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Central Florida hoteliers pick Jerry Demings, Teresa Jacobs

The Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association PAC has endorsed Jerry Demings for Orange County mayor, Teresa Jacobs for Orange County School Board chair, and dozens of other candidates for state and local offices in Central Florida.

“With a record-breaking 72 million visitors to the Orlando destination, Central Florida’s Hospitality Industry continues to serve as a crucial economic engine for the state of Florida. The CFHLA-PAC proudly supports the following ‘Pro- Tourism’ Candidates, who respect the importance of the Hospitality Industry relating to job creation and economic development,” CFHLA President Richard Maladecki stated in a news release.

Demings, currently the Orange County sheriff, was picked by the hoteliers over entrepreneur Rob Panepinto, who has been a leader in the business community, serving a stint as president of the Orlando chamber of commerce; and Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke.

Jacobs, currently the Orange County mayor, was picked over Orange County School Board Member Nancy Robbinson and two others. The pick implies fully-healed wounds after Jacobs and the hotel association publicly and angrily sparred over uses for the county’s tourism develoment tax two years ago.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina is the hoteliers’ pick to succeed Demings as Orange County sheriff. Mina has two opponents, notably former Florida Highway Patrol Chief Jose “Joe” Lopez.

In state races, the hotel association gave its backing to state Sen. Kelli Stargel, whose Senate District 22 is in Polk and Lake counties, abutting Walt Disney World; and to state Rep. Keith Perry, whose Gainesville-based Senate District 8 is more than 50 miles away from the region usually associated with Central Florida.

The hoteliers said they also like state Rep. David Smith in House District 28 in Seminole County; state Rep. Bob Cortes in House District 30 in Seminole and Orange counties; Bobby Olszewski in House District 44 in Orange; state Rep. Kamia Brown in House District 45 in Orange; state Rep. Amy Mercado in House District 48 in Orange; and state Rep. Rene Plasencia in House District 50 in Orange and Brevard counties.

In Orange County Commission races the group endorsed Fred Brummer in District 2, Susan Makowski in District 4, and incumbent Commissioner Victoria Siplin in District 6.

The hotel association also gave its backing to Orange County school board candidates Heather Traynham in District 1, Chadwick Hardee in District 2, incumbent School Board Member Linda Kobert in District 3, and former state Rep. Karen Castor Dentel in District 6.

In Seminole County, the hoteliers backed Jay Zembower for the County Commission District 2 seat and Joe Durso for the District 4 seat. For the Seminole School Board, they backed Tina Calderone.

In Osceola County, the hotel association endorsed incumbent Commissioner Viviana Janer in District 2 and incumbent Commissioner Cheryl Grieb in District 4.

There were some conspicuous absences from the endorsement list, notably state Rep. Mike La Rosa of Osceola County, who chairs the House Tourism and Gaming Control Subcommittee, and state Rep. Scott Plakon of Seminole County, who serves on that committee.

The association spread its endorsements across parties, though generally favored Republicans. Among them, Demings, Mina, Brown, Mercado, Siplin, Castor Dentel, and Janer are Democrats, while Jacobs, Stargel, Perry, Smith, Cortes, Olszewski, Plasencia, Brummer, Makowski, and Hardee are Republicans.

Brown already has been re-elected by default, since she did not receive an opponent in this year’s election.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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