Seven face off in Special Election for Orlando City Council
Orlando City Hall

Orlando City Hall
Unless a candidate emerges with a majority, the top two advance to a June 18 runoff.

Orlando voters will likely narrow the field tonight on who fills an open City Council seat. Seven candidates face each other to replace suspended City Commissioner Regina Hill.

Candidates include public relations strategist Ericka Dunlap, business coach Tiakeysha Ellison, civil rights activist Lawanna Gelzer, tax adviser Cameron Hope, former state Rep. Travaris McCurdy, community organizer Miles Mulrain and nonprofit leader Shan Rose.

The Special Election is on May 21. If no candidate secures a majority, which is likely in a seven-person field, a runoff will take place on June 18 — less than a month away.

Dunlap, a former Miss America, was born in Orlando and graduated from the University of Central Florida. She’s now CEO of Crown Communication Group, a public relations and brand development agency in the city. Her campaign website lists affordable housing opportunities and creating a “vibrant and safe nightlife” in Downtown Orlando as priorities.

“My core beliefs are simple: operate with integrity, give back in a meaningful manner and produce results,” she wrote.

Ellison, another Orlando native, has discussed her personal story as a breast cancer survivor and said work as a business coach will help with the work of revitalizing some of the city’s economic corridors.

“By providing resources and support to small businesses, she aims to revitalize commercial corridors and spur investment in underserved neighborhoods,” her website says.

Gelzer has engaged with City Hall on a number of issues, including policing. She is now the CEO of the Community Equity Project and has served as president of the Coalition of 100 Black Women—Central Florida and the National Action Network’s Central Florida Chapter. A living wage and police relations are among her listed priorities on her site.

“Lawanna’s many community activities include her service on boards and committees where she fought steadfastly for funding for many of the impoverished communities within our county,” the site reads. “To this day, Gelzer remains an outspoken advocate for community improvement at all levels.”

Hope is a strategic marketing and financial tax adviser at First Hope Financial, where he served as CEO from 2020 to 2022. He discussed his background as a felon turned businessman with Click Orlando.

“I think that my history serves as an example for other residents in District 5 that have had a past criminal history and that they can overcome that,” Hope said. “And maybe have a successful business, even run for an office, possibly win a seat in city government and contribute.”

McCurdy is a well-known quantity in Tallahassee, where he served a term as a Democratic state Representative. He lost his seat to now-state Rep. Bruce Antone in a Primary in 2022 but is looking to return to public office closer to home. He has promoted affordable housing, infrastructure investment, and safer neighborhoods as chief campaign issues.

“I’m asking our community to stand with me,” he wrote on his Instagram. “I was your trusted voice in the State House, and I’ll be YOUR champion on the City Commission.”

Mulrain has lived in Orlando since age 7 and pursued community organizing after a friend was killed in a neighborhood shooting, according to his website. He founded Let Your Voice Be Heard in 2016 and later worked with Equal Justice USA, organizing activists to visit lawmakers in Tallahassee. He also organized demonstrations in 2020, including in Minneapolis after the George Floyd murder.

“He is ready, willing and has been serving District 5 of the City of Orlando and will continue to do so whether he is elected to office or not,” the site reads.

Rose, meanwhile, challenged Hill for the seat in the last election. Her website notes that she started Change For the Community to bring positive community changes to Orlando neighborhoods in 2019. She has also mentored youth in the area as she has tried to boost opportunities in her Parramore area and the surrounding community. She recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Joe Biden for her volunteer service.

“I am a candidate for Orlando District 5 Commissioner to be a Champion For The People,” she posted on X. “Forged in Fire: My Vision is of a community where everyone thrives; families, the arts and our businesses.”

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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