Susan Plasencia enters HD 37 race; brother Rene Plasencia exiting SD 13
TALLAHASSEE, FLA.10/25/17-Rep. Rene "Coach P" Plasencia, R-Orlando, speaks during the House Health Quality Subcommittee meeting at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Susan Plasencia would challenge Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Republican Susan Plasencia — sister of Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia — has filed to run for the new House District 37 seat, putting her into a potential contest with Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Rep. Rene Plasencia — “Coach P” — has decided to withdraw  his candidacy for Senate District 13.

Susan Plasencia is the first candidate to file for the new district, though Smith and Republican Jay J. Rodriguez had filed for the seat as configured in the current map for House District 49.

Rene Plasencia, who is completing his fourth term in the House and his third term representing House District 50, had decided last year to run for the Senate, setting up an expected match with Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart.

His withdrawal from that race — he texted Friday that he just needs to submit the paperwork — eliminates that potential marquee battle. Stewart now is alone as a candidate in SD 13, which covers most of eastern Orange County currently and in the new map.

The new map renumbers the seat as Senate District 17. No one has filed for the new district.

HD 37, in the new map approved by the House, covers a swath of northern Orange County and a piece of southern Seminole County,. It stretches from Winter Park’s eastern city limits to the community of Lake Pickett in Orange, and rises to the north to take in the city of Oviedo and the communities of Goldenrod and Chuluota.

The Orange County portions were carved from Smith’s HD 49, and include his home. The Seminole County portions were carved from House District 28, which is represented by Republican Rep. David Smith.

The area has large Hispanic communities and large college student populations. It includes the campus and student housing areas of Full Sail University and the University of Central Florida, plus some areas popular with students from Seminole State College, Valencia College, and Rollins College.

The voter breakdown gives Democrats a slight advantage, though the spread is fairly even between Democrats, Republicans, and independent voters.

Susan Plasencia is of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent. She is a small business owner, president of the family business that puts on the Calle Orange festival in downtown Orlando. The October street party celebrating Puerto Rican and Hispanic heritage and culture is perhaps the largest festival in the city. She also is a single mother who raised three now-grown children.

“I am running because I think moms, especially single-moms like me who struggled financially to provide the best possible education for our children, need representation in Tallahassee. I am also a business owner and employer who understands the importance of a growing economy that empowers the lives of everyday people,” she said in a news release.

She said school choice is an important issue for her.

“It’s something that changed my children’s lives, so it’s important to me personally,” she said.

She also said she is concerned about how government can affect small businesses, noting the two-year coronavirus crisis’ impacts on the Calle Orange festival.

“I am a conservative who believes in a strong free Florida that empowers parents with more educational opportunities for their children, a growing economy that empowers businesses to offer more higher-paying jobs, a state that protects the sanctity of life and our First and Second Amendment rights,” she said in the release.

A first-time candidate, Susan Plasencia has been involved for many years in her home owner’s association, and in leading a soup kitchen at the downtown women’s shelter, volunteering for the Eastland Baptist Church, and serving on the board for a Three Kings’ Day for at-risk Hispanic families.

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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