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Bob Poe leaves Florida, partisan politics

Poe has been a fixture in Florida Democratic politics for decades.

Longtime Democratic fundraiser and former congressional candidate Bob Poe announced Monday he is done with partisan politics and also done with the Sunshine State, at least as his home.

Poe, who made a fortune in Orlando radio in the 1980s and ’90s, became a go-to fundraiser for Florida and national Democrats and causes, and then ran unsuccessfully himself in 2016 for the Democratic nomination for Congress in Florida’s 10th Congressional District [won by Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings], said Monday he is becoming a full-time Californian and leaving partisan politics.

Poe, 64, and his husband, Ken Brown, have maintained residences in both Orlando and Los Angeles for many years. Poe said he sold his final Florida home in College Park on Monday, and they are now full-time California residents, though he promised he would be back frequently.

A New York native, Poe had lived in Orlando since a child in the early 1960s. He grew up in Pine Hills, worked in a gasoline station, worked at Walt Disney World as the costumed character of Tigger, went into radio advertising sales, eventually got into radio management, and then into ownership, and helped with the establishment of the Orlando Magic.

And then he became one of the foundations of Democratic politics, including as one of the nation’s top fundraisers for the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016, and as a national fundraiser for LGBTQ causes, but keeping Florida and Central Florida candidates and causes as his primary beneficiaries and base. Poe retired from business in 2011.

Poe expressed frustration with the nature of partisan politics overall, and frustrated with politics in Florida under 20 years of Republican leadership, particularly investments in quality of life issues. He said he would focus his fundraising activity on supporting the Rev. William Barber, a North Carolina, non-partisan social justice crusader associated with The Poor People’s Campaign: a National Call for Moral Revival, and Moral Mondays.

“Most people think people want to move to low-tax states in their retirement. But you know it’s like the difference between going to a Cadillac dealership and a Kia dealership; it’s about quality of life,” Poe said. “So yeah, I’m relocating now, fulltime.”

While Poe has been associated with many of the big names of establishment Democratic politics, in recent years he also turned much of his efforts to supporting rising younger Democrats such as state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Anna Eskamani.

Part of the reason he’s leaving the partisan battlefields, he said, is he is encouraged by the young.

“I think it’s time for folks my age; I’ll be turning 65 in August, to pass the torch. And places like Central Florida have such new young voices, you know, folks like Carlos and Anna. It’s really exciting to see the crop of new folks coming along,” he said.

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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Voncile

    May 13, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    Smart move. Calif is a much better fit for this liberal.
    One dog down, a million more to go….
    Good riddance.

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