Our Pick – GOP Primary in Congressional District 9

    Three candidates face off in this closely watched primary to take on liberal firestarter Alan Grayson.


    By Jacob Engels

    With Early voting now officially over, East Orlando residents will now go to the polls on Tuesday August 26th to cast their ballot – letting their voice be heard in several hotly contested races. We have been working on our election guide over the past few weeks and will start with the GOP primary for congressional district 9, currently held by liberal incumbent Alan Grayson.


    The Candidates & Cold Hard Facts.


    Peter Vivaldi —


    Vivaldi, an Hispanic youth pastor and business executive has been campaigning for over a year since holding a packed announcement event last July where over 150 people were in attendance. Mr. Vivaldi has been a resident of the area for over 30 years. He is married with several college aged children & serves on the board of Hope Now International, a local non-profit that provides school supplies and support to needy families in the area. Every year before kids go back to school, Vivaldi helps organize an event held at the Amway Center that hands out over 10,000 backpacks full of school supplies to children in need.


    From the start, Vivaldi has campaigned heavily on the idea that he is the best candidate to face the bombastic Alan Grayson – citing his deep connection to the community and ability to mobilize the Hispanic evangelical vote in the heavily Hispanic district. His has a thorough grasp of both federal and local issues, and is very adept at working a room and interacting with voters.


    Vivaldi has been endorsed by Orange County Commissioner Peter Clarke, former State Representative Anthony “Tony” Suarez, and Carlos Romero Barcelo – the former Governor of Puerto Rico & Mayor of San Juan. In terms of campaign cash, Vivaldi has lagged behind his two opponents and has raised just under $60,000 total since filing, but has had an aggressive ground game and kept his full schedule – he is EVERYWHERE.


    Vivaldi has faced some heat from primary opponent Jorge Bonilla for writing a bad check 25 years ago. Vivaldi has addressed the issue on his campaign website and has been actively discussing it on Spanish talk radio. Bonilla has gone as far as having his former boss Javier Manjarres stalk and harass Vivaldi and his family about the matter.


    A Central Florida News 13 poll showed that Vivaldi was the “viewers choice,” with Mr. Vivaldi garnering nearly 50% of the vote. Viewers also had the choice to vote for all other candidates in the race, including Alan Grayson and his primary challenger. In the Political Connections primary segment released today on Central Florida News 13, political analysts and former Congressman Lou Frey said Peter is the best candidate and could win against Grayson.


    Carol Platt —


    Platt is from an old farming family in Osceola County and is a former Bush family fundraiser. She is the executive at the Osceola County Realtors Association. Platt has been endorsed by Jeb Bush and former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson.


    While Platt has been able to raise almost $300,000, many question whether or not this race is the “right fit” for her, pointing to the fact that the district is heavily Hispanic. Platt is a likeable and soft-spoken candidate who has a good but not great grasp of federal issues. Carol is a great storyteller, and utilizes this on the campaign trail to engage voters on the issues.


    Platt has largely based her operation out of the Osecola County area. She has hired Shane Maloy, the son of former Seminole County Commissioner Grant Maloy to manage her campaign. Maloy, who is just 20 years old has pocketed close to $8,000 for managing the Platt campaign – which has seen a marked improvement in it’s ground operations and campaign presence since hiring Mr. Maloy several months back.


    Jorge Bonilla —


    Bonilla is a former court interpreter for the Osecola County Courthouse. Jorge is a veteran, having served as a Marine for a short stint. Bonilla is married with two young children, and used to work for The Shark Tank – a political blog based out of South Florida and ran by Javier Manjarres.


    Early on in this race, Bonilla has tried to paint himself as the only one who has the “steel” to beat Alan Grayson. His campaign platform reads like a transcript from a  Rush Limbaugh radio show. He spends most of his time on extremely polarizing federal issues, largely ignoring local matters.


    Endorsement wise, he has the support of State Representative Dennis Baxley and Texas Congressman Pete Sessions, and a handful of conservative media personalities. Bonilla has raised just over $200,000 for his campaign. He is very spontaneous about his personal appearances in public and has been booed for harping on primary opponent Peter Vivaldi. Bonilla has employed his former boss to stalk, harass, and cyberstalk Vivaldi’s family, supporters and advisors. This tactic has been negatively received by voters & others observing the race.


    Bonilla has had several odd radio performances over the course of the campaign. In one instance, he informed the host how “big” he was and that the talk show host should shut up and listen to what he had to say. When the host refused, Bonilla snapped and told him he would color it out for him on a piece of paper. In a more interview, Bonilla admitted to using marijuana regularly in his youth. When the show host asked how him breaking the law was different than his opponent writing a bad check, Bonilla blew up and launched into an angry tirade before ending the interview.


    Our Endorsement in CD 9.


    For the reasons listed above, the East Orlando Post endorses Peter Vivaldi in his bid to take on Alan Grayson. While he is last in money raised, Vivaldi is the best one to face Alan Grayson. He has the community support & backing of Hispanic evangelical churchgoers (both Republican & Democrat), and that will make him a tough opponent for the liberal incumbent in the heavily Hispanic district.


    Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at info@eastorlandopost.com