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Longwood Mayor Matt Morgan and Longwood Commissioner Ben Paris are running for Seminole County Commission.

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Matt Morgan, Ben Paris top straw poll for Seminole County Commission

Otherwise, the straw poll favored Republicans throughout.

Seminole County Commissioners Bob Dallari and Lee Constantine — constants in area politics for decades — could be in for tough reelection challenges if straw poll results from a chamber of commerce hob nob are any indication, as they favored challengers Matt Morgan and Ben Paris.

The Oviedo-Winter Springs Regional Chamber of Commerce straw poll for Seminole and Orange County elections, held on-line over the past few days following the group’s 2020 East Side Regional Hob Nob held virtually on Zoom, have Morgan, the Mayor of Longwood, and Paris, a Longwood Commissioner, favored over the two veteran Seminole County officials.

The straw poll also gave Leo Valentin a preference heading into the Republican primary for Florida’s 7th Congressional District; retired Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. an overwhelming preference over four others running for the State Attorney Office in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit covering Orange and Osceola counties; Orange County Sheriff John Mina a dominant preference over six challengers in his bid for reelection; and Seminole County Property Appraiser David Johnson a strong vote of confidence for reelection over a Republican challenger.

The chamber voters also gave Democratic challenger Khalid Muneer the preference over Democratic incumbent Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh in the contest for that office.

Chamber of commerce straw polls almost always favor Republicans over Democrats. The Oviedo-Winter Springs chamber members did that overwhelmingly in any contests that featured serious candidates from both parties, burying Democrats, even incumbents, deep under straw poll votes for Republicans.

But in the cases of the Seminole County Commission District 1 and District 3 seats, the more immediate battles are in the August 18 primaries, where partisan preference is not the issue.

The straw poll gave Morgan 835 votes and Dallari 631 heading into the Republican primary for District 1. It gave Paris 696 votes and Constantine 655 heading into the Republican primary for District 3.

Democrats and others also were listed as choices, but they were largely non-factors for the chamber members. Katrina Shadix got 38 votes in the District 1 contest and Kim Buchheit got 30 votes in the District 3 contest. In the District 5 contest, the only Republican running, Andria Herr, got 725 votes to 322 for Democrat Pernell Bush, 320 for Libertarian Andre Klass, and 44 for Democratic former Rep. Mike Clelland.

In the CD 7 contest, three Republicans are running in the August 18 primary for a shot at Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in November. The chamber voters liked all three of them better than Murphy, even though she has received strong financial backing and endorsements from chambers of commerce. They liked Valentin, an Orlando doctor, best, giving him 624 votes. Longwood businessman Richard Goble got 427, and Orlando businessman Yukong Zhao got 374. Murphy, of Winter Park, got 263.

The straw poll also should give comfort to Johnson, as he got 1,191 chamber members’ votes for reelection as Seminole County Property Appraiser, while Republican challenger former Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett drew 448.

The only major candidates in the JC 9 State Attorney and Orange County Sheriff elections are all Democrats. Heading into the Democratic primary for JC 9, Perry got 880 votes, Chief Assistant State Attorney Deborah Barra 258, Assistant State Attorney Ryan Williams 105, and former law professor Monique Worrell, 46. In the Democratic primary for Orange County Sheriff, Mina got 1,121 votes, retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Joe Lopez got 611, while five other candidates split 20 votes.

In the Orange County Property Appraiser contest, Singh actually finished third behind former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd, who is the only registered Republican in the contest, albeit running only as a write-in. Muneer got 495 votes, Boyd 465, and Singh 176. The presumed top challenger, Democratic Rep. Amy Mercado, got just 144 of the chamber members votes.

In other races, the chamber members gave almost all their love to Republicans.

In the Senate District 9 race, Republican former Rep. Jason Brodeur (president of the Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce,) got 1,304 votes, compared to 345 votes split by four Democrats, led by labor lawyer Patricia Sigman‘s 284.

In the House District 28 race, Republican Rep. David Smith got 1,025 votes compared to 389 for Democrat Lee Mangold and 37 for Democrat Pasha Baker.

In the House District 29 race, Republican Rep. Scott Plakon got 1,056 votes, and Republican primary challenger Luther Dowe got 241, while Democrat Tracey Kagan got 144.

In the House District 30 race, Republican former Rep. Bob Cortes got 1,354 votes, while Democratic Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil got 109.

In the House District 47 race, Republican Jeremy Sisson got 1,023 votes and Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani got 368.

In the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections race, Republican incumbent Chris Anderson drew 1,583 votes and Deborah Poulalion drew 63.

Republican Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma got 1,461 to Democratic challenger Spike Hopkins, 42.

The Orange County Commission District 5 contest is officially nonpartisan, but former Rep. Mike Miller, a Republican, trounced incumbent Commissioner Emily Bonilla, a Democrat, by 859 votes to 284. Anjali Vaya, a Republican, finished third with 217 votes.

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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