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.