Four Orange County House races in question

Geraldine Thompson_Bruno Portigliati
Geraldine Thompson, Joy Goff-Marcil, Rene Plasencia targeted.

As Orange County has rapidly evolved into one of the bluest counties in the state, Republicans hope to hold onto two Florida House districts that cover pieces of the county, and they are determined to win back two others in Tuesday’s election.

Democratic Reps. Joy Goff-Marcil in House District 30 in north-central Orange and south-central Seminole County and Geraldine Thompson in House District 44 in southwestern Orange County are in battles to hold seats they flipped in 2018.

Republicans want them back and have poured support behind challengers to Goff-Marcil, a former Maitland City Commissioner, and Thompson, a former Senator. Businessman and former Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs and businessman Bruno Portigliatti of Orlando each has out-raised their incumbent opponents.

Still, Cortes lost HD 30 53% to 47% to Goff-Marcil in 2018, with an even greater campaign finance advantage. And Portigliatti has lost before in HD 44, in a 2017 Special Election.

Meanwhile, Democrats are making their strongest bids in a long time for the two remaining GOP Orange County House seats.

Rep. Rene Plasencia has a solid base and is campaigning hard to try to keep it against a suddenly financially flush campaign from Democratic challenger Nina Yoakum in House District 50 in eastern Orange and northwestern Brevard County.

The House District 31 seat for northwestern Orange and northeastern Lake, long a Republican stronghold, is open. Republican agribusinessman Keith Truenow must contend with Crissy Stile, a Mount Dora City Commissioner and businesswoman with a built-in base.

Elsewhere, the open seat in House District 48 in eastern and southern Orange appears to be Democratic nominee Daisy Morales‘ to lose, given an overwhelming Democratic advantage in voter registration. Morales, a Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor, has drawn remarkably little support from local Democrats and little campaign money. Republican businessman Jesus Morales received the endorsement of the Orlando Sentinel, and some local Republicans. Yet he has little campaign money to overcome Daisy Morales’ name recognition and party advantage.

House District 47 Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani and House District 49 Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, both of Orlando, also are in strong positions.

Eskamani’s Republican challenger Jeremy Sisson, an Orlando businessman, has run a hard-right conservative campaign in a central-Orange district with large pockets of progressive Democrats in urban neighborhoods and mostly moderate Republican suburban communities. It’s the kind of electorate that gave Eskamani, an unabashed left-wing progressive, a resounding victory in 2018 over a much more moderate, experienced Republican challenger.

Smith’s Republican opponent Robert Prater, an Orlando educator, has put up a much more effective campaign. But the eastern Orange district provides Democrats an 18-point advantage in voter registration. The district, which includes the University of Central Florida and several Hispanic neighborhoods, has large communities that have shown they like both Smith’s progressive politics and his Latino ethnicity.

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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