Two Republicans qualify to vie for shot at Val Demings
Vennia Francois and Willie Montague are set to square off in a Republican primary for a shot at Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings in November.

Vennia Francois and Willie Montague
Vennia Francois, Willie Montague set for CD 10 GOP primary.

Republican Vennia Francois will have to get through a primary to complete her quest to take on Democratic Rep. Val Demings in Florida’s 10th Congressional District in western Orange County.

Francois, who transferred into the district in February with robust fundraising, was joined on the ballot Friday by Willie Montague of Orlando, who runs a non-profit helping black youth in Orlando.

Also qualifying for the ballot Friday was a write-in candidate, William Garlington.

But there are no other Democrats running in CD 10, so Demings will get a pass from having to win a primary this year. She was primaried in each of her past two elections.

Demings is the former Orlando police chief who garnered significant national attention in the past year as a key player in the impeachment investigation and trial of President Donald Trump. She served on both House committees that led the investigation into Trump’s Ukraine activities and drew up articles of impeachment against him, the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee. She then served as one of the House managers that prosecuted Trump in January, when the U.S. Senate found him not guilty.

She remains on many speculative lists as a potential vice presidential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. So she might yet not run for reelection this year. Should that occur, it could send Democrats scrambling to field a replacement. Though her odds of winning Veepstakes are considered low.

Demings had previously lost a race for CD 10 before the district was redraw, evaporating the Republican advantage in the district. After decisively winning a crowded primary in 2016 Demings won easy election in 2018.

Francois is a lawyer from Winter Park who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District in 2018, losing in the Republican primary. She started in that district again this year in what had been a very crowded GOP field. She switched to CD 10, where she quickly became the Republican frontrunner, raising more than $100,000 in her first couple of weeks.

Montague runs a non-profit that helps black youth, ages 7-25 with mentorships and other assistance to address academics, behavior issues, and substance abuse problems and to teach conservative values for life. He’s been active in Republican politics since his teens, involved with the Black Conservative Republican Association, and is president of the Orlando Republican Assembly. He filed to run in CD 10 in late February.

The district covers the west side Orlando and most of western Orange County, including the suburbs of Apopka, Winter Garden, Ocoee, and Windermere, plus just about the entire tourist district of Orlando, including Walt Disney World. Voter registration gives Democrats a 19-point advantage.

Scott Powers

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 [email protected]


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