By Jacob Engels
Rumors are swelling that Val Demings may not run for the Orange County Mayor position. According to two well-placed democratic operatives, the former police chief is leaning against a run, in part because of the continued flirtation between national democrats and her husband, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, about a run for congress. Due to a loophole in state resign-to-run laws, the sheriff would NOT have to resign as sheriff to run, and would instead only have to resign if he was elected to congress. If Democrat Charlie Crist were to prevail, he would then appoint Val Demings to the sheriff position. If Rick Scott gets reelected, she runs two years later
This is great news for the mayor. We like her here at the East Orlando Post, although she does have us scratching our heads quite a bit. So anyway, here are the five reasons that if she doesn’t run, it is GREAT news for Mayor Jacobs, because it looks to us like Val Demings would have whipped the mayor. Here’s why:
1 – The Primary Ballot
One of Florida’s quirkiest election laws allows campaigns to close a primary election by having a write-in voter. Generally, this happens when GOP or democrat candidates running in a safe seat ask a write-in to qualify, something that costs no money or petitions, to stop members from the other party from voting in their primary election.
Mayoral and County Commission races in Orange County are non-partisan. But a general election write-in means that if a candidate gets 50.00001% next year on the August 26th, 2014 election date, that candidate need only face a write-in in November.
It is pretty safe to say that a write-in will show up, which means that if Demings or Jacobs get a majority of a vote on 8/26, it is all but over.This would be unbelievably bad news for Teresa Jacobs because there would be no reason for a Republican voter to turn out, while there would be about a dozen reasons for a democrat.
Take a look at what is likely to happen next year in the primaries. Across the board, well-funded Republican incumbents will muscle through primaries with little, if any, opposition. Rick Scott, Pam Bondi, Jeff Atwater and Adam Putnam are all expected to be the party’s nominee for their respective offices next year.
As we sit now, there looks to be a progressive vs mainstream battle between Charlie Crist and Nan Rich for the governor’s mansion. No candidates have emerged for CFO, AG Commissioner, or AG, meaning the odds are better that multiple lesser known applicants will be battling it out for the democrats, meaning that turnout will naturally be higher. There is no US Senate seat up for grabs in 2014.
Dan Webster will likely not be challenged in the GOP, and the democrats may well have a primary in that seat, driving up turnout in west Orange County.
If all this wasn’t bad enough, Governor Scott is likely to appoint a republican to the Clerk of Court office vacated by the death of Lydia Gardner. Democrats know that whoever wins the nomination will likely get the job, so I expect a crowded democrat field there, as well.
Finally, there is the issue of Paid Sick Leave. The state preempted the referendum, but unless something changes that referendum will go to the voters. People against it have no reason to work to kill it. People who are for it are probably pissed that the state preempted it, but will still want to make a point by seeing it pass.
So across the board, Democrat voters will be heading to the polls. Republicans won’t really have any reason to. Maybe something crazy happens and Rick Scott decides not to run, setting off a barrage of high profile races, but right now the turnout definitely favors Val Demings.
If Jacobs survived the primary election date against Demings by stopping the chief from getting 50%, her odds of winning would go up substantially. Maybe she would have cut a quiet deal with that someone to run (cough… Matt Falconer… cough) and split the vote. But isn’t it crazy to think that the popular, incumbent mayor may have to stoop to student government techniques to avoid being retired by September 2014?
2- Puerto Ricans
Mayor Jacobs faces a definite problem with the Puerto Rican community. This could be a long post in and of itself, but I’ll focus on the most obvious attempts by the Mayor to stifle the voices of the Puerto Rican community.
Start by looking at who she has supported for the most important appointments in central Florida and you’ll know why.
Assume the most powerful appointments made in Orange County are to the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority (OOCEA) and the Greater Orlando Airport Authority (GOAA). Last year, when Puerto Rican Orange County Commissioner Mildred Fernandez went off to prison, Mayor Jacobs worked had the opportunity to work with Puerto Ricans.
In every circumstance, she has gone the other way.
With the OOCEA, she opposed the appointment of Puerto Rican business leader Marco Pena, instead backing a Colombian. At Pena’s second meeting, she said that with Pena there, she no longer trusted the board.
With GOAA, she advocated for developer Domingo Sanchez, who is of Mexican descent over Puerto Rican Jose Colon.
She sat idly by while Cuban Casear Calvet was replaced by Old Orlando Realtor President Dean Asher. She is now actively working to obtain the endorsement of the Realtors for her reelection.
The one that got the worst press was her support of John Martinez, a Cuban son of former Orange County Mayor and US Senator Mel Martinez, who beat out several qualified Puerto Rican candidates.
In the election the next year, she supported Caucasian Lui Damiani over the field of Hispanic candidates.
Not surprisingly, the mayor has offered no guidance on whether to change the name of Colonial High School to Roberto Clemente High School, a change proposed by some Puerto Rican activists.
I would love to offer a defense of Mayor Jacobs on the Hispanic/Puerto Rican front, but it is kind of tough. Those I’ve spoken to in the Puerto Rican community are wholly unimpressed, and some actively believe that she goes out of her way to slight them. That seems unlikely to me, but if they believe it, the mayor will have a difficult time offsetting a block of votes from an angry Puerto Rican community.
This is one place that I will confess to you that my affection for the mayor prohibits me from sharing thoughts and quotes. I suspect the more progressively minded blogs would dial in to it and deal her a painful blow, but I’ll limit my comments.
3 – Total Absence of Any Growth Management or Economic Development
One local developer and consultant offered some sharp criticism of the Mayor:
“Teresa Jacobs loves the gotcha moment, Nobody is better than her when she ferrets out some funny business or good ol’ boy dealings. She was great as a county commissioner because her tenacity really drove those issues. As a Mayor, your job is not just to ferret out funny business; it is to show some positive leadership. What has Mayor Jacobs done for Orange County?
Barely a week passes when some announcement of 500, 600 or 700 jobs going in to Seminole County. Why don’t any of those come to Orange? Are the schools that much better? No!
The real estate market is coming around. What has Jacobs done on growth management, or economic development? She watched Buddy Dyer drive the move for a professional soccer team. She killed an attempt to bring the New York Yankees minor league team to International Drive. Seriously… take all the time and give me the three great achievements she has had in three years of office. Name one great achievement. There are none!
But really, and I say this as someone who has given a fair amount of money to Mayor Jacobs, on the subject of leadership and tangible success: where’s the beef?
Maybe the jobs aren’t coming here because Jacobs makes representatives of the companies willing to move sign in and post it on a website. In Seminole, none of that is required. They cut a deal and an announcement is made. Jacobs government in the sunshine is great and all, but I think it may be driving the economic expansion ten miles up the road!”
Mayor Jacobs has made ethical reforms the center of her administration, and the hometown press has never called her on the absence of movement in her administration. You can bet that a well-funded opponent will pose the age-old question, morphed to the present circumstance: “Is Orange County better off than it was four years ago?”
With no Val Demings, we will see the answer to the political version of the old question: “If an administration fails in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?”
4 – TEXTGATE, or Living and Dying by the Sword of Ethics and Transparency
Issues one through three are rough, but I think somebody of Jacobs caliber may have been able to overcome them against Demings… until “Textgate.”
Some folks in the chattering class are quick to dismiss the impact of “Textgate”, choosing to believe that its some kind of inside baseball stuff that normal families – the HOA and PTA crowd – couldn’t care less about. I totally disagree.
When state attorney Jeff Ashton announced that the Mayor and others had broken the law and were ordered to pay a $500 fine, most of them crowed on about how vindicated they were.
For most, including our local lawless one Jennifer Thompson, that may be true. But for somebody who has made her ethical superiority the cornerstone of her political brand, the damage will be disproportionately harsh.
How hard would it have been for Val Demings folks to create a contrast?
The Law Breaker vs. The Law Keeper
Joan Q. Law vs. Breakin’ D.A. Law
TeamMate Val vs. Inmate Teresa
For all the people that Teresa Jacobs dragged on the carpet over their alleged ethical shortcomings, I can’t think of one that ever had the state attorney say to them “You broke the law, pay me a fine or I’ll prosecute you.”
And that’s the nature of the beast. Society looks at those that hold themselves up as more perfect than the rest and makes us want to challenge them to a duel at high noon when they have ethical shortcomings.
Teresa Jacobs did a hell of a job turning her previous opponent, Bill Segal, into the symbol of good ole’ boy corruption. How’s she going to do that this time?
How do you convince the world that the female, African American former chief of police of the city of Orlando is a good ole’ boy? How do you get the ethical/transparency high ground back when you paid a fine to avoid prosecution because you broke the law for destroying public records?
Maybe her consultants had a plan. Usually that plan consists of focusing on your accomplishments, but as you remember from Point 3, there are none.
You can also reach out to swing voters to plead your case, folks that may vote for a Caucasian Republican over an African American Democrat. In this case, they are the Puerto Rican community, and we remember Point 2.
Or you can hope that national politics will suppress the vote, but as we discussed in Point 1, it seems unlikely this time around.
So how will they have handled it?
There are other rumors out there that I won’t dignify, most of which deal with what was in the text messages Jacobs threatened to sue the Sentinel to protect. Lord knows what was in those files, and from what I can tell, based on the fact it looks she won’t run, maybe Demings doesn’t know.
Makes you wonder what would have “crushed” the Mayor and her family.
Val Demings would have been a tough matchup for Teresa Jacobs in 2010. Now, with thousands more democrat voters and several high profile screw-ups to her name, would have been overwhelmingly bad for the mayor.
5 – Frank Kruppenbacher, Oscar Juarez & GOAA
The ticking time bomb of the Teresa Jacobs administration is Frank Kruppenbacher.
If you’ve been following the East Orlando Post, you know that are very suspicious of the seemingly corrupt activity coming out of the airport these days.
Boss Hogg Frank Kruppenbacher slapped down the ethics reforms proposed at the airport, prompting tears on the dais from Mayor Jacobs. From there, the once feisty mayor has become more of a supplicant to his every wish and demand.
She has done nothing to decry the insider deals being cut between the airport and her close friend, advisor and fundraiser Oscar Juarez. Right now, the Orlando Sentinel and the local news stories are looking away from this ticking time bomb, but for how long?
Not to rehash, but there are a lot of nagging questions, among them:
1) Is Frank Kruppenbacher the fundraiser that told Dave Gordon that he had to give $10,000 to the governor to get appointed to the airport authority?
2) Is Frank Kruppenbacher turning the airport in to the Juarez Family Piggy Bank by tunring down the top lobbying shops in Tallahassee for the almost unheard of firm of Juarez’s daughter, Lena?
3) Is Frank Kruppenbacher deliberately screwing the tax-payers of Central Florida by jacking up the costs of parking garages… spending several times what Disney does for their parking garages. And is it just me, or are Disney parking garages pretty nice?
4) Is Frank Kruppenbacher using the airport to fundraise for elected officials in a way that Allan Keene used to do at the expressway authority, and if so, why did the mayor hate it so much back then only to sit quietly now?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but the relationship between the mayor and Boss Hogg Frank Kruppenbacher makes no sense to me. Maybe the Boss knows what is in those text messages.
As of now, the genial Kruppenbacher is getting a pass from the local press, who seems more interested in who Mia Farrow’s baby daddy is than potential corruption at the multi-billion dollar airport:
I suspect when Boss Frank runs to be chair again next, it’ll be Mayor Jacobs that nominates him, and who supports him closely. You have to admit that the double standard here is breath taking in its hypocrisy.
At some point, this powder keg is going to explode. A well funded, disciplined campaign with, say, a former chief law enforcement officer married to a sitting sheriff would have done a better job connecting the dots than we here at the Post ever could.
So there you have it, five real big problems that Teresa Jacobs would have overcome against a well educated, charismatic, highly credentialed African-American female former police chief. As much as I like Teresa Jacobs, and as little as I think of our sheriff, I don’t think she could have overcome these obstacles.
Sadly, it doesn’t look like we will ever know…
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post. Along with the Post, he owns several other businesses and is currently enrolled at Valencia College. Jacob has lived in Avalon Park since it’s founding and enjoys playing with his black Labradoodle Jasper, listening to indie rock, and seeking out new business ventures. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org