David Smith setting Seminole County Republican beachhead in HD 28
David Smith, Pasha Baker have diffeent approaches to the idea of 'public service.'

David Smith and Pasha Baker
Smith faces Democrat Pasha Baker.

Democrats have poured resources into Seminole County trying to sweep legislative seats in the rapidly-evolving county but Republican Rep. David Smith is fighting hard to keep House District 28.

Smith, a Winter Springs consultant and retired Marine colonel, faces Democrat Pasha Baker, a Sanford entrepreneur and non-profit executive. They’re contesting a northeastern Seminole County district, which could, if Democrats big investment in Seminole County pays dividends, become the last Republican legislative hold in a once thoroughly red county.

Smith barely won the district in 2018, defeating Democrat Lee Mangold 51%-49%. Baker defeated Mangold in the Aug. 18 Democratic primary.

Health care, the COVID-19 crisis, the economic downturn, the environment, and the candidates’ very different commitments to public service have been front-and center in the district that covers suburbs, a more urban environment in Sanford, and a more rural environment in eastern Seminole County.

Republicans hold a little better than 2-point advantage in voter registration. The district has Seminole County’s largest African American population, largely centered in Sanford, but also significant in the Geneva and Oviedo region.

Smith spent 30 years in the Marines, rising to the rank of colonel and serving combat duty along the way.

His first term was marked by strong commitments to economic development and the environment, though he also took a misstep on the later issue Baker has sought to exploit. He contends he was among the most effective freshmen of his or any class, sponsoring six policy bills and 10 local appropriations that were approved and signed into law

Baker’s commitment has been more at the ground level. She spent decades serving the Sanford community where her family lived for generations, running several non-profit organizations and serving as the catalyst to bring in grants and personal assistance where needed. That continued with more urgency through the coronavirus crisis. Background in business, working at JP Morgan Chase and Verizon before coming home to Sanford, helps too.

Smith has amassed one of the largest campaign war chests in Florida, more than $550,000, and has spent about $380,000 of that in the past few weeks, largely on digital advertising and mailers.

Baker has pulled in more than $150,000, yet most of that arrived late, with more than $100,000 pouring in during the past six weeks, largely through a national fundraising campaign Democrats ran on her behalf, facilitated by ActBlue. Yet through last Friday she had reported spending little of that. She’s also been aided by outside spending.

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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