Leonard Spencer says he’ll treat Disney like any potential donor, but will focus on constituents
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Leonard Spencer
It just so happens that many of those constituents work for Disney.

When Leonard K. Spencer first filed as a House District 45 candidate, one résumé line blasted into the headlines: He spent nearly 16 years at The Walt Disney Co., most recently heading up a diversity and sustainability effort.

Disney, of course, has made more political headlines the last three years than executives likely desired. The company became the target of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, which repealed its self-governing ability as the Governor slammed efforts by even the company’s creative division to increase LGBTQ representation in its children’s programming.

So does Spencer expect help from the Mouse as he tries to unseat Rep. Carolina Amesty, a Republican incumbent who co-sponsored legislation creating a Governor-appointed District Board to govern Disney property?

The Democrat told Florida Politics that he had good relationships working at the company, but his focus remains on constituents. That said, Disney is the largest single-site employer in the country, and that site is in the heart of HD 45.

“Over 15 years of working at Disney, living in this district, I know a lot of people and they’re my friends who work for Disney or around it,” he said. “What I plan to do is work to win their support, and do my campaign work to really treat them like I would treat any other potential donor. You know, I think they (Disney) are extremely important here in Central Florida and really the state, being the largest employer in Florida.”

So how does he feel Florida has treated Disney during DeSantis’ time as Governor? Spencer believes the story of modern state government, when people look back, will be about one term: overreach.

But he stressed that political intrusion isn’t limited to punishing a business for political views. It impacts all Floridians. With that, Spencer guides the conversation back to controversial issues impacting a substantial number of Floridians, regardless of where they work or who they politically support.

“Tallahassee wants to get into legislating about women’s health care and what companies can and can’t do as far as their internal policies,” Spencer said. “It should be up to the company to set their internal guidelines.”

This is Spencer’s first run for office, and he says with some pride that he’s an executive and a businessman, not a politician. He has worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies, according to his personal website, on issues about diversity and inclusion. Confidentiality prevents him from disclosing all of their identities, he said, and he doesn’t want to draw employers into a political campaign. He has held executive positions at Amazon and General Electric, according to his LinkedIn.

But it’s clear Spencer will hammer Amesty about votes on other controversial issues, and what he describes as her inaction on some kitchen table matters impacting the cost for residents to live in Central Florida at all.

“We’ve got to think about, how can we reverse some of the restrictions on women’s health care that the Legislature has passed on these last few years?” he said.

“How can we work to fund our schools? How are we going to protect the ability for adults who want to expand their families to have access to (in vitro fertilization)? How are we going to adequately fund mental health care for all of the folks who are impacted? And you know, when I stepped back and thought about all these things, I felt like I have the ability to make a difference. That’s why I’m running.”

Amesty voted for a ban on most abortions six weeks into pregnancy. In other states, IVF treatments have come into question based on strict abortion bans, with the Alabama Supreme Court ruling a restriction there protected frozen embryos, briefly sowing political chaos in the state.

She’s also a champion of school choice, and supported the expansion of one of the largest private school voucher programs in the country. Meanwhile, Spencer proudly sent his two children to public schools, with both graduating from West Orange High School.

“My kids are proud of their public schools,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to pay our teachers, great teachers. We have to be able to provide the programs that kids need to learn and grow — from a STEM perspective, from an arts perspective — because that’s what makes well-rounded citizens who are able to be productive in society.”

He also said the Legislature needs to turn some honest attention on affordable housing, something in high demand in Orange County. He called recent actions on rising premiums effectively a “bailout” for insurance companies, and said lawmakers must focus attention on consumers.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my career, if you want to focus on things that are important, you focus on your customers,” he said. “The customers are the voters, right? So that’s who I’m focused on.”

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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  • Playing with ?

    May 23, 2024 at 8:12 pm

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    You all lost it

Comments are closed.


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