.”

He also was a board member of the national Pride Fund To End Gun Violence.

“Billy was an integral member of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence and was one of the LGBTQ community’s most outspoken advocates,” Executive Director Jason Lindsay stated in a news release. “He touched so many lives as a selfless friend, community supporter and a willing mentor. We will greatly miss him and his contributions to the gun violence prevention movement and the advancement of LGBTQ equality.”

Manes won over everyone with his sincerity, intelligence, humor, and ever-impressive passion for what he believed in.

“I’m at a loss for words. Orange County is just a little darker tonight,” Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge stated in a Facebook post.

“A very talented, passionate, and sincere man died today,” posted Wade Vose, a Republican attorney.

“Picking up a copy of the Orlando Weekly at Panera was a ritual for me when Billy Manes was covering city council meetings. His dispatches were biting, witty, delicious and never sterile. Whenever he came to campus for our internship fairs, he always greeted me with a hug. I’m saddened to learn of his passing. RIP, Billy,” posted University of Central Florida Journalism Professor Rick Brunson.

“And I’ll take with me the memories
“to be my sunshine after the rain.
“It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.
“Rest In Power Billy Manes
“Goodbye friend,” posted Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.


Buddy Dyer urges united Orlando to go forward

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer declared Friday that the state of the city is united, and that that unity, drawn from Orlando’s darkest day, is needed as the city confronts its future with challenges of transit, homelessness, housing and a development of a high-tech economy.

“Two words,” Dyer concluded in his annual State of the City address, given at City Hall, “Orlando united.”

That has been the catch phrase of a city, a region, a people, embracing one another in the days and now the 13 months since the Pulse nightclub massacre of June 12, 2017. Dyer said the unity had been crafted long before Pulse and saved the city in the aftermath. It had shown the world a remarkable resiliency. And now, he said, it is needed going forward.

Dyer’s 36-minute address was short on new, bold plans or project announcements. Mostly, the mayor of 14 years pushed for a staying on the current course, completion of current projects, and expansion of current services, and programs, more urban planning, and continuation of his policies.

But he also made it clear that a new police headquarters, new developments at Lake Nona, the expansion of the city’s Interstate 4, the foundations of the University of Central Florida’s new downtown campus and the related Creative Village multi-use development, and other brick-and-mortar projects were relatively small accomplishments of the past year compared with the city’s reaction to Pulse.

“We have transformed Orlando from a place which was packed with potential to a place that has realized its potential. Most of the attention over these last several years has been on tangible projects, things we can see, touch, and quantify in dollars and cents. But the past year has been very different,” Dyer said.

“In the most challenging year in our city’s history, the intangible has defined Orlando,” he added.

It didn’t happen by accident, he insisted.

“Think about it: We spent years talking about partnerships, diversity and inclusion. Our response to Pulse showed the world that isn’t just lip service,” he said. “We showed the world what it truly means to love, to respect, and to accept your neighbor. And why partnership matters so much: We showed the world we have our differences, but when it really matters, when it really matters, we’re in this together.

“Knowing this fact is why we can say, in this national climate that is so divided, so divided, Orlando is different. Knowing this allows us to say with pride and confidence that the state of our city is united and unbreakable,” he added.

The challenge ahead, he continued is to apply that unity as Orlando transitions from a city everyone wants to visit into a city in which everyone wants to live. Those challenges, he said, include development of affordable housing, expansion of transit, public safety, the fostering of a high-tech economy, the city’s main street programs developing multiple neighborhood hubs throughout, and promotion of sustainable energy from buses to housing.

“Being Orlando United will be our advantage, as we work together to address these challenges,” Dyer said.

Anna Eskamani announces star-studded fundraiser for HD 47 candidacy

Democrat Anna Eskamani‘s House District 47 campaign announced Thursday it will be holding an August fundraiser with co-chairs including Alan Grayson, Alex Sink, Bob Poe, and Steve Schale.

The August 15 fundraiser will be held at The Abbey, a popular downtown Orlando watering hole, especially for Democrats.

Eskamani, a Planned Parenthood director of external affairs and progressive Democratic organizer from Orlando, is first-in seeking to replace Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park, who announced last month he’ll run for Congress rather than seek election.

The district serves north and central Orange County, including Winter Park and downtown Orlando.

The Democrat who ran against Miller last year, television producer Beth Tuura, is among the event chairs. Former Congressman Grayson, Former Florida Chief Financial Officer Sink, Democratic fundraiser Poe, Democratic operative Schale, former Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie, lobbyist Kelly Cohen,  and fundraisers Jim Kitchens, Ted Maines, and Jeffrey Miller are among those listed as co-chairs.

“Some say that fundraising during the summer is tough, but with a community like ours, anything is possible,” Eskamani said in a news release.

Republican Scott Sturgill announces for CD 7

Republican Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill announced Wednesday he is running for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, setting up a primary showdown with state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park.

Sturgill, owner of a company that produces work safety equipment such as hard hats, made his announcement at the Sanford Regional Chamber of Commerce surrounded by about 100 guests, including numerous members of the chamber, and several Seminole and Sanford elected officials including Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett.

He called for a return of civility to Washington D.C. and promised a platform that would put heavy emphasis on pushing for more reform of the Veterans Administration to assure quick, quality health care, and for aggressive efforts to keep and support the military presence in Central Florida, notably the simulation and modeling industry.

Sturgill is pushing his business background.

“Washington has been out of touch with reality for far too long. But there are too many bureaucrats, political appointees and career politicians who refuse to address or understand the issues that impact us every da,” he said. “Because they have never experienced what it is like to sign a paycheck. They’ve only signed the back. If we continue down this path we will see another economic downturn, only next time it will be much worse

“We will be able to take our entrepreneurial experience and work with both parties and all branches of government with civility, despite personality conflicts or differences,” he added.

Also there was Seminole County Joel Greenberg, who also had discussed a run in CD 7. On Wednesday he said he fully supported Sturgill. So that reduces the potential field wanting to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, who won the seat last fall, ousting longtime Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs also has been mentioned as a potential Republican candidate, but recently seemed to dismiss the prospect.

Miller announced his candidacy last month.

Sturgill had run for the Florida House of Representatives in 2014, losing in the Republican primary to now-state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs.

He said he wants to push for veterans to select their own doctors close to home for health care, to be covered by the VA. And he said the military, thanks to the modeling and simulation industry, has become the second largest employment industry in Central Florida. “I will do everything in my power to assure we keep these jobs right here,” Sturgill pledged.

Sierra-Nevada’s space plane ‘Dream Chaser’ to launch atop Atlas V

Sierra-Nevada Corp. has caught a flight to space for its space plane, Dream Chaser, which will be the first spacecraft available to NASA and the the commercial sector since the space shuttle that can fly and land like an airplane.

The company picked United Launch Alliance to provide the rockets to lift the Dream Chaser and its cargo, and possibly one day its astronauts, into lower-Earth orbit. Sierra-Nevada announced Wednesday it will be using the ULA’s venerable Atlas V rocket for its first two missions hauling cargo to and from the International Space Station under a cargo resupply contract with NASA.

Liftoff would be from ULA’s launch facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Dream Catcher would then come back to Earth and land, presumably at Kennedy Space Center’s landing strip, formerly the Space Shuttle Landing Facility, where it has approved use.

The first launch is scheduled for 2020, the second for 2021.

Sierra-Nevada also has plans to carry cargo for private companies and also has designed the Dream Chaser to carry astronauts. It did not win a NASA contract for astronauts, but the company has been marketing it for private astronauts. The company also has indicated it could and would land Dream Chaser at large commercial airports, if occasion calls for it.

“ULA is pleased to partner with Sierra Nevada Corporation to launch its Dream Chaser cargo system to the International Space Station in less than three years,” Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Human and Commercial Systems announced in a news release issued by ULA. “We recognize the importance of on time and reliable transportation of crew and cargo to Station and are honored the Atlas V was selected to continue to launch cargo resupply missions for NASA.”

There are two other companies hauling cargo to the space station, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, and both use their own rockets to carry conventional space capsules that return by parachuting into the ocean. ULA has provided a couple of rockets on occasions that Orbital ATK’s own rockets weren’t available.

“SNC recognizes the proven reliability of the Atlas V rocket and its availability and schedule performance makes it the right choice for the first two flights of the Dream Chaser,” Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area, stated in the news release.


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