Primary Elections were an embarrassing day for several former lawmakers
Former state Reps. David Santiago, Mike Clelland, and John Cortes all lost big in bids for other offices Tuesday.

David Santiago, Mike Clelland, John Cortes
Former Reps didn't just lose bids for new offices, they lost big.

Tuesday’s Primary Election led to humbling losses for several former or soon to depart state Representatives who sought new offices in Central Florida.

Democratic Rep. Amy Mercado was an exception. She decided against running again for her seat representing House District 48 in the spring to run for Orange County Property Appraiser, and then drubbed incumbent Rick Singh in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Oh, if other former lawmakers had it so good. In Volusia, Seminole, Orange, and Osceola counties, former lawmakers were on the wrong sides of drubbings.

Republican Rep. David Santiago of Deltona was finishing his fourth term representing House District 27, so he was term-limited. He decided to run for the newly-created elected office of Volusia County Tax Collector.

Tuesday’s results: Will Roberts, a supervisor in the county’s tax collector office was elected with 60%, while Santiago got 40%

In Seminole County, Democratic former state Rep. Mike Clelland of Longwood saw the open seat for the Seminole County Commission District 5 as an opportunity to restart his political career. He had been defeated in his first reelection attempt in 2014.

Tuesday’s results in the Democratic primary: political newcomer Pernell Bush won the primary with 70%, while Clelland managed 30%.

In Orange County, Republican former Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park was encouraged to take on Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla who was seeking reelection. Other Republicans had been pushed to take on the seemingly-vulnerable Democrat, but no one seemed to find traction.

Tuesday’s results: Bonilla was reelected with 51%, while Miller got 29%, and another Republican, Anjali Vaya, got 20%.

In Osceola County, Ricardo Rangel of Kissimmee, who held the House District 43 seat from 2012-’14, was one of six Democrats who ran in this year’s Democratic primary for that seat. The primary turned out to be the final election, because there were no Republicans or other candidates who filed.

Tuesday’s results: Kristen Arrington was elected with 31% of the vote, and Rangel finished dead-last, with 8%.

Former Rep. John Cortes, who ousted Rangel in the 2014 primary for HD 43, then was reelected in 2016 and ’18, decided against seeking another term in Tallahassee, citing his need to stay in Kissimmee due to family health concerns. So he filed for a local office, the Osceola Clerk of Court, where incumbent Clerk Armando Ramirez looked vulnerable because his office had been plagued by scandal allegations.

Once again, there were no Republicans or other candidates in the race, so the Democratic primary became the election.

Tuesday’s results: Former School Board Member Kelvin Soto was elected with 43% of the vote. While Cortes at least outperformed Ramirez, Cortes finished a distant second, with 23%.

One other former lawmaker who might be considered to have had a bad day in Tuesday’s elections: Republican former Rep. Chris Dorworth, whom Clelland had beaten in 2012, and who’s now a lobbyist and developer in Seminole County.

Dorworth has been at odds with Seminole County Commissioners Bob Dallari and Lee Constantine and has said he wants to see them taken out of office. Someone directed $170,000 of dark money through a political action committee called Sunshine State Rising  to pay for a slew of attack ads that ran against Dallari and Constantine just before the Republican primary.

Tuesday’s results: Constantine won his primary in District 3 with 66% of the vote. Dallari won his in District 1 with 60% of the vote.

All of that makes Mercado’s performance stand out. The two-term Democrat decided against running for another term in House District 48, so she could run a Property Appraiser campaign, vowing restoration of faith, trust, and accountability in the office.

Tuesday’s results: Mercado took 60% of the vote, compared with 32% for Singh and 8% for a third Democrat, businessman Khalid Muneer.

One other former lawmaker in Central Florida also had a good day Tuesday. Rich Crotty is far better known as a former Orange County Mayor, an office he held from 2001-’11. But back in the day, he, too, was a legislator. He served in the Florida House and Senate in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In recent years Crotty has been the Orange County Republican Party State Committeeman, and he sought reelection. This year’s opponent, Randy Ross put up a blistering campaign against him.

Tuesday’s results: Crotty was reelected with 67%, while Ross got 33%.

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].


  • Paula

    August 19, 2020 at 4:21 pm

    So glad David Santiago did not get elected. The Volusia County voters probably remember when Santiago voted against home rule in 2017, and in fact was a co-sponsor of the bill (HB 425) to remove local control.

    Residents have long memories, especially as they see the Florida legislature trying to wrest away local control and allow unregulated hotels in neighborhoods zoned single-family residential.

  • Caleb

    August 20, 2020 at 11:11 pm

    You forgot about former lawmaker Karen Castor-Dentel who has been re-elected to her seat on Orange County School Board.

Comments are closed.


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