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.
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.
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.
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