Meet the candidates in the Florida primary election Tuesday

Meet the candidates in the Florida primary election Tuesday
·35 min read

Here is a look at the candidates in key races in the state and Central Florida primary election on Aug. 23. Get the latest election day news on our Florida Primary Updates blog here.

Complete primary election coverage, including Orlando Sentinel opinion staff endorsements, can be found at OrlandoSentinel.com/election

Statewide

Governor, Democrats

Charlie Crist, 66, of St. Petersburg, is a Democratic U.S. representative and former Republican governor and attorney general. He’s making his second run for governor as a Democrat. He has pledged to protect abortion rights in Florida, appoint a housing czar and reduce homeowners insurance rates.

Nikki Fried, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, is the state agriculture commissioner. She said she would declare a housing state of emergency, halt rent hikes and designate any increase above 10% as price gouging. She would also use her executive powers to increase access to abortion services.

Attorney General, Democrats

Aramis Ayala, 47, of Windermere, is a former Orange-Osceola state attorney and the first Black state attorney to be elected in Florida. She said her commitment to justice and experience sets her apart from the other two candidates. She has made fighting domestic violence a part of her platform.

Jim Lewis, 64, of Fort Lauderdale, is a criminal defense attorney with 12 years as a prosecutor for the state. He would work to reform campaign law, end “outrageous” contributions and make public corruption his main issue.

Dan Uhlfelder, 49, is a Santa Rosa general practice attorney with no prosecutorial experience. He calls himself a fighter for people who are marginalized and would revitalize the Attorney General’s civil rights office.

Agriculture Commissioner, Republicans

Wilton Simpson, 56, a multimillionaire egg farmer from Trilby, has been a member of the Florida Senate for eight years, the past two as president. A fifth-generation Floridian who calls himself a “common sense conservative,” he said he wants every state resident “to have access to the same opportunities” he’s had to live the American dream.

James Shaw, 62, of Vero Beach, has worked in the transportation industry and owns a 30-acre worm farm in Pennsylvania. He said he is most passionate about “protecting Florida from Far Left Agendas that are capable of destroying our state if implemented … For day-to-day survival, our food, water, and guns must be protected.”

Agriculture Commissioner, Democrats

Naomi Esther Blemur, 43, a North Miami entrepreneur and member of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee, said she’s an advocate for small farmers, clean water, renewable energy and making sure everyone has access to the state’s resources.

Jacques Rene Gaillot, 53, of Green Cove Springs, has run for office twice before – for Congress and state House. He said he would focus on consumer protection issues such as price gouging and other predatory practices.

Ryan Morales, 45, is a Clermont business consultant and hemp farmer who lost the Democratic primary for Florida House District 32 seat in 2020 to Stephanie Dukes, who lost to Republican incumbent Anthony Sabatini. He said he’s running on a platform to clean up the environment.

Congress

House District 7, Republicans

Erika Benefield, 42, is the former vice mayor of DeBary and the owner of an interior design company. She describes herself as a pro-gun and anti-abortion candidate in favor of more border security.

Brady Duke, 36, is a former Navy Seal and a minister who lives in Oviedo. He is promising to oppose abortion, increase border security and support congressional term limits.

Ted Edwards, 67, is a lawyer and former Orange County commissioner, who splits his time between Winter Park and New Smyrna Beach. Unlike other candidates in the race, Edwards says he supports gun safety legislation, including universal background checks.

Cory Mills, 42, is a U.S. Army combat veteran who lives in New Smyrna Beach and operates a company that supplies tear gas and anti-riot gear. He’s run a pair of provocative campaign ads, joking he’ll tear gas the “liberal media” and comparing Democrats to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Rusty Roberts, 69, is a former top aide to John Mica, a Republican who represented the 7th Congressional District in Congress from 1993 to 2017. As a former vice president of the high-speed Brightline train line, Roberts said he’ll make transportation a priority, building on Mica’s legacy. He lives in Longwood.

Anthony Sabatini, 33, a state representative from Lake County, is one of the most conservative members of the Legislature. Sabatini is calling for a crackdown on Big Tech censorship and term limits for politicians.

Al Santos, 57, is a veteran who served nearly 30 years in the U.S. Army and lives in Orlando. He supports the construction of new nuclear power plants to lessen the nation’s dependence on foreign energy.

Scott Sturgill, 42, operates a business that provides safety and personal protective gear to first responders, construction workers and school crossing guards. Sturgill is campaigning on cutting “bureaucratic red tape” and protecting Florida’s schools “from the federal government’s radical, liberal agenda.”

House District 7, Democrats

Hilsia “Tatiana” Fernandez, 51, owns a medical equipment business. Her top two legislative priorities are expanding vocational and career education and making housing more affordable.

Karen Green, 56, is a political strategist and vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party. She describes her agenda as “securing the civil liberties of immigrants and other minority communities, women’s rights, youth development, universal health care, religious freedoms, social justice, and climate advocacy.”

Al Krulick, 70, is a former Walt Disney World performer, teacher, nonprofit administrator and political operative who has run several times unsuccessfully for Congress. He is calling for campaign finance reform, protecting abortion rights, gun control measures and universal health care.

Allek Pastrana, 36, is a computer engineer. He wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, legalize marijuana, reduce military spending, establish Washington D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood and apply term limits to the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress.

House District 10, Democrats

Jack Achenbach, 29, is a dietitian. He says he wants to bring down gas prices, end the war on drugs and reform the immigration system.

Jeffrey Boone, 58, of Orlando, is a finance executive and former Wall Street banker. Boone said he wants to protect abortion rights, fund law enforcement to make communities safer and provide tax incentives for renters.

Randolph Bracy, 45, of Orlando, is a state senator and former state representative. Bracy said tackling the economy would be his main priority. He also cited his success in having fought against Republicans in the statehouse.

Corrine Brown, 75, of Jacksonville, represented Central Florida in Congress before serving two years in prison on 18 federal convictions. Her original conviction was thrown out, but she pleaded guilty this year to a tax fraud charge. Brown said she’s running after “the Lord wanted me to see the criminal justice system. He wanted me to experience this because he knew that I would do something about it.”

Maxwell Frost, 25, of Orlando, is a former ACLU staffer and gun control activist. He said he wants to protect abortion rights, ensure everyone in the country has health care, continue fighting for gun reforms and tackle rising costs.

Terence Gray, 57, of Ocoee, is the pastor of Saint Mark AME Church in Orlando. He said housing and wages were important issues. He added he wants to keep the lines of communication open between Democrats and Republicans.

Alan Grayson, 64, of Orlando, represented parts of Central Florida twice in the U.S. House between 2009 and 2017. He cited his working with a Republican Congress to help fund the Orlando VA Medical Center, phase 2 of SunRail and more than $1 billion in highway projects.

Natalie Jackson, 53, of Orlando, is a civil rights attorney who represented Trayvon Martin’s family after his shooting death in 2012. Jackson said she wants to toughen antitrust laws to help lower costs and rents.

Khalid Muneer, 70, is a real estate broker. His platform calls for reducing gun violence, tackling inflation and safeguarding the environment.

Teresa Tachon, 58, is a teacher at Boone High School in Orlando. She said her main focus is education and calls for reallocating funds to public schools and requiring charter schools to meet the same standards as public ones.

House District 10, Republicans

Lateresa Jones, 58, of Ocala, states on Instagram that she’s a “small Business-Owner, Christian, Pro-Trump Republican.” She lists protecting the border and the Second Amendment as some of her priorities.

Tuan Le, an aerospace engineer and cyber security analyst, stated his top priority was to stop security breaches by China and government corruption, as well as backing term limits in Congress.

Thuy Lowe, 56, of Orlando, is an entrepreneur and real estate investor, who worked on the 2020 Trump campaign. She lists energy independence, parental rights and border security as key issues.

Willie Montague, 34, of Orlando, is the founder of the Orlando nonprofit “House of Timothy.” On his website, he criticizes “racist critical theories and radical gender ideology.”

Peter Weed, 65, of Orlando, is a businessman. He states he backs school choice, is against abortion and wants to control the border.

Calvin Wimbish, 72, is a retired Army Green Beret and calls himself a “fierce America First conservative.” His issues include “election integrity,” the Second Amendment and eliminating the U.S. Department of Education.

House District 11, Republicans

Laura Loomer, 29, is a far-right activist who was banned from social media because of her anti-Muslim comments. She is calling for a 10-year halt in immigration and the mass deportation of millions of people living in the country illegally.

Daniel Webster, 73, is a business owner from Clermont who has served in Congress since 2011. He said his experience makes him the best candidate, and he’ll focus on increasing energy production and combating inflation.

Gavriel Soriano, 27, is a family farmer who lives in Sumter County. His platform includes dismantling Big Tech and factory farm monopolies, banning the importation of foreign workers and downsizing the federal government.

House District 9, Republicans

Scotty Moore, 43, worked as a missionary and now is a consultant. He said he doesn’t believe in any exceptions allowing for abortions, is opposed to vaccine mandates and that Congress shouldn’t send money to Ukraine amid inflation and high fuel prices.

Sergio Ortiz, 58, is a real estate broker who lives in Kissimmee. He’s also an ordained minister and the only candidate in the primary who lives in the district boundaries. He believes the U.S. should increase its domestic oil production and should teach students more about the Constitution. He doesn’t support any exceptions for allowing abortions.

Adianis Morales, 54, lives in Ocoee and is an associate pastor at Nación De Fe in Kissimmee. She previously worked on campaigns for Sen. Rick Scott and Latinos for Trump. She believes the U.S. should open more oil pipelines to increase supply and create a parental bill of rights. She said there should be exceptions to abortion restrictions to save the life of a mother.

Jose Castillo, 38, of Davenport, works at Walt Disney World as a manager at the resort. He spoke out against Disney’s opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Castillo opposes vaccine mandates and COVID-19 lockdowns, which put theme park workers and thousands of others out of work.

State Senate

District 10, Republicans

Jason Brodeur, 47, is a state senator from Sanford and the president and CEO of the Seminole County Chamber. He declined an interview but sent a statement through a spokeswoman that touted his sponsorship in 2021 of a bill that helped usher in $400 million in funding to protect natural areas across the state.

Denali Charres, 43, is a registered nurse from Longwood who is new to politics. Charres said she wants to protect Seminole County’s rural boundary, which restricts development on the east side of the county, bolster school safety and protect gun owners’ rights.

District 15, Democrats

Geraldine Thompson, 73, of Ocoee, is a state representative and historian, who runs the Wells’Built Museum of African American History & Culture. Thompson, also a former state senator, favors restrictions or a tax on out-of-state firms that buy homes in Florida to address housing costs and plans to file a bill calling for stronger theme park ride regulations.

Kamia Brown, 41, of Ocoee, is a state representative in a district covering Pine Hills, Ocoee and Apopka. Brown, first elected in 2016, served as the Minority Leader Pro Tempore in the House and was also elected as chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. She said she’s interested in tackling the homeowners insurance crisis and creating incentives to build more housing.

State House

District 35, Republicans

Fred Hawkins Jr., 55 of St. Cloud, is a state representative for a district spanning part of Osceola and Polk counties. He also was a former Osceola county commissioner. Hawkins’ website says he’s focused on education funding and policy.

Ken Davenport, 53 of Orlando, is a flight attendant. He said road and traffic issues should be priorities, as well as adding more police officers at schools. He said insurance companies covering Florida residents shouldn’t be able to leave the state.

Dianna Liebnitzky, 62 of St. Cloud, works in risk management for a hospital. She said health insurance companies should reduce barriers for patients to receive specialized care and said overdevelopment has contributed to congested roads.

District 35, Democrats

Rishi Bagga, 39, of east Orange County is a civil attorney. He also owns a UCF-area hotel with his family. Bagga said he supports more funding for public schools, expanding Medicaid and passing stronger gun-safety laws.

Tom Keen, 66, of Lake Nona, is a U.S. Navy veteran who works for an aerospace company. Keen said the Legislature needs to take more action on homeowners insurance prices, and he supports policies to protect air and water quality.

Tahitiana Munoz-Chaffin, 40, of St. Cloud, is a former North Carolina police officer who now is a real estate agent. She said the district needs better functioning roads, clean water and affordable housing.

District 36, Republicans

Angelique “Angel” Perry, 46, works in tech support for mobile devices and software and avidly advocates for veterans rights. She wants to propose a merit system to financially compensate first responders for going beyond the minimum requirements of the role, and supports school choice and “constitutional carry” of guns.

Rachel Plakon, 43, wife to Scott Plakon, a current member of the Florida House and a real estate investment company owner. She wants to create jobs and curb inflation through tax cuts. She has received endorsements and campaign funds from Republican politicians and leaders across the state.

Richard Santos, 51, former Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputy and veteran, is the father of seven children. He supports legislation that temporarily prevents lobbyists from becoming lawmakers and vice versa, as well as abortion restrictions, gun rights and expanding parental rights concerning their children’s public school education.

District 36, Democrats

Deborah Poulalion, 53, is a data analyst for an auditors’ association in Lake Mary and mother of two sons. She supports protecting the county’s rural boundary and repealing bills that legislate what can and cannot be taught in public schools.

Rodenay Joseph, 44, is a U.S. Army veteran who migrated to the country from Haiti as a child. His priorities include creating more affordable housing, expanding health care rights, increasing veteran care and immigration reform.

District 37, Republicans

Susan Plasencia, 51, sister of former legislator Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, works in the family business, Rene’s Productions. She supports an abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the woman. Her campaign received donations from influential Republican political committees.

Kristopher Stark, 45, a salesman, has self-funded his campaign. He supports former President Donald Trump, describes himself as “pro-life,” wants to raise pay for teachers but eradicate their unions and says recreational marijuana should be legal.

District 39, Republicans

Doug Bankson, 59, founded Victory Church Apopka and Apopka Christian Academy and is an Apopka city commissioner and vice mayor. He said his focus would be fiscal responsibility, including dealing with the state’s affordable housing and property insurance crises.

Charles Hart, 47, of Apopka, is the chair of the Orange County Republican Party. He said he would support Gov. Ron DeSantis and wants to see less government and more free market principles put in place.

Randy Ross, 57, of Orlando, was the Orange County chair of the Donald Trump campaign in 2016. His focus is “Betty’s Bill,” named after his mother, that would overhaul the Florida Guardianship program to help seniors and caregivers.

District 41, Democrats

State Rep. Travaris McCurdy, 38, of Orlando, whose current District 46 includes most of the new District 41, is worried about voter suppression under new state laws restricting the use of “drop boxes” and the activities of voter rights organizations. McCurdy participated in a sit-in on the House floor to protest the GOP’s redistricting.

Bruce Antone, of Orlando, a longtime state lawmaker, served in the Florida House for eight years and was succeeded by McCurdy in 2020. That year, he dropped his bid for an Orange County School Board seat amid a lawsuit that challenged his candidacy. He did not participate in an interview despite multiple requests.

Pam Powell, of Orlando, is a motivational speaker and the pastor and founder of Pam Powell International Ministries, an online church. She is concerned about voter suppression and the disenfranchisement of minorities. She has been a local activist for several decades.

Shaniqua “Shan” Rose, 34, of Orlando, founded nonprofit Change for the Community and used to work in permitting for the city of Orlando. She said affordable housing is an urgent issue. She said the city owns dozens of lots in Parramore, which could be used to develop low-cost options.

District 42, Republicans

David Dwyer, 45, is a public insurance adjuster for Experienced Public Adjusters, which he founded. He wants to curb inflation through hiring and spending freezes while still protecting teachers, first responders and other essential workers. He supports total abortion bans, parental rights in education and gun rights.

Bonnie Jackson is an international law attorney and shareholder in Jackson Law International. She is the mother of three children and involved in her community through various organizations and institutions, including St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, and the Parks and Recreation and Tree Preservation boards for Winter Park. She supports mandatory E-Verify, further rolling back Florida’s 15-week abortion ban and parental rights in education.

Circuit Judges

9th Circuit, Group 9

Fay Olga Pappas, 35, practices in several areas at the Bailey Fisher law firm in Winter Park, including wrongful death, medical malpractice and nursing home abuse. She said she has a passion for helping others through public service — from advocating for domestic violence victims to fighting for the rights of former farmworkers around contaminated Lake Apopka.

Alison Kerestes, 44, is a former prosecutor with experience in domestic violence, felony and juvenile delinquency cases before entering private practice. She specializes in foreclosures, evictions, debt collection, family law and criminal defense and touts her courtroom experience in criminal and civil cases.

9th Circuit, Group 44

Circuit Judge Vincent Chiu, 43, was appointed to the role in 2019 by Gov. Ron DeSantis after 12 years as a federal prosecutor in the Middle District of Florida. Chiu said his experience on the bench sets him apart, pointing to his handling of cases like the decision upholding Orange County’s sales ban on puppies.

Aldo Bartolone, 48, was an assistant public defender in South Florida and since has experience in personal injury claims like auto accidents, medical malpractice and product liability, as well as commercial, real estate and bankruptcy litigation. Bartolone said the diversity of his experience makes him a better choice.

9th Circuit, Group 14

Circuit Judge John Beamer, 39, was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2020 after working for Farmers Insurance, where he tried civil litigation cases. He has also handled multi-jurisdiction complex litigation involving medical device manufacturers. The judge said his temperament and experience make him a better fit for the position.

Michael Stewart, 37, started his career representing corporations in medical malpractice and wrongful death suits, before becoming an assistant public defender. He later worked for GEICO, defending people and entities in personal injury suits. He is critical of Beamer’s membership in the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization.

18th Circuit, Group 3

Chief Judge Jessica Recksiedler, 49, a former prosecutor and civil litigator, was on the bench for more than a decade when her peers elected her to lead the circuit in 2021. Recksiedler touts endorsements from Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey, Seminole Sheriff Dennis Lemma, Public Defender Blaise Trettis and State Attorney Phil Archer.

John Mannion, 60, was a longtime prosecutor in the circuit, handling career criminal, sex crimes and child abuse cases, before opening a practice representing those who can’t afford counsel. Mannion cites Recksiedler’s past reprimand by the Florida Supreme Court for false or misleading answers about her driving record as a reason he’s a better fit for the bench.

County Judges

Orange, Group 2

County Judge Andrew Bain, 37, was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2020 after working for about seven years as a prosecutor in the Orange-Osceola circuit. The incumbent said his judicial experience makes him a better fit for the position.

Jared Adelman, 36, has spent 12 years working at the Orange-Osceola public defender’s office and has volunteered with Teen Court, a juvenile diversion program, for the past 20 years. Adelman said he has “substantially more trial experience” than his opponent and is board certified in criminal trial law.

Orange, Group 8

County Judge Elizabeth Starr was appointed by former Gov. Rick Scott in 2015 and once worked as the Central Florida bureau chief for the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Starr said her judicial experience in both criminal and civil cases makes her a better fit for the job, as does her judicial philosophy of interpreting the law as written.

Michael Morris, 59, has been an attorney for close to three decades, mainly in family law. He has also served as a guardian ad litem for children and participated in clinics for legal aid groups. He is critical of Starr’s judicial philosophy as a “textualist.”

Orange, Group 9

Steven Casey Miller, 36, is an assistant state attorney in Lake County who was previously a prosecutor in the Orange-Osceola circuit. Miller said he decided to run after observing judges during the past nine years in court and feeling frustrated.

Amanda Sampaio Bova, 42, was an assistant public defender and ran her own practice before her current role as a senior attorney for the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Sampaio Bova cited her experience, credentials as a board-certified attorney and community involvement as a reason she’s a better fit for the bench.

Orange, Group 17

County Judge Elizabeth Gibson, 43, was a prosecutor in the Fifth Judicial Circuit and general counsel for Christian Care Ministry before being appointed to the bench in 2020 by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Gibson said she is qualified to continue serving on the bench because of her experience and record.

Josh Adams, 42, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who worked as a prosecutor in the Orange-Osceola before opening a practice with his wife in 2013 where he focuses on representing indigent clients in criminal defense cases. Adams said he is the better choice because he has more experience in dealing with a variety of cases.

Seminole, Group 5

Retired Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester, 68, served as a circuit judge for 24 years, primarily in the felony division presiding over serious criminal cases. Lester cited his 40 years of experience as a judge and attorney as the reason he would be a better fit for the role. He is critical of opponent Erik Swenk’s history of addiction.

Erik Swenk, 42, works as a hearing office supervisor for the Florida Department of Children and Families inspector general’s office. Swenk said he is the better candidate because, unlike Lester, he can finish his term under the state Constitution, which sets the retirement age of judges at 75. Swenk, who has been open about his battle with addiction, said he has maintained his sobriety for years.

Carsandra “Sandy” Buie, 54, was an assistant public defender before opening her own practice focusing on probate and estate matters. She has also been recognized for her service by the statewide Guardian Ad Litem program. Buie said she is the best fit for the position because she has dedicated her career to representing children in need and has a passion for justice.

Orange County

Orange Mayor

Incumbent Mayor Jerry Demings, 63, has had a four-decade career of public service in Central Florida, including serving as Orlando Police Chief and Orange County Sheriff. He has proposed a penny-per-dollar increase in the sales tax to pay for “transformational” changes to the county’s transportation systems.

Christopher Messina, 64, is an entrepreneur. He also created and leads The 3-21 Foundation, a nonprofit that supports families with special-needs children. His campaign website describes him as “pro-God, pro-life, pro-family.” He opposes the mayor’s proposed sales tax and criticized the mayor’s COVID-19 leadership.

Retired Army Col. Anthony “Tony” Sabb, 61, was awarded two Bronze Stars during a 25-year military career. Sabb also worked for defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. after retiring from the Army in 2008. He opposes the proposed sales tax increase for transportation and criticized COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

Kelly Semrad, 45, a professor at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, serves as vice chair of Save Orange County, an advocacy group opposed to urban development east of the Econlockhatchee River. She disagreed with the mayor’s employee-vaccination mandate and his vote to allow the Central Florida Expressway Authority extend a toll-road through a southern portion of Split Oak Forest.

Orange Commission

District 2

Incumbent Christine Moore, 61, was elected to the Orange commission in 2018. She previously served 10 years on the Orange County school board. She helped secure $45 million in state funding for an ongoing, septic-to-sewer project in the Wekiva Springs neighborhoods.

Sandra Fatmi-Hall, 55, born in Jamaica, moved to Central Florida from Atlanta in 2009. She previously served as president of the Pine Hills Community Council and is executive director of the United Foundation of Central Florida, a nonprofit group whose work includes operating after-school and youth mentoring programs. She wants to use partnerships with law enforcement to make communities safer.

Christopher Delgado, 30, of Apopka, is described by a campaign news release as an entrepreneur and philanthropist. His LinkedIn profile identifies him as an “international business consultant.” He did not participate in an Orlando Sentinel editorial forum and did not respond to repeated interview requests.

District 4

Incumbent Maribel Gomez Cordero, 55, born in Puerto Rico, works as a family mental-health therapist. Cordero attended most Orange County government updates on COVID-19 during the pandemic to answer questions for Spanish-language news outlets. She cast the deciding vote in the commission’s decision to enact a ban on the retail sale of puppies.

Mercedes Fonseca, 44, born and raised in Orlando, served eight years as chief aide to former Commissioner Pete Clarke. She holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Central Florida. She is co-owner of a consulting company specializing in land use, zoning and permitting issues. She did not agree with the ban on retail pet sales, opposes rent control, and suggested offering developers incentives to build affordable housing projects.

Karl Anthony Pearson, 49, son of immigrant parents, has worked in banking for 15 years. He earned a master’s degree in business from Rollins College. He serves as president of the homeowners association in his neighborhood. He said he would prioritize public safety and believes he has the best financial-management background.

District 6

Rosemarie Diehl, 63, describes herself on her campaign website as a community organizer and advocate who has served for many years as volunteer president of her neighborhood’s homeowners’ group, the Robinswood Community Improvement Association. She said she is concerned with pedestrian safety and ensuring the district is not overlooked if the transportation sales tax passes.

Lawanna Gelzer, 59, a community activist and frequent candidate, said she wants to increase affordable housing options. Gelzer, who most recently ran unsuccessfully for Orlando city commissioner, is self-funding her campaign.

Cynthia Harris, 54, describes herself as a community advocate and operator of Carson-Chaney House Inc., a not-for-profit organization. A resident of the Malibu Groves neighborhood, Harris said she would like to restore twice-a-week trash collection.

Nikki Mims McGee, 41, an Orlando native, served on the 2020 Charter Review Commission. A builder and a lawyer, she helped draft two conservation-based measures. She said she supports the transportation sales tax because of the district’s large bus ridership.

Hedder Pierre-Joseph, 49, was born in the Bahamas, arrived in the U.S. as “undocumented,” and became a U.S. citizen in 1994, according to her campaign website. A real estate agent, she has resided in Orange County since 2003.

Michael “Mike” Scott, 40, lives in Tangelo Park. The Air Force veteran serves as coordinator for Orlando’s My Brother’s Keeper, a mentoring initiative started by President Barack Obama. Scott has two teenage sons.

Roberta Walton Johnson, 48, serves as general counsel for Orange County Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell, a former District 6 commissioner. When Moore Russell was District 6 commissioner, Johnson worked as her aide. She earned her law degree from Florida A&M University in 2005.

Orange school chairman

Teresa Jacobs, 65, is seeking her second term. Her priorities include more funding for school employees’ salaries and a continued focus on student mental health. As the district deals with new state education laws, a switch in superintendents and fallout from the pandemic, she says she will provide continuity for the district.

Dementio Barton is a pastor and businessman. He backs Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “pledge to families” and says he will work to keep critical race theory and “woke gender ideology” out of schools and support parents’ rights. He also thinks OCPS should consider the state’s guardian program, which allows some teachers to be armed.

Carl Brewer is a financial educator who says he is a “bureaucracy-busting” conservative. He opposes school mask mandates and critical race theory and says he wants to increase parent involvement in schools and boost teacher pay.

Orange school board

District 1

Angie Gallo, 54, won the seat in 2018 and is seeking re-election. She is a longtime Florida PTA member and school volunteer. Her priorities include finding ways to boost teacher pay and morale, increasing career education programs, addressing “learning loss” and enhancing student mental health offerings.

Rachel Kirby, 45, works in telecommunications and decided to run because she found OCPS’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic “appalling,” notably its student mask mandate that prompted her to pull her children from the schools. She wants to increase teacher pay, remove sexually explicit materials and prohibit the teaching of critical race theory.

District 2

Heather Ashby, 47, is a school counselor for OCPS, who decided to run because she felt public education was “under attack.” She wants to improve teacher retention, provide more support for other school employees, enhance school safety and student mental health support and make sure school technology is reliable.

George Collins, 74, is a former adjunct instructor in communications at Valencia and the University of Central Florida. He wants to improve communication between parents and schools and the school board and the teachers union. He also wants to hike teacher pay, expand technical, financial and nutrition classes and work with the Legislature and local business groups to address teacher and other staff shortages.

Maria Salamanca, 29, is a partner in a venture capital firm and a graduate of Timber Creek High School who decided to run because the school system that helped her is “drowning” under a heavy workload and dealing with “with culture war distractions” from the state. She wants to help represent the district’s large bilingual population and improve teacher recruitment and retention.

Chad Aaron Spence, 51, is a high school science teacher at a private Christian school, who opposes “tyrannical lockdowns, the masking of our precious children and vaccine mandates.” He would push for “world class education, without indoctrination” and to keep “gender ideology and other sensitive issues” out of the schools.

Jose Vicente, 55, is a retired Orlando police officer, who said his experience in law enforcement, including work as a trainer and recruiter and serving on labor and pension boards, will help him with many of the issues OCPS faces. His priorities include school safety and boosting teacher salaries to help with recruitment and retention.

District 3

Michael Daniels, 49, is an administrator at Eastern Florida State College and a longtime OCPS volunteer. His priorities include higher teachers’ salaries and better efforts to explain to parents the educational options their children have. He also wants to work with Valencia College so more dual enrollment classes are offered at high schools.

Alicia Farrant, 41, runs a Christian ministry along with her husband. She spoke out against the mask mandate and pushed the district to remove books she viewed as “pornographic” from school libraries. She wants to make sure students are not indoctrinated or taught history that is “tainted.” She also wants higher teacher salaries.

Kila Murphey, 43, is a nurse practitioner and advocate for children with disabilities. She wants to boost teacher pay and autonomy and give them more creativity in their classrooms. She also wants to make sure all students graduate with a plan for their future, improve reading instruction and beef up support for children with disabilities.

Susanne Marie Pena, 42, is a former teacher and instructional coach who now works as an educational consultant. She focuses on helping students to learn English and helping those with disabilities. She wants to work on eliminating “excessive” testing, recruiting and keeping teachers and addressing bullying.

Dennis Smith, 70, is a retired OCPS teacher who also taught math as an adjunct instructor at Valencia College. He wants to focus on school safety, offering skilled trades or shop classes to students and hiring and keeping top teachers. He also thinks the district should recruit military veterans to help fill teacher vacancies.

Seminole County

Seminole Commission

District 2

Brittany Walker, 29, of Lake Mary, is the owner of Eques Consulting, a network marketing business. She was spurred to run for the county commission after Seminole’s emergency order in early 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic that limited capacity in public buildings and required business patrons to stay at least six feet apart. She called the order “unnecessary” and “heavy handed.” Walker is concerned about the new apartments and multifamily dwellings being approved by commissioners.

Jay Zembower, 61, of Winter Springs, is a consultant in automotive investigative forensics for law enforcement, government agencies and law firms. A firm supporter of Seminole’s rural boundary and seeking his second term, Zembower wants to continue efforts to complete the county’s popular trail network. He also wants to continue the efforts to expand Seminole’s Five Points Complex in Sanford into a hub for nearly all of the county’s main offices.

Seminole school board

District 1

Deborah Bauer, 41, is a Valencia College history professor and school volunteer. Bauer said parents’ rights, better early literacy lessons and a more-streamlined administration are her top priorities. She is opposed to face mask mandates and disapproved of how the school board hired a new superintendent in 2021.

Kristine Kraus, 64, won in 2018 and is seeking another term. She supported the hiring of the new superintendent and voted for COVID-19 safety measures, including a mask mandate. She wants to boost teacher pay, improve mental health services for students and keep school safety a priority.

District 2

Sean Cooper, 49, is a former pastor at Northland Church in Longwood and now works for an international youth organization. He would like to improve discipline problems on campuses, reduce student absenteeism and address children’s mental health problems. He would like character education taught and to boost teacher pay.

Kelley Davis is a former Seminole High School math teacher who later went to law school and is now an attorney who handles criminal and family law. Her priorities include better salaries for teachers, more assistance for mental health problems, improvements to the exceptional student education programs and a reduction in bullying.

James Evans, 33, is a Realtor and the father of a young son who said the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, motivated him to run. He wants the well-regarded district to focus on areas that need improvement, including schools where lots of students struggle academically, school safety, student discipline and a teacher shortage.

Eric Monte, 51, a former engineer who worked for years in a family-owned business, is now a stay-at-home father to his two children and a school volunteer. He wants to strengthen “traditional American ideals and values,” improve school discipline and make sure “fringe Ivory Tower theories” aren’t taught. He also said last year’s superintendent search was an embarrassment to Seminole County.

District 5

Dana Fernandez, 47, is a former New York City teacher who recently moved to Florida. She decided to run after hearing her 11-year-old son’s teacher mention “white privilege” in class. She is opposed to critical race theory and dislikes COVID-19 policies that require school mask mandates. Other priorities include more services for children with disabilities and improved mental health and school safety efforts.

Autumn Garick, 56, owns an educational theater company and is a longtime school volunteer. She wants to offer better pay and support to veteran teachers, explore ways to find affordable housing for school employees, lobby Tallahassee for better and more flexible school funding. She also wants to enhance efforts to address student mental health, discipline and bullying.

Joshua Memminger, 36, is a sergeant with the Sanford Police Department who has worked as a school resource officer for the Seminole school district. School safety is a priority and he would like to see more training and technology put to those efforts. He wants to help students who struggled and fell behind in the pandemic and to help veteran teachers who feel shortchanged by the state’s focus on boosting starting pay.

Agar Quiñones-Aristone is a teacher at a private Christian school in Longwood and a former public school teacher. Her priority is to unite residents around the school district and reduce the distrust some parents feel toward public schools. She also wants to improve school safety, exceptional student education programs and mental health support and make the district a top choice for teachers.

Sanford Commission

Mayor

Charles Davis, 54, is the owner of an insurance business and chairman of Sanford’s Community Redevelopment Agency. He says the city needs a better plan for its future growth. As Sanford’s downtown becomes increasingly popular, the city needs to solve its lack of parking, especially during large street events.

Christopher d’Hedouville, 21, is an Eagle Boy Scout. According to his website, d’Hedouville wants more accountability in city government. He promises to fight to reduce crime and city expenses. He declined to comment about his campaign to the Orlando Sentinel, calling it “fake news.”

Chan Robinson, 29, is an Army veteran and works in the construction and landscaping industries. He also attends Full Sail University. Robinson said he is frustrated that Sanford doesn’t do more to market and sell itself to attract visitors from around the world. Sanford should promote its downtown district and waterfront.

Art Woodruff, 59, taught science and computer science at Seminole County Public Schools. He was named mayor by the city commission in 2020 to replace Jeff Triplett, who had resigned. Woodruff said the city must foster job creation through economic development, community partnerships and incentives. Sanford also must follow through on plans to repair the aging sewer systems and replace water meters.

District 1

Sheena Rena Britton, 40, is a member of the Sanford Museum and the Seminole County community block grant advisory boards. She was appointed to the District 1 seat in 2020 by the commission. As the city continues to grow, she said it’s important “to preserve the historic charm” of Sanford. The city must continue to create economic development strategies that support existing businesses.

Christina Hollerbach, 35, is the chief executive officer of Hollerbach’s German Restaurant in downtown Sanford and president of the Sanford Main Street program. She said it’s important that Sanford has good planning and zoning rules that preserve the city’s unique old-Florida charm, especially in the downtown district. The Sanford Marina is a city asset that could be used for more public events.

District 2

Mario Hicks, 36, is the owner of Off the Chain Towing and Roni’s restaurant. He said the city should do more to help entrepreneurs open businesses in Goldsboro, a historic Black community. He also proposes Sanford establish a community redevelopment agency within the historic area to spur economic growth.

Kerry Wiggins, 50, is a teacher and coach for Seminole County Public Schools. He is seeking his second term on the commission. Wiggins proposes expanding the Dr. Velma Williams Westside Community Center to include a sports field and track to encourage youth activities and tournaments. The city should partner with Habitat for Humanity to create affordable housing.