Central Florida will send a number of fresh faces to Congress come January. All are Democrats.
They include State Rep. Darren Soto, who will represent Congressional District 9 and is the first Puerto Rican from Florida to head to Congress, a symbol of the growing Puerto Rican electorate. In addition, former Orlando police chief Val Demings will head Congressional District 10 and newcomer Stephanie Murphy pulled a major upset in Congressional District 7.
It is the most diverse congressional delegation that Central Florida has ever seen – thanks to the Fair Districts constitutional amendment championed by the League of Women Voters and others and that took years of litigation to implement.
Once in place, it changed the gerrymandered district lines away from Republicans to more fairly represent Democrats in those areas.
The Biggest Upset
The biggest coup belonged to Stephanie Murphy, who won District 7 held by 12-term Republican Cong. John Mica, who complained of millions of dollars of “outside money” being poured into the district to defeat him. Certainly that is true; over $4 million was spent on behalf of Murphy.
But the redrawn district also picked up parts of Orange and Volusia counties, ending Mica’s 22 years of landslide GOP victories. In fact, Mica won Seminole County with 52 percent of the vote, but lost Orange County by about 20,000 votes.
As surprising and just as revealing, Donald Trump won “reliably red” Seminole by just 3,654 votes or 1.6 percentage points.
As political analyst Rick Fogelsong repeated earlier and on Election Night, “Seminole County is turning purple.”
In state races:
• State Rep. Víctor Torres (D) won State Senate District 15, previously held by Soto and which covers Osceola and parts of Orange and Polk counties.
• Amy Mercado (D) was the victor in State House District 48 in Orange County. Mercado and Torres are the first father-daughter and Hispanic team to go to Tallahassee.
• John Cortés (D) was re-elected to State House District 43, representing Osceola County.
• Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) will head up State House District 49, which covers Orange County.
• Bob Cortés (R) retained State House District 30, which includes parts of Orange and Seminole.
• René Plasencia (R) captured State House District 50, covering Brevard and Orange counties.
Emily Bonilla also pulled a surprise 57 percent upset against incumbent Ted Edwards for a seat on the Orange County Commission, District 5. Edwards was weakened by his support of a massive housing development east of the Econlockhatchee River, for years considered the line in the sand for protecting east Orange County’s fragile ecosystem.
Bonilla becomes the first Latina – and Puerto Rican – since Mildred Fernández to be on the Orange County Commission. Fernández was convicted on charges of illegal campaign contributions in 2012 and was sent to state prison. She cannot run for public office again.
For the first time, Kissimmee’s fast-growing Hispanic population elected a Latino to be its mayor. José Alvarez earned a resounding victory over Art Otero, 63 percent vs. 37 percent, ending a very contentious campaign that centered on whether Puerto Ricans would elect Cuban-American Alvarez over Puerto Rican Otero. They opted for Alvarez.
And despite being trailed by controversy early in his tenure as Osceola County Clerk of the Court, Armando Ramirez won re-election with 62 percent of the vote.
Watch Orlando Latino for more 2016 elections coverage.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor