Every candidate Orlando Weekly recommends for the 2018 Orange County ballot

Because the scariest thing on Election Day to Florida politicians and special interests is a well-informed voter

Feeling that chill in the air and the terrifying suspicion that someone, somewhere is making it harder for you to vote? Welcome to the 2018 election.

Back in 2016, we asked you to vote for the sake of, you know, the world – and then some of you didn’t, and, well, just look around you now. The stakes in Florida’s midterm elections are too high for you to skip out again this time around. The state is facing the equivalent of an environmental horror movie with dead fish, turtles, manatees and dolphins washing up in grotesque piles on the shores of both coasts as toxic algae fumes make beach visitors sick. Close to half of Floridians can’t afford to live in this hellish state overflowing with low-wage hospitality jobs, but it wouldn’t really matter if you had enough money because we’re in an affordable housing crisis (and no one in charge seems to care). While Gov. Rick Scott lies about protecting pre-existing conditions despite pushing Florida into a lawsuit to end them, his potential replacement, Ron DeSantis, flat-out refuses to release a realistic health care plan for the state. The Trump administration has been consistent, though – that is, consistently racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic and absolutely determined to ruin our democracy.

On the ballot this year are key races for several positions, including U.S. Senator, governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner and Orange County sheriff, so no pressure.

Orlando Weekly compiled this voting guide to help you keep your candidates in order, making you the only thing that throws politicians and the special interest groups who stuff them with cash into panicked frenzies – an informed voter. We’ve included our recommendations (which lean Democratic because, well, we’re a progressive-leaning publication). But everyone in Florida, even those we fundamentally disagree with, should vote. With our democracy being challenged daily, it’s important to let your voice be heard.

Early voting in Orange County runs daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Sunday, Nov. 4, at 16 voter locations, including a new polling spot at the University of Central Florida. Find all locations at ocfelections.com.

On Election Day, polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, and you are required to vote in the polling place assigned to the precinct where you live (which you can find on your voter registration card or ocfelections.com). Bring photo identification with a signature, such as a driver's license, or you will have to vote with a provisional ballot. Take this guide with you to the voting booth if you need it. Happy voting. Again, no pressure.

Check out our recommendations for the 2018 Amendments here. Plus, we have a compact voting guide you can take with you to the booth!


U.S. Senate
This one should be obvious: After eight years of Gov. Rick Scott’s irresponsible policies that changed our state for the worse – like allowing more cancer-causing chemicals in our water and helping elect a tangerine wrecking ball for president – the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate is shape-shifting into someone who suddenly cares about the toxic algae killing our wildlife, pre-existing medical conditions and standing up to Trump. Puh-lease. Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, on the other hand, is a reliable moderate who has worked tirelessly for Floridians in a bipartisan fashion to protect our state from oil drilling, preserve the Everglades and fight the gun lobby. Nelson deserves another term.

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, this is one of the nation’s most anticipated and widely covered midterm competitions in 2018. And as if to throw gas on an already blazing dumpster-fire, the candidates – a Republican who’s modeled his campaign around the newly minted Trumpian tough-man archetype, and a progressive Democrat who’s paddled into the so-called blue wave – are polar opposites of each other, both from a policy standpoint and ethically. Because this particular election represents a watershed moment in Florida politics, and because the election of the state’s first African American governor would represent a direct repudiation of Trump, we support Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is his gubernatorial bid.

Attorney General
Pam Bondi sees her successor in Republican candidate and former Hillsborough County circuit judge Ashley Moody. But like Bondi, Moody has already shown she’s open to special interests after taking $28,000 from the private prison corporation Geo Group. Florida Rep. Sean Shaw, a Democrat and the state’s former insurance consumer advocate, has promised to investigate President Donald Trump's businesses in Florida for corruption.

Chief Financial Officer
Jimmy Patronis, the state’s current CFO and a former Gov. Rick Scott appointee to the Florida Public Service Commission, is a Panama City restaurant owner and termed-out former Republican member of the state House. His opponent, Jeremy Ring, a former Democratic member of the state Senate with a business background, wants to build a state economy that doesn’t count on recruiting companies like Amazon – and that’s why we support him.

Agriculture Commissioner
If you’re pissed about how Florida has managed to drag its bureaucratic feet on implementing medical marijuana, even after a voter-approved amendment effectively legalized it in 2016, then you’ll understand our support of Democrat Nikki Fried, a medical marijuana attorney and lobbyist, over state Rep. Matt Caldwell, who’s endorsed by the NRA.

U.S. Representative, District 7
A middle-of-the-road Democrat isn’t a bad thing, especially when that same moderate liberal is facing off against a GOP candidate who’s received an “A” rating from the NRA and wants to make undocumented immigrants pay for Trump’s border wall. We support Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy over Republican state Rep. Mike Miller.

U.S. Representative, District 8
Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey has represented District 8 for more than a decade, which makes sense when you consider how Republicans outnumber Democrats 43 percent to 27 percent in Indian and River counties. But we appreciate underdogs and progressive change, so we support community activist Sanjay Patel in his bid to unseat Posey.

U.S. Representative, District 9
Incumbent Democrat Darren Soto has proven himself in his freshman term by getting stuff done, particularly around providing resources to Hurricane Maria evacuees left behind by FEMA. This second attempt by Republican St. Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky to win this seat isn’t much better than the first.

State Representative, District 30
Altamonte Springs Republican Bob Cortes led the failed crusade to get Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala removed from office for not supporting the death penalty and was one of eight Central Florida lawmakers who declined to even hear an assault weapons ban after the Parkland high school shooting. The better choice for new leadership is Maitland City Council member Joy Goff-Marcil, a Democrat.

State Representative, District 44
Incumbent GOP Rep. Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski has mostly toed the Republican line during his year in office, earning him the financial backing of nearby Disney and Universal. But former Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Thompson is the better choice for her extensive experience, advocacy for workers’ conditions and commitment to justice for the Groveland Four.

State Representatives, District 45 and District 46
Democrats Kamia Brown (45) and Bruce Antone (46) have no competition from Republicans or other candidates in their respective races.

State Representative, District 47
Republican candidate Stockton Reeves campaigned less on his platform and more on Democrat Anna Eskamani being a woman who curses, hates misogyny and doesn’t appreciate the patriarchy. Not only is Reeves’ campaign shamefully retrograde and frankly sexist, we also sometimes curse when we encounter injustice, actually. Eskamani’s progressive platform of creating opportunities for all is the smarter choice.

State Representative, District 48
We don’t really know what platform GOP candidate George Chandler, a former federal official, brings to the table because he was a last-minute pick. Democrat Amy Mercado has served voters well in the state House and advocated strongly for newly arrived Hurricane Maria evacuees.

State Representative, District 49
Republican Ben Griffin’s platform is to keep taxes low, focus on “Christian” values and not much else. Meanwhile, incumbent Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith has been a powerful, progressive voice in the Florida House, most notably on gun restrictions and LGBTQ rights.

Florida Supreme Court Judge Alan Lawson
One of Gov. Scott’s conservative appointees to the bench, Supreme Court Judge Alan Lawson has received the approval of 87 percent of Florida Bar members polled who consider a judge’s integrity, judicial temperament and impartiality. We recommend voters retain Lawson.

Fifth District Court of Appeals Judge Eric Eisnaugle
Despite having no experience as a judge whatsoever, GOP state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle – yes, that same Eisnaugle whose claim to fame has been co-sponsoring an NRA-backed bill to ban schools from disciplining children who chew Pop-Tarts or other breakfast pastries into gun shapes – was appointed to one of the highest courts in Florida by Gov. Scott. He hasn’t made a good impression since then, according to the 66 percent of Florida Bar members who gave him the lowest retention rating in the state. We recommend voters not reappoint Eisnaugle.

Circuit Judge Group 9
Both Dean Mosley and Laura Shaffer are good candidates for this position, but Shaffer’s experience as a former supervising attorney with the Department of Children and Families whose has since focused on human trafficking victims and juvenile law is needed here.

Orange County Commission, District 2
During her term on the Orange County School Board, Christine Moore used thousands of dollars in discretionary funds to help pay for a “historical” school mural that included herself. That kind of wasteful spending isn’t needed at the county, which is why we recommend voters turn to Patricia Rumph, 30-year career veteran of the state Department of Corrections focused on increasing economic opportunities.

Orange County Commission, District 3
Both Pete Crotty and Mayra Uribe have action plans we like. Crotty, a businessman and survivor of drug addiction and alcoholism who is the younger brother of former Orange County mayor Rich Crotty, has a deep passion to stem the opioid epidemic locally. Uribe, a construction company owner who previously worked for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office, has put forth concrete steps to make housing more affordable and reduce the wage gap. We appreciate Crotty’s advocacy and had a tough time making a call on this one, but new perspectives are needed at Orange County, which is why we recommend Uribe.

Orange County Commission, District 4
Both candidates in this race consider the lack of affordable housing and the need for a better transportation system in the county a top issue. Outgoing Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson’s former aide Susan Makowski has detailed plans on public safety and the environment for this district. Her opponent, Maribel Gomez Cordero, is a clinical psychotherapist formerly with the state Department of Children and Families and community advocate who wants to focus on stopping urban sprawl in the district and higher-paying jobs. While Makowski as an insider knows how to navigate the red tape to get things done, this board needs some fresh blood, not more of the same, so we recommend Gomez Cordero.

Orange County Sheriff
The only Democrat in this race, Darryl Sheppard, has been arrested multiple times and posts fake Trump tweets. Orlando Police Chief John Mina brings the experience, but he and his opponent, retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Joe Lopez, both said at a police union forum that they’re not in favor of a county citizens review board. Additionally, Mina has helped lead OPD into testing a powerful real-time mass surveillance program with Amazon, sans ethical guidelines. The Sheriff ’s Office requires the highest level of accountability, and for that reason, we cannot recommend any candidate in this race.

Orange County School Board 2
Both teachers running in this race would bring needed perspective to the Orange County School Board, but Colonial High School educator Johanna López rejects charter school money, holds a strong commitment to public schools and was the district’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.

Orange County School Board, District 7
Melissa Mitchell Byrd, a substitute teacher at Orange County Public Schools, has a vague platform for improving the district, though she has been endorsed by several business association. The better candidate in this race is Eric Schwalbach, a former teacher at OCPS for over 20 years who now teaches in Lake County, who has indicated his commitment to holding for-profit charter schools accountable.

Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District, Seat 2
First-time candidate Sean McQuade is eager, but his environmental platform is thin. Incumbent Daisy Morales is the better choice for her outreach to the community and focus on environmental justice.

Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District, Seat 4
William “Derek” Ryan is a commercial landscape maintenance professional who helps manage properties’ use of over 2 billion gallons of irrigation water, so he understands the problem, but the better candidate is Dawn Curtis, who’s committed to sustainable soil and water practices.