Orlando – Page 3 – Florida Politics

BusinessForce endorsements include Rob Panepinto for Orange County mayor

BusinessForce, a political arm seeking to represent the business interests of Central Florida, is endorsing former Chamber of Commerce president Rob Panepinto for Orange County mayor and current Mayor Teresa Jacobs for the countywide post of Orange County School Board chair.

Those two topped the list of endorsements released Wednesday afternoon by BusinessForce for county elections in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

The endorsement of Panepinto might not be surprising since he once headed up Orlando Inc., the area’s Chamber of Commerce, and the nonpartisan, nonprofit BusinessForce was started by Orlando Inc. before it spun off as an independent organization. Yet Panepinto has watched his mayoral election rival Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings in recent weeks pick up the backing of two related groups associated with the West Orange County and International Drive Chambers.

Panepinto’s background as an entrepreneur who started and expanded several companies — as well as his business sense — have been cornerstones of his mayoral campaign and appealed to BusinessForce. Also in that mayor’s race is current Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke.

“These endorsements send a strong signal to our region’s business community that these candidates have been vetted and are the most pro-business candidates in their respective races,” said BusinessForce Chair Craig Swygert in a news release.

Jacobs’ endorsement might turn some heads. In her seven years as Orange County mayor, Jacobs has pushed business development but also tussled with business leaders, particularly in downtown Orlando. Political observers expected her main rival, School Board Member Nancy Robbinson, might be well situated to challenge her for business backing.

In other races, BusinessForce endorsed:

— Former Orange County Commissioner and former state Rep. Fred Brummer in Orange County Commission District 2.

Mayra Uribe in Orange County Commission District 3.

Susan Makowski in theOrange County Commission District 4.

— Incumbent Commissioner Victoria Siplin for re-election in Orange County Commission District 6.

— Incumbent Commissioner Viviana Janer for re-election in Osceola County Commission District 2.

— Incumbent Commissioner Cheryl Grieb for re-election in Osceola County Commission District 4.

Jay Zembower in Seminole County Commission District 2.

Joe Durso in Seminole County Commission District 4.

“Our committee worked hard to ensure each candidate is a strong supporter of free enterprise, economic growth opportunities and understands the needs of all the businesses in the region. We believe the slate of candidates we’ve chosen reflects the values of BusinessForce,” said Jose Boscan, BusinessForce’s committee chair for county races, in the news release.

Mikaela Nix picks up local officials’ endorsements in HD 47 race

Republican state House candidate Mikaela Nix has picked up new endorsements from nine elected officials and former officials in Orange County for her campaign to be elected in House District 47, her campaign announced.

Those include Orange County mayoral candidate and Commissioner Pete Clarke, Belle Isle Mayor Lydia Pisano, and Edgewood Mayor Ray Bagshaw.

“We need a representative who is running for the people and not for a title. That’s Mikaela Nix, a conservative who cares about people and is already making a difference in our community,” Pisano stated in a news release issued by Nix’s campaign.

“We need a conservative leader who is able to work with all parties to get things done. That’s why I’m endorsing Mikaela Nix for State House 47,” added Bagshaw.

Nix, an Orlando lawyer, is in an August 28 Republican HD 47 primary battle with Winter Park businessman Stockton Reeves VI. The Democrats are fielding Planned Parenthood executive Anna Eskamani and Apopka real estate agent Lou Forges.

The district, being vacated by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, who’s running for Congress, covers north-central Orange County from southern Winter Park through downtown Orlando to Belle Isle and Edgewood on the south side.

Other endorsements announced by Nix’s campaign include Belle Isle Commissioner Anthony Carugno; Edgewood Council members Richard Horn, Ben Pierce, and John Dowless [a political consultant already working on Nix campaign;] Winter Park Commissioner Pete Weldon; and former Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley.

“I’m especially honored to have earned the support and endorsement of these leaders because they are the elected officials who are closest to the residents and understand the needs of District 47,” Nix stated in the release. “They want an effective and dedicated leader who will fight for the families and residents of our area, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.”

Orange County mayoral candidates all looking for some sort of gun reform

The issue of regulation of guns turned out to be more of a matter of who ought to pursue gun law reforms, not whether they ought to be pursued, for the three candidates for Orange County mayor who squared off in a debate Wednesday afternoon.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings made it clear Wednesday that he wants to see guns removed from “the hands of the wrong people,” and his two opponents, Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke and businessman Rob Panepinto agreed to some extent that there are measures appropriate for the Orange County government to pursue, during a Tiger Bay of Central Florida debate Wednesday.

All three expressed their support for the move Clarke and the rest of the Orange County Commission took in May when they voted to re-enact a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases to accommodate background checks, a law that the commission had repealed in 2011 [before Clarke was elected] out of fear that it might conflict with the state’s new law pre-empting local gun ordinances.

The trio all hope to replace outgoing Mayor Teresa Jacobs as the chief executive and county commission chair for Orange County. If no one gets more than 50 percent in the Aug. 28 election, the top two will advance to a Nov. 6 showdown.

And all three expressed general concern that in the wake of broad gun violence and the atrocities at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016 and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February that more attention and more discussion is needed on gun laws.

Demings, a lifelong Democrat who’s spent 37 years in law enforcement, took more forceful positions, talking about getting assault weapons and high-capacity magazines off the streets, while Panepinto and Clarke, Republicans, didn’t go there.

Yet none of them took staunch out-of-my-cold-dead-fingers positions on the Second Amendment rights of gun ownership, though Clarke, and to a greater degree, Panepinto suggested the conversations and attention need to be at the state and perhaps at the federal level, not in Orange County government.

Clarke talked about working with the county’s legislative delegations.

“We can get sensible laws in this community and this state and hopefully we can get sensible laws at the federal level,” he said.

Panepinto talked about the problems of patchwork laws having little effect, ultimately, on gun sales. He praised that the conversation was now occurring, but suggested the place for the decisions is probably Washington.

“We have to look at this as a constitutional right, and the balance against public safety,” Panepinto said. “At the local level, beyond what we’ve already done, look, we can drive 5 miles from here and be in another county. So I think this is an issue where county-by-county legislation doesn’t necessarily work, but the conversation certainly does have to happen.”

The sheriff said he refused to punt the issue to Tallahassee or Washington.

“We’ve got to take the guns out of the hands of the wrong people,” Demings said.

Demings talked about how the sheriff’s office now runs intelligence checks to track people whom he said should not have weapons and credited the strategy with helping reduce violent crime by 34 percent during his 10 years as sheriff.

“We also have to have a serious discussion about a ban on assault weapons,” Demings said. “It’s not a weapon that a civilian population should have out on the streets. We also should be looking at restricting the sale of high-capacity magazines.”

Stephanie Murphy picks up union backing, pledges to fight for them

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy announced the endorsements of two major labor unions Wednesday and turned her attention to the latest Supreme Court decision limiting organized labor and vowed to fight for unions.

In an announcement of little surprise to anyone, Murphy’s re-election campaign announced the backing of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, its affiliate, the Central Florida AFL-CIO; and the Florida Education Association. Together they represent more than 180,000 members in Florida.

She then took the occasion to address the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus vs. AFSCME, in which the court, by a 5-4 decision announced Wednesday, banned so-called “fair-share fees,” which require workers represented by unions to pay dues whether they want to be union members or not.

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is the latest salvo in a decades-long partisan attack on workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain for better jobs and a better life,” Murphy stated in a news release. “Having grown up in a union household, I believe this ruling is a setback for workers and the people they serve. Strong unions have made this country more prosperous by winning basic workplace protections for countless working families and retirees, union and non-union alike.”

Murphy has a challenge from the left in the August 28 Democratic primary for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, from Chardo Richardson. If she survives, she takes on the Republican primary winner, state Rep. Mike Miller, businessman Scott Sturgill, or Vennia Francois.

The district covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County.

“This ruling redoubles my commitment to fight for higher wages, stronger benefits, and a better life for working families by ensuring that unions have the strength to advocate on their behalf,” Murphy stated. “That’s why I am proud to have earned endorsements from the hardworking members of the AFL-CIO and the Florida Education Association.

“I’ve lived the union difference. No court case or partisan attack can take away the power of collective bargaining to change lives,” she added.

Alan Grayson accuses Darren Soto of ducking debates; Soto says he’ll do them

Saying that several potential debates are under discussion for the two Democrats running in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is accusing incumbent U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of ducking them Tuesday.

According to the Grayson campaign, multiple media outlets — including Spectrum cable’s Channel 13 News13 and WDBO-FM News Talk Radio — have inquired, with a wide array of times and places, about getting the two Democrats face-to-face. Grayson’s campaign is dubbing Soto “No-Show Soto” for not accepting.

Soto’s campaign denies any ducking and said debates would happen.

“Congressman Soto will do debates and forums,” Harry Kruglik, Soto’s campaign spokesperson, said Tuesday in a written statement. “We’ll be finalizing and releasing the debate and forum schedule next week.”

Grayson held the CD 9 seat for two terms before running for the U.S. Senate in 2016, rather than seeking another term that year. Soto, a former state senator, won in 2016, first defeating Grayson’s wife Dena Grayson and Grayson’s former aide Susannah Randolph in a primary, before dispatching Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in the general election.

Liebnitzky is lined up this year to meet the winner of the August 28 Democratic primary between Soto and Alan Grayson.

CD 9 now covers Osceola County, much of south Orange County, and much of south Polk County.

“It comes as no surprise that ‘No-Show Soto’ is unable to defend his endorsement by the NRA, his two votes against impeachment, his vote to prosecute abortions as murder, or his ‘open-mindedness”’on eliminating Social Security,” Grayson said in a written statement issued by his campaign on Tuesday. “He’s an elephant in donkey’s clothing.”

Grayson has been attacking his Democratic successor, with such references to votes against the interests of progressive Democrats.

Soto has disputed Grayson’s spins on the bills in question, and contended that some date back a decade anyway. Soto was endorsed by the NRA in 2010 when he was in the Florida House of Representatives, and received an “A” grade from the organization, though he has since disavowed any support from the group while pushing for gun control as a congressman.

Grayson once got a “B” from the NRA, Soto’s campaign countered. Grayson also has disavowed the NRA calling it “ruthless” and noting it had run ads against him in a campaign.

Soto also is running up an impressive list of endorsements by progressive groups that had become wary of Grayson, including endorsements from the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood and Florida Young Democrats, groups that would take issue with the positions Grayson’s campaign cited for Soto.

On Tuesday Soto also rolled out another, the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, which works to elect candidates who will support sound environmental policies.

Adam Putnam, Scott Sturgill, Ashley Moody, Matt Caldwell win Seminole GOP straw poll

Congressional candidate Scott Sturgill, gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody, and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell were the top choices Monday night in a straw poll conducted during the Seminole County Republican Party hobnob.

Sturgill is facing fellow Republicans state Rep. Mike Miller and Vennia Francois and easily defeated both of them among nearly 300 votes cast during the Seminole Republican Executive Committee’s gathering at the Altamonte Hilton in Altamonte Springs. Sturgill, of Sanford, picked up 170 votes, or 60 percent, while Miller of Winter Park attracted 105 votes and Francois of Orlando grabbed just eight votes.

They’re vying for an August 28 Republican primary to run in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which includes all of Seminole County and a large swath of north and central Orange County, where Miller and Francois live. They hope for a shot at Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

Putnam also coasted to an easy victory over U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, whose 6th Congressional District abuts Seminole County. Putnam, Florida’s Agricultural Commissioner from Polk County, picked up 146 votes to DeSantis’ 77. Six other Republicans each picked up at least one vote, led by Bob White‘s 19.

For the Republicans’ U.S. Senate nomination, Gov. Rick Scott has only nominal competition, and he crushed it. Scott got 230 votes while Rocky De La Fuente got 38.

Moody, the former circuit court judge from Tampa, was in a much tighter competition for the Attorney General’s nomination among participating Seminole Republicans. She drew 119 votes while state Rep. Frank White of Pensacola picked up 106.

Caldwell had no such trouble convincing Seminole Republicans to pick him. The state representative from North Fort Myers got 103 votes, while state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Lake Placid drew just 49, and Mike McCalister of Plant City got 43. Former state Rep. Baxter Troutman finished a distant fourth with only 23 votes.

In local races, Joe Durso topped Amy Lockhart 172-102 in the race for the Seminole County Commission District 4 seat; Cade Resnick topped Alan Youngblood 155-86 for the Seminole County School Board District 1 seat; and Amy Pennock beat Bobby Agagnina 150-40 for the School Board District 4 seat, with several other candidates getting handfuls of votes.

Orlando ends use of facial recognition software

The city of Orlando announced Monday it has ended its pilot project for the police to use Amazon Rekognition facial recognition software but held the door open for possible further use even as the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida called it a potential invasion of residents’ privacy, free speech and due process rights and demanded the city end its use.

The city’s pilot with Amazon regarding the potential viability of their Rekognition technology ended last week, according to a written statement issued jointly by the city and the Orlando Police Department.

“Staff continues to discuss and evaluate whether to recommend continuation of the pilot at a further date. At this time that process in still ongoing and the contract with Amazon remains expired,” reads a joint statement. “The City of Orlando is always looking for new solutions to further our ability to keep our residents and visitors safe. Partnering with innovative companies to test new technology – while also ensuring we uphold privacy laws and in no way violate the rights of others – is critical to us as we work to further keep our community safe.”

That statement came after the ACLU of Florida sent a letter Monday to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and members of the Orlando City Commission, but referred to an action that took place before the letter was sent.

“People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government,” Nancy Abudu, legal director ACLU Florida declared in that letter.

“Face surveillance in Orlando threatens this freedom, particularly where government agencies deploy it without community debate, without local legislative oversight, and without rules to prevent abusive use,” she continued.

After the project was publicized in May revealing that Orlando police were using the Amazon software in a pilot project to see how it works, controversy erupted. Orlando Police Chief John Mina vowed it would never be used to track random people.

The ACLU conducted a six-month investigation and obtained records revealing that Amazon was working with law enforcement agencies on both U.S. coasts to push its face surveillance product, including the Orlando Police Department.

Abudu also argued that she and the ACLU are particularly concerned because the city launched the project without any public consideration.

“The City Council has allowed the use of this technology by the Orlando Police Department without inviting public debate, obtaining local legislative authorization, or adopting rules to prevent harm to Orlando community members,” said Abudu. “People should be able to safely live their lives without being watched and targeted by their government. We demand the City of Orlando to uphold that standard and end the use of a tool that threatens public safety, and that will endanger the rights of communities of color, protesters, and immigrants.”

Philip Levine

Philip Levine opening Orlando campaign office

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is opening an Orlando office, the third Democratic gubernatorial candidate to hang a shingle in the City Beautiful.

Levine’s campaign office formally opens Tuesday at 5 p.m. at 646 West Colonial Dr., a couple miles down Colonial from the East Colonial offices of his Democratic rivals Chris King and Gwen Graham, which are just about a block apart.

Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis also has his primary campaign office in Orlando.

Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor, already has regional offices in Kissimmee, Tampa, and St. Petersburg in the I-4 Corridor.

Also in the race are Democrats Andrew Gillum, who’s holding a town hall meeting in Orlando a couple hours after Levine’s office opens, and Jeff Greene; and Republican Adam Putnam.

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.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons