Vennia Francois pulls in Mayors’ endorsements in crowded HD 45 race

Vennia Francois
HD 45 includes Walt Disney World, which, current controversy notwithstanding, is a powerful attraction.

Republican House District 45 candidate Vennia Francois has received the endorsements of 10 local leaders as she competes in a crowded field, her campaign announced Tuesday.

Francois, a Windermere lawyer who was a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, has received the endorsements of Edgewood Mayor John Dowless, Belle Isle Mayor Nick Fouraker, Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson, Winter Garden Mayor John Rees and former Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn.

She also was endorsed by Winter Garden Commissioners Lisa Bennett and Mark Maciel, and Windermere Council members Tony Davit and Loren “Andy” Williams.

Windermere and part of Winter Garden are in the newly drawn district. The other cities, all western or southern suburbs of Orlando, are not.

What is in the district is Walt Disney World and its surrounding communities — including Celebration, Four Corners, Champions Gate and Windermere — featuring large neighborhoods of snowbird homes and vacation rentals. That makes HD 45 one of the most-sought districts in the state, given Disney’s power and importance in Florida politics and economics — current Republican culture war criticisms notwithstanding.

The contest has attracted Republican candidates Carolina AmestyJanet Frevola, Bruno Portigliatti and Mike Zhao. Francois and Zhao are veterans of congressional campaigns; Portigliatti of past House campaigns.

The only Democrat in the contest so far is Allie Braswell, former president of the Central Florida Urban League.

HD 45 stretches from the South Side of Winter Garden through Windermere to Four Corners in southwestern Orange County and Celebration and Champions Gate in northwestern Osceola County. The results of the past two General Elections suggest the electorate likely is pretty even, perhaps with a Democratic lean. There is no incumbent running. State Rep. Geraldine Thompson, who represents most of the area now, is running for the Senate.

“Vennia has the right values, the right motivation, and is the one candidate in this race who will be able to hit the ground running on Day 1 in Tallahassee,” Winter Garden Mayor Rees said in a news release issued by Francois’ campaign.

“I am honored to receive the endorsements of these 10 leaders and elected city officials who live and work in Orange County,” Francois added in the release. “Along with the residents of west Orange and Osceola, they will be able to count on me to fight for our conservative values and work every day to make our community the best place to live and work.”

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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