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Democrats topping Republicans by more than 2-1 in Orange County voting

Democrats say voter turnout could help them in County Commission contests.

Orange County’s early voting and mail-in voting is attracting Democratic voters by more than a 2-1 margin over Republican voters heading into primary Election Day on Tuesday.

Outside of what high or low voter turnout levels might suggest in the party’s primary contests, the turnout could have strong cross-party ramifications in races that officially are non-partisan, but in which the parties are actively promoting their candidates.

Orange County Democrats are expressing strong hopes for their slates for the Orange County Commission. Those hopes include what would be an upset for a seat long held by Republicans, and the chances to hold two other seats in which Democratic incumbents have attracted strong Republican challengers.

The turnout favoring Democrats might be driven in part by the fact that there are no Republicans running countywide, while Democrats have three high-profile countywide contests.

Countywide, Democrats have choices to make in primaries for Orange County Sheriff and Orange County Property Appraiser,  and in the State Attorney’s race for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit. They also have a hotly-contested battle for the Democratic nomination in House District 48.

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Republicans have choices to make in primaries for Congress in Florida’s 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th congressional districts, which combine to cover the whole county. Republican voters also have a hotly contested, but publicly low-profile battle for the party’s state committeeman.

Of the early-voting and vote-by-mail voters, whom the Orange County Supervisor of Elections tallies by party, 60% have been Democrats, and 26% have been Republicans.

Early voting in Orange County had attracted 23,947 registered Democrats and 11,169 registered Republicans. Another 3,335 independent or third-party voters, capable of voting only in the non-partisan contests, also voted.

In the vote-by-mail tallies, last updated Monday, 63,917 Democrats, 26,054 Republicans, and 17,202 independents or third-party members have voted.

Another 5,541 voters had shown up on Election Day, by about 9 a.m. That’s a total of 151,166 voters, or a turnout so far of a little more than 18%.

In the Orange County Commission District 1 race, Republican incumbent Commissioner Betsy VanderLey faces Democrat Nicole Wilson for a seat that Republicans have owned for decades, but which Democrats think they could flip with a high Democratic voter turnout.

In Orange County Commission District 3, Democratic incumbent Commissioner Mayra Uribe faces two Republican challengers, former Commissioner Pete Clarke and Bill Moore.

In District 5, Democratic incumbent Commissioner Emily Bonilla faces two Republican challengers, former state Rep. Mike Miller and Anjali Vaya.

The turnout so far seems to favor Uribe’s and Bonilla’s chances for reelection. However, each, or one of the challengers, would need to pull more than 50% of the total vote to avoid a runoff election in November with whomever finishes second Tuesday.

There also are non-partisan contests for school board and various judgeships.

Orange County Democrats are deciding the Orange County Property Appraiser contest in which incumbent Property Appraiser Rick Singh is seeking a third term, against former state Rep. Amy Mercado and Khalid Muneer. There is no Republican running, so only write-in candidates force a November election to finalize the results.

In the Orange County Sheriff contest, incumbent Sheriff John Mina is running for reelection to a full term, against Democratic challengers Andrew Darling, Joe Lopez, Eric McIntyre, and Darryl Sheppard. There is no Republican running, so only write-in candidates would force a November election to finalize the results.

In the JC 9 State Attorney’s race, which also covers Osceola County, four Democrats are running for an open office: Deborah Barra, Belvin Perry Jr., Ryan Williams, and Monique Worrell.

For the open seat in HD 48 in southern and central Orange County, Democratic voters are deciding between Daisy Morales, Nelson Pena, Julio Rocha, Tony Tsonis, and Samuel Vilchez Santiago.

Orange County Republicans have four congressional nominees to select.

In CD 7, which covers parts of northern, central, and eastern Orange County and also includes Seminole County voters, Richard Goble, Leo Valentin, and Yukong Zhao are contending for a shot at Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

In CD 8, which has a portion of far eastern Orange County but mostly represents Brevard and Indian River counties, Rep. Bill Posey faces a Republican primary challenge from Scott Caine.

In CD 9, which covers southern Orange County and also includes voters in Osceola County and part of eastern Polk County, Jose Castillo, Bill Olson, Sergio Ortiz, and Chris Wright are contending for a shot at Democratic Rep. Darren Soto.

In CD 10, which covers western Orange County, Vennia Francois and Willie Montague are battling to challenge Democratic Rep. Val Demings.

Republicans also are deciding on the Republican Party State Committeeman between incumbent Committeeman (and former Orange County Mayor) Rich Crotty and Randy Ross.

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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