After a brief scare, Mayor Teresa Jacobs is not likely to draw an opponent this fall, but a healthy number of Orange County government races could greet voters in August and November.
Jacobs looks to have dodged any tough re-election fight when Val Demings quit the race last month, so three potentially competitive Commission races now take center stage.
All state and local races firm up at the end of the week, when qualifying ends at noon Friday. But if a declared candidate hasn’t collected enough petitions to secure a spot, or raise decent money by now, they’re probably not factors and may not formally jump in this week.
But that’s not going to be a problem in Orange, which should have a few of competitive non-partisan races, one August party primary and some contested charter and tax measures.
Here’s a rundown of the primary races shaping up, so far, two of which appear headed to Nov. 6 runoffs.
In District 2, at least four candidates are vying to replace term-limited Commissioner Fred Brummer, a Republican.
There are arguably two front-runners in the non-partisan race: GOP state Rep. Bryan Nelson andEatonville Councilman Alvin Moore, a Democrat. Two other newcomer Democrats, Gregory Allen Jackson and Patricia Rumph, also look tough. A write-in, Bridgett Yvett Sykes, has also qualified, and tea party activist Prince Brown may also run.
Given that glut of good candidates, the top two vote-getters will likely square off Nov. 6, unless someone pulls in more than 50 percent of the Aug. 26 vote. That’s not likely.
In District 4, Commissioner Jennifer Thompson likely faces Puerto Rican-born attorney Euri Cerrud, a rookie Democrat. He appears adept early on, and Thompson has been dinged by a few controversies.
But there’s little doubt business interests will rally to a reliable Thompson. She’s out raised Cerrud $153,025 to $35,678, so far.
For Cerrud, the key question is: Can Hispanics and Democrats turn out in the sleepier August election? Thompson is an early favorite to win re-election on Aug. 26.
District 6 on the other hand, is wide open, with a strong field of six black Democratic candidates.
Five of them gathered enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot: businessman and former Commissioner Homer Hartage; Victoria Siplin, wife of former Sen. Gary Siplin; builder Derrick Wallace; Roberta Walton, a former aide to term-limited Commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell; Virginia Whittington, a transportation official with MetroPlan of Orlando.
Lawanna Gelzer, an activist and consultant, jumped in the race last, but quickly qualified by paying a fee; Whittington and Siplin formally qualified today.
In a special partisan election, Republican Eddie Fernandez will run to fill out a partial two-year term to replace deceased Clerk of Circuit Court Lydia Gardner. Gov. Rick Scott appointed the fellow Republican to hold the post until the special election, and that may help Fernandez avoid a GOP primary contest.
On the Democratic side, Moore Russell will square off against possibly two other Democrats, in fellow attorney James Auffant and Don Mitchell. The winner would go on to face Fernandez, a Puerto Rican-born lawyer.
School tax measures could appear on both ballots, and a non-binding referendum on paid sick time is also slated for the primary ballot. Commissioners are also lining up measures to install term limits on all county posts, and make them all non-partisan.
More ballot measures could be on the way from commissioners that curb citizen access to changing the charter.
And a Democrat-leaning group is pushing its own charter measure to make all county races partisan, and move the mayor and commissioner races to presidential election years — instead of the current primary-weighted elections.