Former Orlando Commission Candidate Fails To Qualify For Mayoral Bid, Alleges Wrongdoing

    Cynthia Harris, who made a strong play for Orlando City Commission in 2014, did not meet requirements to finalize campaign for Mayor according to a city clerk.


    By Jacob Engels


    In just three short days, we have seen two Republican challengers emerge to take on incumbent Democratic Mayor Buddy Dyer in this November’s election. Veteran and wealthy businessman Paul Paulson filed earlier this week. Student and mother of three, Linda “Sunshine” Grund, filed her paperwork ahead of today’s 12pm deadline this morning, according to Florida Politics’ Frank Torres.


    A third potential challenger for Dyer, and quite possibly his most problematic… failed to meet filing requirements according to Celeste Brown, a clerk with the City of Orlando.


    Cynthia Harris, a former Democratic candidate for Orlando City Commission in District 5, received an impressive 23% in a three way race to replace longtime incumbent Daisy Lynum. Harris is a former law enforcement officer who has most recently served as an executive director to several local non-profits and boards.


    After hearing of Mrs. Harris’ rumored filing for this years mayoral election, we contacted the City of Orlando and asked if she had indeed submitted paperwork to challenge Dyer and the two other GOP candidates. Shortly after our call, we received an email from a city clerk stating that there were several errors made on Mrs. Harris’ paperwork and therefore she would not qualify as a candidate for the November 3rd election.


    “For the following reasons, you have not qualified to be a candidate. Section 99.061 (7), Florida Statutes states (in part) that the following items must be received by the filing officer prior to the end of qualifying.


    1. A properly executed check drawn upon the candidate’s campaign account payable to the person or entity as prescribed by the filing officer; and


    2. The completed form for the appointment of the campaign treasurer and designation of campaign depository, as required by s. 106.021.”


    The entire response from the city clerk can be seen below.


    City of Orlando – Cynthia Harris Failure To Qualify


    When we called Mrs. Harris and asked her about her filing paperwork, she told us that she is confused and concerned about the way the City of Orlando handled the process.


    “Earlier today I attempted to qualify for City of Orlando Mayor race. The assistant clerk had an issue with me having a bank account that stated Cynthia Harris campaign The bank would not verify information over the phone which is consistent with the Patriot act. The representative informed her that they would not provide any personal information even though I was present.


    I offered to email any proof and it was accepted that a bank statement would be provided after the 12 noon deadline since everything was clear for acceptance including my check for qualification. 15 minutes after I left the building, I received a call stating that my appointed campaign treasure signature was not on the form. Celeste Brown emailed the time stamped form for signature knowing it would be received after the 12 noon deadline.


    I came home printed the documents acquired the signatures scanned them emailed the required documents with the knowledge that they would be accepted and qualification will take place. I never received a phone call from anyone so I carried the documents to the clerk’s office. I waited for quite some time before I was told that I could not qualify for the ballot.


    I feel this was a stall tactic to keep me off the ballot after city staff and officials stated everything was approved and they knew the check was good, residency was verified and all other documents were correct and met all qualifications. It is not an error on my behalf – the staff acknowledged and accepted all documentation. I felt they sent me on a wild goose chase to disqualify me from being on the ballot in the upcoming Mayoral election.”


    Mrs. Harris stated that she was told in person and the explanation the city has given the East Orlando Post are very different. A consultant who worked on Buddy Dyer’s first campaign, and served as a member of the Mayor’s transition team, told us that these tactics are common place for Dyer.


    “As a member of the mayor transition and management team I am well aware of the clerks activities and how she does exactly what the mayor wants her to do,” said Guetzloe.


    Guetzloe, who leads the controversial Ax The Tax group, was initially supportive of Dyer until he broke his pledge to raise taxes. The Mayor’s deputy chief of staff told us that Mayor Dyer is not involved in these decisions and the overall filing process.


    “Celeste has been doing this for a long time and we have attorneys who work hard to verify the paperwork.”


    So, for now, the Mayor is set to face two GOP challengers. It’s unclear if Harris, who would have been able to pull from the Mayor’s base in predominantly African American neighborhoods, will attempt to fight to get on the ballot. We will update you as more information is made available.


    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