Happytown: Endorsements 

Read our picks for this political season, then go vote like your life depends on it

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It's time for our tongue-twisting mouthful of down-ticket endorsements. Lock up your linear thoughts and hold on! U.S. Senate: Ask yourself who you would rather have represent you in the federal government: A seasoned public servant whose record shows that he's the moderate he claims to be, or the seasoned bar brawler whose "penny plan" proposes to hack Social Security, Medicare and other critical programs to bits? We know whom we want: Vote Nelson. … U.S. House 10: Republican Dan Webster has enlisted the "one of us" xenophobic code-speak of Republican-machine fear mongering to make up for his absence of … well, anything. Up-and-coming Democrat Val Demings has left her police uniform behind for the polished, heartfelt inclusiveness this federal office sorely needs. Vote Demings. … U.S. House 9: We may sometimes fault former Democratic "Congressman with Guts" Alan Grayson for his perpetual hamfists and social awkwardness, but his progressive policies are as intelligent and researched as they come. Republican Tea Party holdover Todd Long, however, is a self-published mess of contradictions and personal flaws. Vote Grayson. … Florida Senate 14: In an identity-politics race built around a newly drawn Hispanic district, state Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando – whose time in Tallahassee has been spent playing down the middle on social issues while leaning left on economics – has won accolades for his bipartisan accomplishments. Flashy television attorney Republican Will McBride is a petulant brat full of meaningless platitudes and smug austerity. Vote Soto. … Florida Senate 13: Social and fiscal conservative heavyweight state Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, quietly leads the cabal of everything wrong in Florida (and will be Senate President in 2014 if we're not careful). Newbie Democrat Chris Pennington may not have much beyond his energy platform, but he does breathe fresh air. Vote Pennington. … Florida House 29: Nobody likes state Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, or his laundry list of personal (and financial) flaws packaged in fun-sized self-righteousness, but he's on track to be speaker someday. By contrast, former firefighter Democrat Mike Clelland, promises to be an ethics hound and to focus on education priorities. Vote Clelland. … Florida House 30: Though he's outwardly a nice guy, State Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, comes off as disingenuous as he tries to bury his documented, pro-life social crusade beneath vagaries about a jobs agenda with a focus on education. Democrat Karen Castor Dentel may come off as green – or just a primary school teacher – but at least she's consistent. Vote Castor Dentel. … Florida House 47: Republican Bob Brooks already had his chance in Tallahassee, squandering electoral trust on evangelical idiocy about AIDS and homosexuality. Former county commissioner Democrat Linda Stewart may squawk a lot, but she knows even more about the dangers of unhinged growth and sprawl, not to mention the needs of the gay community. Vote Stewart. … Orange County Sheriff: Whether you choose to buy Republican challenger John Tegg's accusations of crime-numbers doctoring, Democrat Jerry Demings has been a solid replacement to the bumbling former Sheriff Kevin Beary. Tegg, a perennial candidate for this position who has taken lesser jobs to wait in the wings, has a history of financial sloppiness in his zest to obtain this crown. Vote Demings. … Orange County Property Appraiser: The real (boring) conflict here has been whether Republican Bill Donegan has been beholden to mega-corporations like Disney during his tenure in the office. Democrat Rick Singh, who is being supported by professional appraisers because he actually is one, allegedly hit some snags with his own financial disclosures, but seems to have the best interest of the public at heart. Vote Singh. … Orange County Tax Collector: This year's bizarro race finds a dead man running against somebody who isn't sure the office should even exist. Well, at least the dead man, Earl K. Wood, has been replaced by a seasoned numbers-hawk, outgoing state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando. Republican Jim Huckeba, who is pissed about the replacement (to the point of erroneous robocalls), is a little unhinged. Vote Wood (which is, actually, a vote for Randolph). … Orange County Supervisor of Elections: Republican Dan Fanelli is a willing extremist who used his run for congress in 2010 to become a xenophobic national joke. Democrat Bill Cowles remains just fine. Vote Cowles. … Orange County Commission 3: This is a nonpartisan race, and at least Pete Clarke isn't promising to be the same-old texty-mayor-hugging shill that former commissioner Lui Damiani is. Vote Clarke. … Florida Supreme Court Judges: The other prong in this year's attempted dual-assault on the sovereignty of the state's judicial system (along with Amendment 5), the attempt by some partisan interests to oust these Supreme Court justices is, as opponents say, a "power grab." Vote to retain Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Periente and Peggy Quince. … Florida Constitutional Amendments: Vote "No" on allOrange County Charter Amendments: Amendment 1 addresses local appointments of vacated county seats, but it would require a new state constitutional amendment to mean anything. Vote No on 1. Amendment 2 adjusts time limits for filing charter commission reports, but doesn't really affect you. Vote No on 2. Amendment 3 hopes to make county law supersede municipality laws regarding limitations on gambling. Oh, please. Vote No on 3. Amendment 4 provides that four well-populated hubs in unincorporated Orange County will be able to form their own advisory boards, providing an extra level of representation for citizens residing there. Vote Yes on 4. ... Orange County Charter Special Referendum: This simply restates a charter amendment that requires development concerns to take into consideration nearby school overcrowding. Vote Yes. …

And that's how we're voting! Now it's your turn.

FOR PRESIDENT: BARACK OBAMA

There are fewer decisions more clear than that presented by the 2012 presidential election. But even when a litany of almost-comical mistruths offered by one candidate are successfully countered with facts from the other, the race remains a toss-up coming into the Nov. 6 election. In order to understand that illogical outcome, you have to look at the core popular principles driving this election. It's difficult not to run into hyperbolic extremes, here – a pervasive racism that permeates our culture has allowed Republicans to get away with denials of our president's citizenship while reaching for dog-whistle terms like "shucking and jiving" to describe his actions. The sense of entitlement has become so brazen that it's turned the word "entitlement" into a slur against the nation's elderly and poor. Even if this is just a bad case of anti-incumbency borne of economic malaise, the lowering of the political dialogue to ill-informed grunts, lies and accusations does our country – and the office of President – a huge disservice.

Though by no means perfect, the series of calculated risks that have defined President Barack Obama's first term have brought us monumental health care reform insuring 30 million people; a stimulus that was a necessary tourniquet to the hemorrhaging of jobs; an awakening on social issues affecting women and gays; the appointments of pragmatic Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court; and the end of the war in Iraq. Among the things Pres. Obama has not accomplished – namely, the DREAM Act, which intended to allow children born of immigrants to remain vital members of American society, and the American Jobs Act, which would have funded infrastructural projects, schools and police, among others – they suffered at the hands of an obstructionist Republican Congress that wanted him out from day one.

As for Mitt Romney, his all-over-the-map pronouncements of policies for the sake of crowds has been breathtaking, to put it kindly. The fact that he even has a campaign after dismissing 47 percent of the population as bottom feeders will be studied by historians for decades. He is, at best, a lying opportunist; at worst, a reflection of this country's dirtiest little secrets. Republicans like to default to the question, "Are you a one-issue voter?" Well, if that issue is integrity (among the panoply of economic and social issues we disagree with Romney on), then yes. We are voting for President Barack Obama. As the New York Times put it, it would be "dangerous" not to.

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