Monthly Archives: August 2016

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Good Primary Elections for Latinos

Soto and Cortes
It was a good primary election for John Cortés (l) and Darren Soto, shown campaigning together in Kissimmee before the election. / Soto-Facebook

It was a good primary elections for many Hispanic candidates in Central Florida. From Osceola to Seminole counties,  Hispanic candidates established “firsts” for the Latino community in a sign that the Florida Supreme Court-imposed congressional redistricting evened the political playing field.

Florida voter turnout of nearly 24 percent also was good, higher than the 21 percent recorded in 2012, also a presidential election year. However, Central Florida  turnout was lower than the state average. Seminole came closest with a 22.6 percent primary turnout, followed by Osceola (20.8 percent). In an unusual move, Orange County trailed both with an 18 percent turnout.

No details yet on the Hispanic voter turnout, which often is low for primary and mid-term elections.

Here’s an analysis of how Hispanic candidates fared.

U.S. Senate

Republican incumbent Marco Rubio won handily against millionaire Carlos Beruff, a Donald Trump acolyte, proving that there is only one Donald Trump and imitators need not apply.  Rubio deserves mention as well because he is seriously courting Central Florida Latinos – he celebrated his win in Puerto Rican-heavy Osceola. Many  Puerto Ricans are turned off by Rubio’s vote against Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, his on-again, off-again immigration reform and flip flopping on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. But Rubio needs to win the I-4 corridor in November.

Finally tally: Rubio won by 74 percent in Orange and 71 percent in Osceola, two Democratic counties – well ahead of Beruff as well as the man who would be his Democratic rival Cong. Alan Grayson, who in turn lost the primary to Patrick Murphy.  Grayson proved unpopular even on his home turf.

Congressional District 9

State Sen. Darren Soto was the big winner in a crowded Democratic field that included Dena Minning Grayson, wife of current Cong. Grayson; as well as Grayson’s former district director Susannah Randolph. However, Dena Grayson and Randolph appeared to cancel each other out, opening the way for Soto, who was financially competitive and campaigned hard among Latinos.

Interesting aside, a big loser is Osceola County Commissioner Viviana Janer, the first Latina and Puerto Rican on the County Commission who endorsed Randolph over Soto. Janer didn’t prove to have any coattails for Randolph to ride.

Soto is nearly assured a win in November against Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in a district drawn to favor Democrats, potentially becoming the first Puerto Rican from Florida to go to Congress.

Final tally: Soto won 44 percent of the vote in Osceola – about double that of Grayson and Randolph – and 38 percent in Orange, or five points ahead of Randolph and 15 points ahead of Grayson.

A note about Val Demings, the resounding winner (57 percent) of the Democratic primary in Congressional District 10. This redrawn district contains about an equal ratio of black (25 percent) and Hispanics ( 21 percent). It bears watching for Latinos as well.


State Senate District 15-State House District 48

Father-daughter team of State. Rep. Víctor Torres and Amy Mercado won their respective primary races for State Senate District 15 (includes parts of Orange and Osceola) and State House District 48 (Orange), respectively. A November win, which is likely in these two Democratic districts, would make the duo the first father-daughter legislators in Florida.

Final tally: Torres won 67.7 percent of Orange and 56 percent of Osceola, while Mercado earned 60 percent in Orange.

State House District 43

Meanwhile, John Cortés easily held onto State House District 43 against the man who once held the seat, Ricardo Rangel, despite old allegations of a domestic dispute between Cortés and his daughter. This proves that Cortés’s overwhelming win over Rangel in 2014 was no fluke. Osceola doesn’t like Rangel. Cortés is a likely shoo-in in November in this Democratic district.

Final tally: Cortés 42 percent, Rangel 29 percent.

Osceola Clerk

Incumbent Armando Ramírez managed to hold onto to the Osceola Clerk of the Court, despite some stumbles and bad publicity early in his term, including charges of nepotism and the firing of employees, proving that either Ramirez has righted his ship or Osceola likes Ramírez.

Final tally: Ramirez 42.4 percent vs. 37 percent for John Overstreet.

Kissimmee Mayor

The battle for who will be the first Hispanic mayor of Kissimmee spilled into the November election, as Kissimmee Commissioners José Alvarez and Art Otero head for a runoff. This guarantees an already ugly battle will get more vicious. Otero is attempting to disqualify Alvarez from the race and reminds voters that he is the Puerto Rican candidate. Alvarez is Cuban-American.

Final tally:  Alvarez 45.7 percent, Otero 41.6 percent.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Kissimmee Mayor’s Race Gets Weirder and Weirder

The two candidates angling to be Kissimmee’s first Hispanic mayor are engaged in a mano a mano that started years ago and is getting weirder and weirder the closer we draw to the August 30 primaries.

Art Otero and José Alvarez, both Kissimmee city commissioners known for verbal disputes in and out of commission meetings, are on the August 30 ballot. The winner takes the mayor’s seat.

But Otero, known most recently for a domestic altercation in which he allegedly tried to influence the Kissimmee police investigation, is trying to disqualiimagefy Alvarez from the race – and seize the prize – in a suit rejected last week by the Ninth Circuit Court in Osceola. Otero said he will appeal, throwing the election into a dispute that potentially may be decided by the court.

Otero alleges that Alvarez should have resigned his commission seat to run for office, as Otero did, to avoid running from a “safe haven,” which is illegal in Florida. But Alvarez’s term ends in November, while Otero still had a few years left to his term. The judged ruled in Alvarez’s favor. image

Partisan Hijinks?

The hijinks do not end there. Although the mayor’s race is non partisan, Otero is a Democrat represented by two Latino lawyers well known in Oceola Republican circles: principal attorney Carlos Meléndez and former Osceola County Commissioner John Quiñones, who lost his 2014 re-election bid to Democrat Viviana Janer.

Many prominent Orlando-area Democrats are supporting Alvarez, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, congressional candidate Val Demings, State Rep. Víctor Torres (D-48) and Janer.

jose alvarez endorsements
The “Most Wanted” poster circulating on Facebook.

An ad paid for by Alvarez with photos of his endorsees is circulating on Facebook, as if it were a “Most Wanted” poster because they had the audacity not to support Otero.

Here’s the crux of the matter: Otero is Puerto Rican and previously urged voters to “vote for the Puerto Rican.” Alvarez, meanwhile, has committed the high crime of being Cuban-American.

Many Puerto Ricans yearn for the first Hispanic mayor of a largely Puerto Rican city to be Puerto Rican. No matter who it is, no matter the temperament.

“Dyer has aspirations for the governorship,” wrote local activist Violeta Burgos on Facebook. “Is he counting on our vote when he visits Kissimmee to endorse a Cuban for mayor and it’s not even his city”?

Political Salsa

At last week’s Political Salsa hob nob, attended by 400 people and held at the Acacia Network in Orlando, Otero took umbrage at losing 70 percent – 30 percent to Alvarez in an unscientific poll.

A Facebook war broke out, forcing Political Salsa organizer and attorney Anthony Suarez to weigh in.

“Any implication that the results aren’t accurate is defamatory…,” wrote Suarez in perfect legalese on Facebook.

Otero, possibly sniffing an electoral defeat at hand, is lashing out any way he can because hob nob polls aren’t meant to be taken seriously. They are hyper partisan fun,  “accurate” only insofar as they represent voter sentiment at the event.

Most folks who attend hob nobs are political insiders themselves, and apparently they are not supporting Otero.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Early Voting Turnout Is Just 4 Percent

yo vote

Early voting turnout is 4 percent in the August 30 primaries, a figure that was mirrored in the three-county area, according to the Florida Division of Elections’  figures released August 28.

The numbers are bound to increase once all primary votes are cast – either early, by mail or in person. Total turnout in the 2012 primary elections – also a presidential election year – was 20.5 percent, still considered low.

The final day of early voting is Sunday, August 28, until 7 p.m..

For the early vote end of day Saturday, August 27, elections data show that 494,925  cast ballots across Florida, about 49 percent Republican and 44 percent Democrat.

In Orange 4 percent of Democrat voters turned out to vote in the primaries, while the figure was even lower – 3.3 percent – for Republicans.

In Osceola thus far, 3.8 percent of Democrat voters have cast a ballot and 4 percent of Republicans.

Seminole turnout has been higher, with 5.4 percent Republican versus 4.2 percent for Democrats.

Tuesday, August 30, is the final day for voting the Florida primaries either in person or by mail.

Here’s the  breakdown for early voting in the three-county area:


Democrats     13,736  (59 percent of total early vote)

Republicans    7,011 (30 percent)

NPAs                  2,192 (9 percent)

Total           23,093


Democrats      3,003 (57 percent)

Republicans    1,821 (34 percent)

NPAs                  421 (8 percent)

Total            5,290


Republicans   5,841 (55 percent)

Democrats    3,870   (36 percent)

NPAs                875    (8 percent)

Total            10,721

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Slow Going in Early Voting

ya voté
Early voting is going slowly thus far, but voters have until Saturday, August 27, to vote in any early voting center in their county.

With just days to go before the August 30 primary elections, the early voting is going very slowly for all political parties.

As of Friday morning, just 351,488 early voters had cast ballots across the state of Florida, with Republicans slightly ahead (170,102) of Democrats (155,758) according to the Florida Division of Elections.

However, in Orange and Osceola counties early voting favors Democrats, as does the vote by mail. Then again, Orange and Osceola are predominantly Democrat, while  Seminole is mostly Republican.

Early voting in Florida ends Saturday, August 27, and voters do not appear to be taking advantage of the one of two ways to cast ballots ahead of election day in Florida – the other being vote by mail – placing the onus on election day turnout.

Many races likely will be decided in the primaries, not in the November election. For example, in Kissimmee the winner of the mayoral race is the city’s next mayor –and  the winner will be the first Hispanic mayor of Kissimmee. The race  essentially comes down to City Commissioner José Alvarez and former commissioner Art Otero.

In addition, the race for Congressional District 9, which covers parts of Orange, Osceola and Polk counties, and leans Democrat and Hispanic, also is highly likely to be decided in the August primary among State Sen. Darren Soto, Susannah Randolph, Dena Minning Grayson and Valleri Crabtree. A social media dispute has broken out between the Grayson and Randolph camps, creating more uncertainty in that race. (Randolph is Grayson’s former district director.)

Three-County Area

In the three-county area, Democrats in Orange and Osceola appear to be voting early in greater numbers than Republicans.

In Orange, about twice as many Democrats (10,390) as Republicans (5,145) have voted early. In Osceola, 56 percent of all early voters are Democrats (2,070) versus Republicans (1,279).

Meanwhile, in Seminole, where Republicans dominate, 55 percent of early voters are Republicans, compared with 36 percent who are Democrat.

early voting graph



Those who don’t affiliate with any political party or NPA voters often determine the outcome of general elections, but they cannot vote in political party primaries, accounting for their low numbers.  NPA voters, however, can vote on the constitutional amendment on solar energy and certain local nonpartisan races.

Only 1,582 NPA voters have cast ballots in Orange, while only 288 have done so in Osceola and 536 in Seminole. In all of Florida, 21,814 NPA voters have gone to the polls, just 6 percent of all early  voters, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Vote by Mail

Voting by mail is a more popular alternative among all voters, with over 1 million Floridians having voted by mail thus far. Republicans have cast 525,000 mail ballots versus 408,049 for Democrats. The remainder are “other” and NPA voters.

At the local level, mail ballots favor Democrats, with 21,092 having voted by mail In Orange versus 18,008 Republicans. In Osceola,  Democrats have cast 7,976 mail ballots, compared with 5,876 for Republicans.

In Seminole, nearly 12,400 Republicans have voted by mail versus 7,140 Democrats.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor