Mike La Rosa Archives - Florida Politics

Mike La Rosa wins re-election in HD 42

Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa rode to an easy victory Tuesday night in Florida House District 42.

La Rosa pulled off a 54 percent to 46 percent win over Democrat Barbara Cady in a district that has trended Democrat to the point where La Rosa swam against a six-point Democratic advantage in voter registration.

The district is similar in many ways to House District 30, where La Rosa’s Republican colleague state Rep. Bob Cortes went down hard Tuesday night.

But La Rosa, the three-term representative from Saint Cloud ran on a campaign that he was had been delivering for the district, watching out for the critical tourism industry as a powerful chairman of the House Gaming Control and Tourism Subcommittee, and was a steady figure in a rapidly changing Osceola County, while Cady ran largely on homeowners’ association rights.

Voter registration shows 10 House seats most flippable, mostly toward Democrats

At least eight Republican-held Florida House seats should be in Democrats’ grasps — that is if voters vote their colors — while Republicans have two Democratic seats that ought to be flippable.

And another 14 districts, all but one of which are held by Republicans, the voter registrations between Republicans and Democrats are air-tight, within two percentage points.

That’s according to a Florida Politics analysis of voter registration trends that has Republicans picking up strength in rural, small-city, and exurban areas. Democrats meanwhile have improved in cities and inner suburbs.

A look at the latest voter registration numbers, broken down by Florida House District, shows registration trends turning the Orlando urban core more blue are also making Central Florida Republicans among the most vulnerable going into next Tuesday’s election. And that brings eight Republican seats into play, where Democrats actually have more voters in the districts, while just two Democratic-held seats are in districts with more Republican voters.

Many of the most pronounced are in Central Florida.

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes‘ House District 30, including parts of south-central Seminole and north-central Orange counties, has moved three points toward Democrats, and now Democrats have a five-point advantage in voter registration there. Cortes, of Altamonte Springs, faces Democratic Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil.

Just to the south, House District 47 including much of north and central Orange County, being vacated by Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park, has trended three points toward Democrats. Now that party has a four-point advantage in voter registration. Democrat Anna Eskamani and Republican Stockton Reeves are battling in that one.

Farther to the south, Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa‘s House District 42’s voter base remains unchanged, yet Democrats have a six-point advantage in voter registrations. La Rosa, of Saint Cloud, is being challenged by Democrat Barbara Cady.

In Jacksonville, the House District 15 seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jay Fant has trended two points toward Democrats, flipping the voter registration one point in Democrats’ favor. Republican Wyman Duggan and Democrat Tracye Polson are competing there.

In Tampa, House District 59 in eastern Hillsborough County, being vacated by Republican state Rep. Ross Spano of Dover, has lost a point of Republican voter registration and now Democrats have a four-point advantage. Republican Joe Wicker faces Democrat Adam Hattersley there.

Just to the north, House District 58 in eastern Hillsborough has trended back Republicans’ way by two points since 2016. Yet Democrats still hold a two-point advantage in voter registration. There, Republican State Rep. Lawrence McClure of Dover seeks re-election against Democrat Phil Hornback.

Republican state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah is running for the Senate so his seat is coming open in House District 103, where Republican Frank Mingo will be facing a four-point Democratic advantage in voter registration favoring Democrat Cindy Polo. There has been no change in the party voter registration balance since 2016.

And in House District 120, Republican state Rep. Holly Raschein of Key Largo faces a one-point Democratic advantage as she seeks re-election against Democrat Steve Friedman. There has been no change in that district’s party proportions since 2016 either.

Republicans saw none of the districts now controlled by Democrats trend more into Republican voter control, but they do have two seats where incumbent Democrats face Republican-dominated voter rolls.

Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good in House District 72 saw her district trend two points Democrats’ way since the 2016 election [she was elected in a special 2017 election], yet Republicans still have 42 percent of the electorate, compared with Democrats’ 33 percent. Good, of Sarasota, will be swimming against that still-strong tide again in seeking re-election against Republican Ray Pilon.

Democratic state Rep. Robert Asencio‘s House District 118 is essentially unchanged in party balance, yet it still leans Republican by three points. Asencio will have to buck that voter registration disadvantage as he seeks re-election against Republican Anthony Rodriguez.

In 14 other House districts the differences between Republican and Democratic voter rolls are close to negligible, and in all but one of those districts Republicans currently hold or most recently held the seats.

In three districts the numbers of Democratic and Republican voters are essentially even: House District 27, where Republican state Rep. David Santiago faces Democrat Carol Lawrence; House District 67, where Republican state Rep. Chris Latvala faces Democrat Dawn Douglas; and House District 114, where Democratic state Rep. Javier Fernandez faces Republican Javier Enriquez.

In five other districts the voter registration percentages for Republicans and Democrats are within two points of each other: House District 36, where Republican state Rep. Amber Mariano faces Democrat Linda Jack; House District 40, where Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton faces Democrat Shandale Terrell; House District 44, where Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski faces Geraldine Thompson; House District 50, where Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia faces Democrat Pam Dirschka; and in House District 53, where Republican state Rep. Randy Fine faces Democrat Phil Moore.

In five other districts, all held or most recently held by Republicans, the voter registrations are within two points of even while the seats are open: House District 69, where Republican Ray Blacklidge faces Democrat Jennifer Webb; House District 89, where Republican Mike Caruso faces Democrat Jim Bonfiglio; House District 93, where Republican Chip LaMarca faces Democrat Emma Collum; and House District 115, where Republican Vance Aloupis faces Democrat Jeffrey Solomon. In House District 105 there is no incumbent, as Republican state Rep. Carlos Trujillo stepped down last spring to take a federal appointment as an ambassador. Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez faces Democrat Javier Estevez.

In 53 of Florida’s 120 House districts, one party or the other has an advantage of more than 15 percentage points in the voter registrations. In none of those districts is that party out of office, and any swings there next Tuesday would be historic upsets.

The most extreme cases:

— House District 108, Democratic state Rep. Roy Hardemon is running for re-election with a voter roll that is 69 percent Democrat and 8 percent Republican.

— In House District 3, Republican state Rep. Jayer Williamson is seeking re-election in a district where the voters are 59 percent Republican and 19 percent Democrat.

Republicans didn’t bother challenging Hardemon; Democrats didn’t bother fielding anyone against Williamson. There are 21 other districts where one party or the other has a 30-point advantage in voter registrations.

Democrat Barbara Cady hoping HOA reform message is game-winner in HD 42

Can a single issue of the most local of impact become a game-winner for a Democrat trying to flip a district?

Democratic Florida House District 42 candidate Barbara Cady has been pounding turf since she entered the contest 16 months ago, mostly talking about home-owners association law reform. It’s a common interest in the sprawling development areas of HD 42, particularly for many residents of Poinciana, where there’s been long-running and highly contentious legal and public fights between homeowners and an umbrella group governing homeowners associations there.

“I do believe it is a critical issue in this race and my opponent apparently does too, because suddenly he’s put out a flier saying he’s sponsoring a bill to ‘reign in HOAs,’ which is very contrary to his behavior the last three years,” Cady said.

Her opponent is three-term Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of Saint Cloud. He agreed that HOA reform is an issue in the district, but refuted Cady’s charge that he’s new to it with his latest campaign mailer, which cites legislation to “rein in out-of-control homeowners associations.” That, he said, is a reference to his 2013 bill, which passed to reform home-owners association laws. And, he said, he also filed bills in 2014, and ’15 seeking additional reforms, although they did not pass.

Yet La Rosa downplays how critical the issue might be to this election. He argued that HD 42 residents, like most others in Florida, are first and foremost interested in statewide issues of jobs, education and opportunities for their children. And he said he thinks the Poinciana HOA situation has gotten better in recent years because he has not heard any serious complaints for a while.

“At the end of the day, jobs and education are still number one,” La Rosa said.

“I would hate for my opponent or anyone to try to take this one issue and highlight it to say, ‘This is what I am running on,’ and ignore everything else,” he added.

Cady, of Kissimmee, is running on a broader slate of issues too, albeit from the Democratic platform that defines them as higher-paying jobs and public education.

But yes, for her, the overriding issue, the one she expects to make a difference, is whether homeowners respond to a candidate crusading to reform HOA laws, promising to provide relief and protection from what she says many residents complain are predatory HOAs. That’s an especially common and deep-rooted complaint in Poinciana, where the issue has been heated for decades, she said.

This is actually what Cady does for a living: she is a licensed HOA manager.

“This is why this issue is important for this election: it’s not just Poinciana. Miami has the same issues. The entire state of Florida is being run by corporate developers that have pretty much had free-rein for an exorbitant amount of time,” Cady said. “So my feeling is we need to put time limits on it [developer’s control over HOAs.] And we need to tighten the statutes to protect the homeowners. That’s the way it should be. Right now it seems like it is protecting developers.”

Founded in the 1970s, Poinciana stretches a good 15 miles through southwest Osceola and east Polk counties. It is becoming a heavily Hispanic community, populated by a large influx of Puerto Ricans. Population estimates run between 53,000 and 83,000, depending on how the unincorporated community is defined.

HD 42 sprawls across most of Osceola County [not including most of Kissimmee and Celebration], plus a good chunk of eastern Polk County, covering more than a thousand square miles. HD 42 represents four of Poinciana’s nine villages. The others are in House Districts 41 and 43.

Cady said she frequently hears horror stories of battles between residents and the Association of Poinciana Villages, the umbrella group over Pinciana’s nine village HOA’s. She said those stories focus on what residents say are unfair fees, fines, liens, and foreclosures, and of residents being shut out of HOA decision-making.

Similar allegations against the Association of Poinciana Villages and the developer, now AV Homes, are charged in a lawsuit filed in 2015 by Friends of Poinciana Villages, an organization formed to represent a group of frustrated homeowners. That suit also alleges fraud, election violations, and breach of a 1985 contract that the Friends organization argues required the company to relinquish control a long time ago. The company denied all the allegations in its responses, and also argued that the company and the homeowners association are wholly independent of each other, so that the company cannot be blamed if anyone thinks the HOA is not acting properly. The suit still is being litigated in Florida’s 10th Judicial Circuit, in Polk County.

Two Democratic lawmakers who represent all or parts of Poinciana, state Sen. Victor Torres and state Rep. John Cortes, who represents House District 43, also have been active in the issue. They both have introduced bills seeking HOA law reforms that would impact Poinciana. In particular, the bills would set up an arbitration process for disputes between homeowners and HOAs. But the bills died quick deaths. Cady pledged to join their effort.

“The issue that we have is the homeowners are very frustrated that they don’t have control,” Cady said.

The HD 42 election contest should be no cakewalk for anyone.

La Rosa has the advantages of incumbency, name recognition, and presumably popularity in a district he’s represented for six years. He’s also got a mountain of money, raising nearly $300,000 for his re-election, through the Oct. 19 reports. He has spent it generously, more than $225,000 to date, about half of that just in the past month. La Rosa has put up television, radio, and digital advertising, and sent out numerous mailers. Cady, by contrast, had raised about $58,000 and spent all but $5,000 of that through the most recent campaign finance reports, through Oct. 19. Her money has mostly gone toward digital advertising and mailers.

Cady has the advantage of the voter-base makeup. The district has been trending blue for a while in voter registration, and in the book-closing for the Nov. 6 election, Democrats have 37 percent of the electorate, Republicans just 31 percent.

“Here’s the issue I have with La Rosa: He is nowhere to be found, and people are very frustrated with that,” Cady charged. “When I ran against him in the beginning he didn’t take me seriously. And now that the numbers are looking a little more favorable for Democrats, he has stepped up his game, and he just put out this flier that says he has fought for legislation that would rein in HOAs, and that he is there for Poinciana, and he has been there for Poinciana.

“Those,” she alleged, “are just flat-out lies.”

La Rosa strongly disputes that. A key part of the issue, said La Rosa, whose background is in real estate, is that Poinciana’s HOA is probably one of the most complex in the state, maybe in the nation.

But he added, “The truth of the matter is, at the end of the day, HOAs are contractual relationships in which someone knowingly purchases, knows what the structure is, and has to sign the disclosures, and so forth.

“And when I talk to folks of what the problem is, I think 90 percent of the time it comes down to, OK, get involved, and vote in new board members,” La Rosa said.

Phil McKinney - FITCon

CableLabs’ Phil McKinney to keynote FITCon Florida

Florida Internet & Television, the chief industry association for telecom providers in Florida, announced Wednesday that CableLabs head Phil McKinney will deliver the keynote address at its 2018 Florida Internet & Television Conference.

At CableLabs, McKinney spearheads research focused on developing new technologies and specifications for the secure delivery of high-speed data, video, voice and next generation services.

In addition to his work at the industry leading innovation engine, McKinney is the author of Beyond the Obvious: Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation, which gives a window into his and his lab’s rule-breaking approach to telecom innovation. McKinney also hosts a nationally-syndicated radio show, Killer Innovations.

FIT said McKinney’s keynote will focus on innovations coming in the near future in the fields of cybersecurity, robotics, AI and the cloud, and what impact those developments will have to both business and personal lives.

The 2018 edition of FITCon Florida will be held Nov. 15-16 in Orlando.

Slated for the internet and television conference five panels, all moderated by Florida legislators, covering issues such as meeting workforce challenges, connected cities, multi-platform content, telemedicine, and enhancing diversity and inclusion in the industry.

Two of those panels will be moderated by two of the state Legislature’s most outspoken technophiles: St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes and Tampa Rep. James Grant. Also on tap to attend are Reps. Mike La RosaTom Leek and Jason Fischer.

Also featured on the event agenda is Charter Communications regional VP Adam Ray, whose Q&A session will immediate follow McKinney’s keynote on the first day of the event.

Registration for the two-day conference is open through Nov. 9.

Florida Internet & Television describes FITCon Florida, launched in 2017, as “the Sunshine State’s premier conference for the internet and television industry, designed to facilitate leading policy and industry discussions for the ever-evolving market, technology and regulatory landscapes.”

Barbara Cady launches video ad in HD 42 race

Democratic Florida House nominee Barbara Cady is releasing her first campaign video on-line Thursday, attacking incumbent Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa and introducing herself in the House District 42 race.

The 30-second video charges that La Rosa has failed to do anything to improve education, fix health care, or stand up to what the narrator calls “President [Donald] Trump‘s racism and Republican corruption.”

Cady then appears and says, “I’m running for state House to fight for our values. Let’s send Tallahassee a message this year: it’s time for something new.”

Cady, of Kissimmee, is challenging La Rosa, of St. Cloud, in HD 42, which covers most of Osceola County [excluding the northwest corner] and part of east Polk County. The district has a high Hispanic population, particularly of Puerto Ricans, which may be the reason for an allegation of “Trump’s racism,” following the president’s actions and comments toward Puerto Rico, unpopular among Puerto Ricans in Central Florida.

“When I’m talking with constituents, they want bold action to address the issues we face,” Cady stated in the release. “Mike La Rosa has been a yes-man for Tallahassee special interests these last six years. Voters are ready for something new – someone who will work for them and who shares their values.”

Mike La Rosa’s war chest continues to overwhelm Barbara Cady’s campaign finances

Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa added another $10,000 to his campaign’s fund in the first two weeks of September pushing his total raised near $200,000 for his House District 42 re-election effort while his Democratic opponent Barbara Cady dropped further behind in the money chase.

La Rosa, of St. Cloud, enters the post-primary period with more than $83,000 in hand and a fundraising arm that continues to attract big checks to support him.

In the latest campaign finance reports posted by the Florida Division of Elections last Friday, Cady, of Kissimmee, reported raising $2,188 in the two-week period ending Sept. 14. That brought her total raised to $47,500, and she reported having about $27,000 of that left to spend.

The two are battling for HD 42, covering most of Osceola County except the county’s northwest corner, which includes much of Kissimmee. HD 42 also covers part of southeast Polk County.

All of La Rosa’s money in his most recent report came from $500 or $1,000 checks from political action committees or companies such as Duke Energy, TECO Energy, the Florida Home Builders Association, and the Florida Bankers Association. That continues a pattern going back into July, which was the last time he received a donation from an individual.

Cady’s campaign drew all of its most recent haul through 20 checks, all from individuals.

Top House Republicans holding fundraiser for Central Florida incumbents

Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva and the two Republican lawmakers set to succeed him in that post will be in Orlando next week for a fundraiser benefitting the re-election campaigns of their Central Florida colleagues.

Oliva, Palm Harbor Rep. Chris Sprowls and Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner will headline the Sept. 12 fundraising reception at The Groove, 6000 Universal Blvd. The event starts at 7 p.m.

The fundraiser will benefit 10 incumbent Republicans representing Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties in the state House: Mike La Rosa, Colleen Burton, Bob Cortes, Randy Fine, Bobby Olszewski, Scott Plakon, Rene Plasencia, David Santiago, Jennifer Sullivan and Josie Tomkow.

Also on the invitation is Stockton Reeves, the Republican nominee in House District 47, which is open this year due to current Republican Rep. Mike Miller opting to challenge U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Reeves defeated Mikaela Nix by 10 points in the Republican primary for the seat last week. He now moves on to a general election showdown against well-funded Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani.

Most of the incumbents on the invite are running for re-election in safely Republican districts.

Cortes, who represents HD 30, and Olszewski, who holds HD 44, are both running for re-election in seats carried by Hillary Clinton two years ago, however, they both went uncontested in August and have substantial fundraising leads over their Democratic challengers.

Those looking to attend the fundraiser can direct their RSVPs to Rick Porter via 407-849-1112 or Ivey Rooney via Ivey@PoliticalCapitalFlorida.com.

The invitation is below.

House Republican Majority Fundraiser 9.12.2018

BusinessForce endorses 12 in Central Florida races

BusinessForce, a political committee supporting the business sector of Central Florida, on Monday announced a dozen endorsements for the general election including all six Republicans seeking re-election to Florida House seats.

The organization that spun off from Orlando Inc., the Orlando area Chamber of Commerce, recommended the election of Republican David Smith in Seminole County’s District 28, and the re-elections of Republican state Reps. Scott Plakon in District 29 in Seminole County; Bob Cortes in District 30 split between Seminole and Orange counties; Jennifer Sullivan in District 31 split between Lake and Orange counties; Mike La Rosa in District 42 in Osceola County; Bobby Olszewski in District 44 in Orange County; and Rene Plasencia in District 50, split between Orange and Brevard counties.

BusinessForce also made three endorsements in races for open seats on the Orange County Commission: Christine Moore in District 2; Mayra Uribe in District 3; and Susan Makowski in District 4.

In Seminole County, BusinessForce announced it was backing Jay Zembower in the District 2 race for the Seminole County Commission.

And for the Orange County School Board, BusinessForce endorsed Melissa Byrd for the District 7 seat.

“The candidates we endorsed are a solid representation of BusinessForce’s commitment to helping candidates who are pro-business and embrace a free market economy. We look forward to working with each of them on issues that align with our values and mission,” Craig Swygert, chairman of the board of BusinessForce, stated in a news release.

Central Florida Republicans start House general campaigns with strong financial edges

Several Central Florida Republican Florida House candidates entered the fall general election with solid financial advantages over their Democratic challengers.

That was the case with several House incumbent members seeking re-election and also is the case for David Smith who is running to win an open seat for Florida’s House District 28. It’s not the case with Democrats, excepting Anna Eskamani.

Neither Smith, a Winter Springs business consultant, nor Democratic nominee Lee Mangold, a Casselberry cyber-security business owner, had a primary challenge in HD 28 in northeast Seminole County. So both enter the fall stretch without having had to spend much, and Smith enters with a decided advantage in campaign cash.

Smith, who lent his campaign $85,000 to start, also had raised $146,000 through more than 1,300 contributions. Even though he spent considerably this year he still came through last Tuesday’s primary season with $136,118 left in the bank, according to the most recent campaign finance reports available through the Florida Division of Elections, covering activity through Aug. 23, the final report before the primary.

Mangold entered the general election campaign season with $15,265, built from a fairly robust 367 donations, plus $10,000 he lent his own campaign, minus more than $21,000 he has spent so far on his campaign.

Smith’s $120,000 campaign finance advantage was the third-best cushion heading into the fall election of any Central Florida Florida House candidates, behind only Democrat Eskamani and Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes, who also did not have primary challengers.

In House District 47 race in Orange County, first-time candidate Eskamani of Orlando reported having raised more than $309,000 in her official campaign fund and another $36,000 in an independent political campaign, putting her about $300,000 ahead of Republican nominee Stockton Reeves VI of Winter Park, who had to win a primary to enter the fall campaign. On Tuesday she reported that her next reports will put her over $350,000 raised. Reeves, who had to win a tough Republican primary, entered the fall with about $41,000 in his account.

Cortes, of Altamonte Springs, enters the fall campaign with $135,081 in the bank for the HD 30 race in south Seminole and north Orange counties. His Democratic opponent, Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil, emerged from a highly competitive three-way Democratic primary with just $3,657 left in her campaign account.

Republican state Reps. Scott Plakon of Sanford in Seminole County’s House District 29 and Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden in Orange County’s House District 44, who also had no primary challenges while their Democratic opponents did, also emerged into the fall with sizable money advantages.

That wasn’t the case across the board. Several incumbent Florida House members who had primary challengers enter the fall campaign a bit financially spent, including state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic in District 52 in Brevard County, who spent so much to win his primary that his autumn opponent, Democrat Seeta Begui of Melbourne, a first-time candidate, actually starts the fall campaign with more than a $3,000 campaign money advantage in the bank, according to reports through Aug. 23.

None of the Democratic members of the Florida House seeking re-election enter the fall with much financial advantage.

First-time Republican candidate Ben Griffin of Orlando was given $50,000 by the Republican Party of Florida to run against Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando in House District 49 in Orange County, and Griffin raised only another $3,260 on his own. Still, Smith starts the fall campaign with only a $15,476 advantage.

In House District 48 in Orange County, Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado‘s Republican opponent has raised no money, but she hasn’t raised much either. So Mercado, of Orlando, enters the fall campaign with a $17,262 campaign finance advantage over George Chandler of Orlando.

Among the other Central Florida races for the Florida House:

— Plakon entered the fall HD 29 campaign in Seminole County with $98,541 in the bank, compared with $8,582 for Democrat Tracey Kagan of Longwood.

— Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mout Dora entered the fall campaign for HD 30 with $53,827 in the bank in the House District 31 race in Lake and Orange counties, compared with $6,264 for Democrat Debra Kaplan of Eustis.

— Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud had $81,894 in his campaign account entering the fall House District 42 race in Osceola County, compared with $25,392 for Democratic challenger Barbara Cady of Kissimmee.

— Olszewski came into the fall with $120,166 in the HD 44 contest, while former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando, who had to win a Democratic primary, enters with $9,532, according to reports through Aug. 23.

— Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando had to spend big to stave off a primary challenger, and so he entered the fall with just $36,309 to defend his House District 50 seat in east Orange County and north Brevard County, while Democrat Pam Dirschka of Titusville came into the fall campaign with $7,745 in the bank.

Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island, who also had to spend big to win a Republican primary. He came into the fall House District 51 race in north Brevard County with just $12,460 in the bank, compared with $7,152 for Democrat Mike Blake of Cocoa.

Bill Nelson, Adam Putnam top Orlando’s Political Salsa

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam were the top choices at Orlando’s Political Salsa hobnob for races for Senate and Florida Governor.

With more than 400 votes, Nelson topped Republican Gov. Rick Scott 52 percent to 43 percent with Rocky De La Fuente taking the rest during the Hispanic-oriented but mostly mixed-ethnic event Thursday night.  Organizers released results over the weekend.

Putnam won a tight contest over Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the 16-person straw poll for Governor, with Putnam grabbing 25 percent of the votes and Gillum 23. Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis finished third with 15 percent; Democratic former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, 13 percent; Democratic former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, 11 percent; Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King took five percent; and four points for Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene.

In a separate poll taken at Political Salsa held at Acacia, a community center for Central Florida’s Puerto Rican community,  77 percent of the participants said they support Puerto Rico statehood. Only 15 percent chose the option of independence, and 8 percent said none of the above.

Unlike many hobnob straw polls, the Political Salsa straw poll evenly divided favorites between Republicans and Democrats, offering a possible Democratic lean with several upsets.

The primary sponsors of the event were the Suarez Group of Companies and the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida.

Republican former Judge Ashley Moody was the pick for Attorney General, with 39 percent, compared to 27 percent for Democratic state Sen. Sean Shaw, 22 percent for Democrat Ryan Torrens, and 12 percent for Republican state Rep. Frank White.

In the race for Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Democratic former state Sen. Jeremy Ring topped Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis 51 to 49 percent.

Democrat Nikki Fried was the top choice for Agriculture Commissioner, taking 30 percent, compared with 19 for Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell, 18 for Democrat Roy David Walker, and 17 for state Sen. Denise Grimsley, among the leaders.

In congressional races, three Democratic incumbents came out on top and one Democratic challenger took a surprise victory.

Democrat Sanjay Patel outpolled Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey 53 to 47 percent in Florida’s 8th Congressional District, which is Brevard County-centered with a piece of eastern Orange County.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy barely topped Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, covering Seminole and north and central Orange counties. Murphy polled 35, Miller 33. The other three candidates, two Republicans and a Democrat, drew totals in the low teens.

In Florida’s 9th Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto not only came out on top but his Democratic primary rival, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson finished a distant third. Soto got 51, Republican Wayne Liebnitzky 34, and Grayson 15 points in that district covering Osceola, south Orange and eastern Polk counties.

In Florida’s 10th Congressional District, which covers west Orange County, Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings has only an upstart Democratic challenger standing between her and re-election. And that was relatively close in this poll: Demings 61 percent, Wade Darius, 39 percent.

Several surprises came in Florida House races.

Democrat Lee Mangold topped Republican David Smith 53 to 47 percent in House District 28.

Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon came out on top in House District 29, taking 44 to 40 percent for Democrat Tracey Kagan; Democrat Darryl Block took 16 points.

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes topped House District 30, taking 49 to 22 percent against Democrat Brendan Ramirez; 20 percent went to Clark Anderson and 9 points for Joy Goff-Marcil.

Democrat Debra Kaplan led Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, 58 to 42 percent in House District 31.

Democrat Ricky Shirah was the choice in House District 39, topping Republican Josie Tomkow 54-39 percent.

Democrat Barbara Cady topped Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa 54 to 46 in House District 42.

Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski topped House District 44. He drew 38, to 33 for Democratic former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson and 29 for Melanie Gold.

Democrat Anna Eskamani edged out a Republican rival the House District 47 contest with 47 percent; 42 percent went for Republican Mikaela Nix and 11 percent for Republican Stockton Reeves.

Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith got 56 percent to Republican Ben Griffin‘s 44 in House District 49.

Democrat Pam Dirschka led the House District 50 contest with 45 percent, while Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia took 40 percent, and Republican George Collins, 15 points.

Republican Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke led in the contest for Orange County Mayor. Clarke grabbed 41 percent, to 35 percent for Sheriff Jerry Demings and 24 percent for businessman Rob Panepinto.

Retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Joe Lopez pulled off a shockingly easy upset in the contest for Orange County Sheriff, topping Orlando Police Chief John Mina 51 to 28, with Democrat Darryl Sheppard finishing third with 21.

In Orange County Commission races, Republican Christina Moore was the top choice in a four-person field for District 2, leading Republican Mark Byrd 35 to 28 percent; Democrat Eric Rollings was the pick in the five-person field for District 3, leading Pete Crotty 36 to 22 percent; Gina Perez-Calhoun and Maribel Gomez Cordero were the top choices in the five-person District 4 race.

For the Seminole County Commission, Katrina Shadix was the choice in District 2, and Amy Lockhart in District 4, with both polling more than 50 percent.

For the Osceola County Commission, Wanda Rentas got 44 percent in District 2, while incumbent Commissioner Viviana Janer took 25 and Janette Martinez 24. Adam Michelin led a tight race for District 4, taking 32 percent versus 26 percent for incumbent Commissioner Cheryl Grieb, Will Fonseca taking 24, and Will Gonzalez Jr., 18 points.

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