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Central Florida house district election debates: four on, three off

Updated with news of a House District 50 debate.

A Central Florida organization teaming with WFTV Channel 9 to produce elections debates for Orlando-area Florida House districts has firmed up four and has three others falling through because of lack of commitments from Republican candidates, an organizer said Friday.

Gregory Eisenberg, chief executive officer of The Commission on Local Debates, said Friday his group and Channel 9 had secured commitments allowing them to produce debates for House District 30, between Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes and his Democratic challenger Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil; for House District 44 between Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski and his Democratic challenger former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson; for House District 48 between Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado and her Republican challenger George Chandler. and for House District 50 between Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia and his Democratic challenger Pam Dirschka.

The debates will be filmed in the TV station’s studios and made available to other media. Dates and times are yet to be announced.

Efforts to organize debates for three other races, in House Districts 31, 47, and 49, have fallen through, Eisenberg said.

In HD 31, the Democratic challenger Debra Kaplan said yes, while Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan said no, he said.

In HD 47, Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani said yes, while Republican nominee Stockton Reeves did not respond to requests, he said.

In HD 49, Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said yes, while Republican challenger Ben Griffin said no, he said.

“It is very disappointing for me personally as a former candidate,” said Eisenberg, who ran unsuccessfully for the Orange County Commission in 2016. “I’m of the opinion that if you are going to run for office, you should be willing to air your viewpoints.”

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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