Ron Mueller aims to defend Winter Garden seat from Ileana Jones
Winter Garden City Hall, via City of Winter Garden Facebook.

Winter Garden
The challenger won more votes in an election last month, but a runoff Tuesday picks the winner.

Winter Garden City Commissioner Ron Mueller will try to defend his seat from opponent Iliana Jones. The challenger in a race last month pulled in more votes, but it’s the top vote-getter in the runoff that will hold the District 2 seat for the next four years.

The race is a rematch for the candidates as well. Mueller won in 2021 by 66 votes.

But in March, Jones won 48% of the vote in a three-way race for the same job, just shy of a majority to win the seat outright. Mueller earned 42% of the vote as DJ Culberson Jr. took the remaining 10%.

Jones has run on a platform of protecting Winter Garden from the dense development seen in other parts of Orange County. Any talk of “smart growth” in the city, her website said, needs to prioritize a desire from residents for low-density development.

“We love Winter Garden, and with your help, we can preserve it,” she said in a campaign video on her website.

Mueller, meanwhile, has defended a record of supporting road improvement and park beautification efforts. He shot his own campaign video at Lake Cove Point, a conservation area overrun by invasive species a few years ago.

“I was able to secure a $35,000 Grant to help restore the natural beauty and the nature of this community in this wetland,” he said. “Today we have this beautiful park that everyone can enjoy.”

Since the first election, Culberson has endorsed Mueller. While he said he was inclined initially to support Jones as a woman and immigrant with a story similar to his own family, he said he disagreed with the negative tone of her campaign. He said he more appreciated Mueller running on his own record.

“What sort of community do we want to be?” Culberson said. “Do we want to be the one that supports and allows for hate politics? Or are we a community that wants our leaders to speak our values and represent our best interest?”

Winter Garden in March saw another election deliver a blow to Orange County Democrats when Republican Chloe Johnson flipped another City Commission seat red.

That’s not a danger here. Jones is a no-party voter. But the local party said last month they would fight to keep Mueller, a Democrat, in the seat.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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