The race for Florida Senate District 12 pits two longtime Democratic rivals against each other: incumbent Geraldine Thompson and former state Sen. Gary Siplin.
Two Republicans, Fritz Jackson Seide and Edward DeAguilera, are competing in the Republican side of the primary on Aug. 26.
The winner in the November general election will represent a district that includes some of Orange County‘s poorest neighborhoods — Parramore, Pine Hills and Washington Shores — and more affluent communities nearWindermere, Winter Park and Maitland.
More than half of the nearly 266,000 registered voters are Democrats.
Thompson, 65, spent six years in the state House before she was elected to the Senate in 2012. She defeated Victoria Siplin, the wife of Gary Siplin.
She and Gary Siplin have been rivals for at least a decade, when he beat her in the Democratic primary for state Senate District 19.
Siplin, known for his school-supply giveaways and penchant for drawing controversy, said he’s running because residents asked him to. The former state representative and state senator stepped down in 2012 because of term limits.
Siplin, 59, would not agree to an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. Via email, he said his priorities are job creation, education, crime prevention, health care and transportation.
One of Siplin’s best-known initiatives was a saggy-pants law that passed in 2011. It prohibits students from wearing pants to school that expose underwear or body parts.
Siplin achieved notoriety in 2006, when he was convicted of allowing a taxpayer-paid aide to work on his 2004 campaign on state time. The conviction was overturned on appeal, and he continues to practice law in Orlando.
Siplin and his wife host a weekly call-in show on a gospel radio station.
Thompson is a retired Valencia Community Collegeadministrator and a former Orange County business teacher. She also is the former director of the Wells’ Built Museum of African-American History & Culture in Parramore.
Thompson criticized Siplin for avoiding public debates. “I think voters deserve an opportunity to compare his ideas and my ideas so they can make an informed decision,” she said.
Meanwhile, DeAguilera is director of development and community partnerships for the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.
Born in Orlando to Cuban-immigrant parents, DeAguilera, 39, graduated from Bishop Moore High School, attended the University of Central Florida and has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College.
He said he is making his first run for public office because Thompson isn’t representing the entire district. DeAguilera, who speaks Spanish, said he would fight for everyone from agricultural workers in Zellwood and South Apopka to middle-class Winter Garden residents.
His platform includes reducing taxes for businesses and families, encouraging economic development, cutting red tape and adequately funding public schools.
DeAguilera is a member of the Orlando Health Foundation’s Southwest Community Board and a past director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando.
Seide, 59, owns an accounting and tax firm and is a real-estate broker. This is his second try for the Senate seat, having lost to Thompson in 2012.
Seide describes himself as anti-abortion, pro-gun rights and school vouchers and against medical marijuana and gay marriage. He said he wants to promote job growth and training and economic development.
Formerly a Democrat, Seide was a candidate for House District 39 in 2004 and again in 2006, when he finished last in a three-way primary won by Thompson.
Seide, who speaks French and Creole, has a bachelor’s degree from Rider University in New Jersey.
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Gary Siplin enters race for Florida Senate District 12 – Orlando Sentinel.