Orlando Archives - Page 7 of 120 - Florida Politics

Bob Cortes raises $26K in August, tops among Seminole County house candidates

State Rep. Bob Cortes raised more than $26,000 for his re-election campaign in Florida House District 30 in August, more than doubling his campaign fund for the 2018 election.

Cortes, a Republican from Altamonte Springs who hosted a major fundraiser on August 1, increased his re-election campaign fund to $49,960 in donations, with $4,892 in expenses so far.

He had by far the biggest month of any state house candidates from Seminole County, even though Cortes does not yet have an opponent.

August data has not yet been posted by the Florida Division of Elections for Republican David Smith of Winter Springs, who is seeking the House District 28 seat being vacated by fellow Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur. He ended July with the largest total among Seminole County candidates, $108,050 raised, including $50,000 he lent to his own campaign. Smith has spent $15,241.

Smith, a businessman, faces Seminole County Deputy Sheriff Chris Anderson of Lake Mary in a Republican primary challenge, with Democratic businessman Lee Mangold of Casselberry preparing to meet one of them in the November, 2018, general election. Anderson did not raise any money in August, but has raised $9,560 on the year. He has spent $1,802. Mangold raised $180 in August, giving him $3,120 in total contributions, and has spent $1,183.

In Congressional District 29, Republican incumbent state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood also has not had his finances posted on line yet for the month of August. Through July, he had raised $31,500 this year, and spent $4,674. His Democratic opponent Patrick Brandt only filed to run last week, and has not yet filed a campaign finance report.

In Congressional District 31, Republican incumbent state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora reported raising $1,000 in the month and $15,500 on the year, while spending $858. Her Democratic opponent Debra Kaplan of Eustis has not yet had her  August finances posted. Through July she had raised $1,697 on the year, while spending $303.

Val Demings, Darren Soto, Stephanie Murphy push antiterrorism funding for Orlando

Central Florida’s three Democratic members of the U.S. Congress have introduced an amendment to the federal spending bill that would set aside additional antiterrorism money for cities like Orlando that miss the cut from Homeland Security.

Central Florida’s delegation – dating back to the three previous incumbents – has argued that Homeland Security’s rules for distributing local antiterrorism money are unfair because they do not adequately take into account tourism visitors and other factors that would rank Orlando as a higher potential terrorism target.

That argument began before the June 12, 2016, attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub that killed 49 and wounded 53.

U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Darren Soto of Orlando and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park introduced an amendment to the federal budget bill that would provide an additional $20 million for cities on the bubble like Orlando and San Antonio, which also has been pushing for a change in federal rules.

The money would go toward federal Urban Area Security Initiative grants to sustain training and equipment that was obtained with previous federal funds.

“This funding would help Orlando and other cities avoid losing ground on preparedness,” Demings, who’s been particularly outspoken about the issue, stated in a news release. “The federal government has a continuing responsibility to assist this nation’s cities in preventing and preparing to respond to acts of terrorism. I believe we have no greater obligation than to keep the people that we represent safe from harm.”

Demings is a member of the House Committee On Homeland Security.

“We have seen too many recent international and national tragedies, including in our beloved Orlando. In this era of growing terror threats, it is vital we are proactive with our preparedness and prevention plans. Additional funding for UASI counter-terror programs will equip our Central Florida police departments and first responders with the necessary training and resources to better protect our community in case of the unexpected. Orlando is a thriving, global city, and we must continue to do all we can to keep Floridians and our visitors safe and secure,” stated Soto.

“The safety of our communities must be a top priority. Additional funding for the UASI program will help ensure that cities like Orlando are prepared to handle potential terrorist attacks. As a global tourist destination, Orlando faces unique security challenges. An increase in UASI funding will give law enforcement and first responders the training and tools they need to keep our families safe,” Murphy stated.

Last year their predecessors, U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, Alan Grayson and John Mica also implored the Department of Homeland Security to reevaluate its ranking system. Orlando had gotten antiterrorism money in previous years, but failed to qualify in 2015 and 2016. Demings’ husband, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, and Orlando Police Chief John Mina testified before Congress on the need for such grants to Orlando.

Earlier this year, Demings, Soto, and Murphy voted for legislation that passed the House, House Resolution 2825, with a provision authored by Demings to create a new, permanent grant program to assist former UASI jurisdictions.


Hard Rock International to move Orlando headquarters

Hard Rock International is moving its corporate headquarters from Orlando to Hollywood in 2018.

The casino, hotel and restaurant conglomerate made the announcement on its website. It will bring staffers together by joining with its ownership, The Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Seminole Gaming organization.

Hard Rock has been based in Orlando since the Seminole Tribe bought it in 2007.

“The opportunity to combine the world-class talent of all three companies will create an even more powerful organization,” a statement from the company said. “At this time, details of the move and timing are still to be determined.”

The move may have been triggered by the resignation last year of CEO Hamish Dodds, who was based in Orlando. The current CEO Jim Allen leads the company from its South Florida casino.

Hard Rock International has venues in 75 countries, including 176 cafes, 24 hotels and 11 casinos. One of the company’s two most successful hotel and casino properties is in Hollywood and operated by the Seminole Tribe. The other is in Tampa.

HD 29 Democrat Patrick Brandt to campaign on springs, schools, health care

Newly-filed Florida House District 29 Democratic candidate Patrick Brandt said he’s running because he believes Republicans in Tallahassee oppose “nearly everything I stand for.”

Brandt, 47, a lawyer from Longwood, filed earlier this week to oppose Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon. Brandt said he is engaging with Gainesville Democratic political consultant Bryan Eastman and bringing on other staff already for a campaign in a district that Democrats won in an upset in 2012, but which Plakon easily took back in 2014.

Brandt, originally from Iowa, worked for Walt Disney World for 16 years, as an emcee, before earning a law degree from Florida A&M University Law School in Orlando in 2014 and becoming a lawyer representing businesses and home owners in insurance disputes. His wife Arielle Brandt also is a lawyer.

He is a newcomer to politics.

“I moved to Seminole county for the reason most everyone moves here: the incredible schools and the counties natural beauty. I support protecting our rivers and our natural springs. I support our public schools and the teachers who make them extraordinary. I believe in our booming industries especially technology and innovation,” Brandt said in a written statement.

“For the last few years, our elected officials have become unapologetically opposed to nearly everything I stand for. Again and again, our overwhelmingly Republican legislature in Tallahassee has voted to open our waters to drilling, our forests to unchecked urban sprawl, our schools to unregulated corporate ownership through charter schools, and our industry to low wages, shorter hours, and fewer benefits,” he added. “Tallahassee has rejected federal assistance to healthcare expansion and accepted middling mandates to aid our infrastructure; a financial burden that falls directly on the middle class and small business. I can no longer stand idly by.”

Plakon is a four-term representative who lost re-election in 2012, switched district and won in HD 29 in 2014, and was easily re-elected last fall.

Todd Wilcox expands private defense and intelligence business

Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Wilcox is expanding his private defense and intelligence specialist company with the acquisition of a rival company.

Wilcox’s primary company Patriot Defense Group announced the acquisition of Virginia based Silverback 7 marking the beginning of a 10-year strategy to grow its Maitland headquarters. The company will add 13 high-wage jobs in the Orlando region and employ hundreds of independent contractors, he reported.

Wilcox, of Orlando, also said he is remaining active in politics, keeping his super political action committee Restore American Leadership to influence federal elections

Wilcox ran in the 2016 primary field until incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio decided, in July 2016, to seek re-election.

Patriot Defense Group provides highly-specialized training and operational support to the U.S. government, U.S. military, and U.S. law enforcement communities is possible by working with officers from the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Special Operations Command, the Department of Justice, and the Department of State.

Silverback 7 also provides specialized defense and intelligence training, boasting on its website that it offers a hybrid team of special operations and intelligence personnel with national-level experience.

“The acquisition of Silverback 7 will expand our ability to support vital national security programs,” Wilcox stated in a news release issued by his company. “And there is no better business friendly environment to do that in than right here in Central Florida.”

New committee started to back Mike Miller’s congressional bid

A super PAC backing Republican Mike Miller‘s congressional campaign was launched last week.

Paperwork registering the political committee, “Central Florida Solutions,” was filed Friday and lists Abby Dupree as both the treasurer and custodian of records. Dupree holds the same titles at Gov. Rick Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” as well as the committee backing a 2018 ballot initiative to give voters the final say in gambling expansion.

Central Florida Solutions will be headed up by former Republican Party of Florida executive director and longtime GOP consultant David Johnson, though election laws will prevent the committee from directly coordinating with Miller’s campaign.

The official web address listed for the committee, CentralFloridaSolutions.com, hasn’t gone live as of Tuesday.

Miller, who currently represents House District 47, is running against freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Miller jumped into the race recently and has not yet filed a full campaign finance report, while Murphy had nearly $520,000 in the bank as of her last report.

Until last year, when court-ordered redistricting made the Orlando-area district much more competitive, CD 7 was held by longtime GOP Congressman John Mica.

Despite Republicans holding a slight edge on voter registrations in the district, Murphy was able to snag the seat away from Mica 51 percent-48 percent on Election Day.

Still, Mica outperformed President Donald Trump in the district, which gives GOP candidates hope to flip the seat back in 2018. Last year, CD 7 voted 51-44 in favor of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Pro-DACA rally in Orlando seeks full immigration reform

With DACA recipients pleading, sometimes in tears, for the right to stay in the United States where they grew up, a coalition of pro-immigration groups and Democratic lawmakers gathered on Orlando City Hall’s front steps Tuesday to denounce President Donald Trump‘s phased-out repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

At the same time, the groups and the young, undocumented immigrants called for the widespread immigration reform that Trump demanded Congress pursue with the end of DACA in sight.

The differences could be in the details, of course, as the DACA rally sought new immigration laws that not only would extend indefinitely the legal status of the 800,000 young, undocumented adults who had protected status under former President Barack Obama‘s DACA program, but also for the extension of temporary protected status for refugees from Haiti and elsewhere, and for help for the DACA recipients’ families to also legally stay in the United States.

They reacted to Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ announcement Tuesday that the White House was ending enrollments in DACA immediately and those currently enrolled would have six months, with the challenge that Congress would pass immigration reform in that period.

While Sessions and Trump essentially set the table for full immigration reform, those gathered in Orlando offered no trust offered for them or their intentions.

“Since the administration came into office, the immigration rhetoric has been hateful. It has been divisive. And we don’t stand for it,” said Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez, lead organizer and membership coordinator for the Florida Immigration Coalition.

The gathering at Orlando City Hall Wednesday, organized by the Florida Immigrant Coalition, included scores of representatives of immigration groups, labor unions, Hispanic groups, the Council on American Islamic Relations in Florida, progressive groups, and Democratic state Sens. Victor Torres and Linda Stewart of Orlando, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando, and a representative of U.S. Rep. Darren Soto.

But it was the pleas from the DACA recipients – dubbed DREAMers, as identified in the “DREAM Act” that immigration proponents had pushed, unsuccessfully for years in Congress – who brought heart to the rally. Several were in near tears as they spoke of their families coming to the United States looking for the American dream, and bringing them and their brothers and sisters as young children. One, Hugo Lara, spoke of spending four days crossing the desert as a small boy with his family. Now 15, 20, or more years have passed, and many of those families have seen success in America, yet now face deportation.

Ahtziry Barrera said she has been in the United States since she was four years old, grew up, went to Valencia College, became her class’s valedictorian, spoke to her commencement at the Amway Center, enrolled in Rollins College, and started a business.

“The only country I ever remember pledging allegiance to is the United States,” she said. “DACA has not only allowed us to live lives here, but it has allowed us to give back. I’m one of the five percent of DACA recipients who have started a business. It has not only allowed me to start a business, but to employ citizens.

“There are many stereotypes about us here today,” she continued. “I’ve been called a criminal. I’ve been called a million things. I have had eggs thrown at me. But that’s not going to stop us.”

She and all the others spoke of strong desires to fight for their chance to remain Americans.

“This is the only country I know. I have been here for too many years… I had to fight for my rights. I stood up and said, yes, I’m undocumented,” said Alejandra Salinas. “Now with DACA ending, we will continue to fight. We will continue to be together. Congress, we are not going to stop. This will not end today. Number 45: you are messing with my heart. You are messing with my life. This is not a game.”

Buddy Dyer casts backing to Anna Eskamani in HD 47

Insisting he endorses based on the person, not the party, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer Tuesday threw his support behind Democrat Anna Eskamani in the House District 47 race.

Dyer’s endorsement was no surprise, as Eskamani signaled last week that the Democrat mayor of 14 years, and a former state lawmaker himself, was coming to her corner. But it was no certainty, as Dyer chose to endorse the Republican, state Rep. Mike Miller, for the seat last year.

“I think it shows that I always endorse the best person for the position, rather than simply going by party. So it is somewhat relevant that I endorsed the Republican in this race last time around, because I thought he was the best candidate. And this time I endorse Anna because I think she is the best candidate,” Dyer said.

This year Miller is running for Congress, opening the seat representing north and central Orange County, including Winter Park, downtown Orlando, Dyer’s neighborhood of College Park, and a quilt of distinctive neighborhoods and small suburbs stretching to Belle Isle. Eskamani faces Winter Park businessman and longtime Republican operative Stockton Reeves for the seat.

“She’s tough, but caring. She can identify with the identify with the struggles of hard-working families and the challenges that small-business owner face. She knows that the only way to get things done is by building consensus across party lines, bridging cultural divides and making room for everyone at the table,” Dyer said at a press conference on the steps of Orlando City Hall. “She fights for meaningful change and not just to grab the spotlight. And she never shies away from a challenge.”

It may be one of the biggest endorsements in the race, as Dyer long has done well among Republican and independent voters, and his leadership of Orlando after last year’s Pulse massacre led to widespread talk of unity.

“As an Orlando native, I can’t think of a more meaningful endorsement,” she said afterwards. “Buddy Dyer has led this city through both triumph and tragedy. He is trusted voice across Central Florida. The fact that he trusts me to be a partner in Tallahassee is incredibly powerful.”


Scott Plakon gets first challenger in HD 29

Republican Rep. Scott Plakon has drawn his first Democratic opponent in House District 29, which covers part of Seminole County including Lake Mary and Longwood.

Patrick Brandt entered the race on Sept. 1 and is so far the only candidate running against Plakon, who is going for a third term in his second stint in the Florida House.

Brandt is an attorney in Longwood specializing in contracts and real estate law.

If he qualifies for the ballot, Brandt would become the first Election Day opponent for Plakon since he reentered the House in 2014.

Plakon won his seat in that cycle by beating former Democratic Rep. Mike Clelland with 57 percent to 43 percent. Clelland held the seat for one term after winning his own nail biter against former GOP Rep. Chris Dorworth, who was in line to be House Speaker before failing to win re-election.

In 2016, Fred Marra ran against Plakon as a Democrat but dropped out of the race six weeks before Election Day citing health reasons, though some speculate his exit was tied to an old larceny charge that he neglected to disclose.

Despite the southwest Seminole County district flipping in the two elections leading up to 2016 and the fact that Plakon is seen as a reliable Republican vote on issues ranging from abortion to guns to fracking to school choice, the Democrats weren’t able to recruit a replacement for Marra.

The Longwood Republican was declared the winner by default in mid-October.

House District 44 special election features intrigue

If Republican nominee Bobby Olszewski wasn’t such a prohibitive favorite, the upcoming special election for Florida House District 44 would be filled with intrigue.

The Democratic nominee, Paul Chandler, is an affable man, a former teacher and a successful businessman with strong backgrounds in education and the intricacies of health care money, two of the Democrats’ platform highlights, and brings a standard progressive Democratic platform.

Yet Chandler’s qualification to run is being challenged in court, and even his own party’s officials aren’t confident he can win there. He’s staying in the race in defiance of their wishes, and might have to campaign without their help, something he’s already written off as something he said he wasn’t expecting at any rate.

And this is a district that not only hasn’t elected a Democrat in memory, it hasn’t even had an actual Democratic nominee in seven years.

“We are still proceeding forward to fight,” Chandler said on Friday.

The southwest Orange County district includes some old-Florida areas, older suburbs such as Ocoee and Oakland, and high-growth, areas such as Olszewski’s hometown of Winter Garden, Windermere, Dr. Phillips, and Hunters Creek.

It also is home to all three of Central Florida’s theme park giants – Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and Sea World Orlando, and much of the tourism corridor along International Drive and State Road 535. If there is a Florida House district that is most important to Florida tourism interests, it is HD 44.

Olszewski has plunged forward in his campaign, happy to know who will be his opponent. After winning a bruising primary, he’s shoring up endorsements from influential business groups that had endorsed his main primary opponent, John Newstreet, including the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association. He’s raising money, with a big fundraiser set for next week. He’s assembled a savvy, professional campaign staff.

Olszewski is a well-known figure, a former Winter Garden commissioner with deep community roots and broad support from other elected officials in the area. He also has his powerful political enemies, particularly within the Republican Party, due to the anti-cronyism bent he shares with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. But they’re unlikely to rock his boat against a Democrat.

Olszewski also is known as one of the hardest-working campaigners in Central Florida, someone who proudly [and with some exhaustion] says he lost 40 pounds this year walking door-to-door to meet voters. He is unlikely to change that approach, or take Chandler for granted.

Chandler is not without prospects.

First, the district, like all of Orange County, is changing, picking up more blue voters. Once a bastion of Republican voters, it now gives less than a four-point advantage to the GOP. Republican voters make up 36.1 percent of the base, in the last registration book closing, while Democrats make up 32.4 percent, and independents and others 31.5. The district voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump last fall. The southern part of the district has a significant and growing Hispanic population, and the northern part a significant black population.

Chandler is seeking outside backing in lieu of the party, including from the Pride Fund To End Gun Violence, a national group started in reaction to the Pulse massacre in Orlando last year that pours money and effort into races to support candidates who support both LGBTQ rights and gun restrictions, which Chandler, who is openly gay, does.

He contends he has tapped into his own base of eager volunteers and grassroots activists. And he’s pledged to match Olszewski step-for-step in shoe-leather campaigning.

But first he must overcome key challenges and questions.

Will the lawsuit against him, charging that he voted in Missouri last year and is therefore ineligible to become a Florida House member this year, go forward?

There has been no action by the plaintiff, Charles Hart of Windermere, since Aug. 9, the day after it was filed. Neither Hart nor his attorney Roger Beaubien responded to an Orlando-Rising.com inquiry about whether they intend to continue the action.

The suit was assigned to Judge Charles Dodson of Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee on Aug. 10, but he has scheduled nothing.


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