After months of toying with a potential run, college professor George Collins files official paperwork to challenge State Representative Rene Plasencia.
By Jacob Engels
The East Orlando Post has learned that frequent candidate and college professor George Collins has decided to challenge Republican State Representative Rene Plasencia, according to documents on the Florida Division of Elections. Collins is a longtime East Orlando resident, who lives in Avalon Park.
Collins, who challenged GOP incumbent State Representative Tom Goodson last election cycle, is capable of self-funding his campaign. Plasencia, who is finishing his first term in the Florida legislature, opted out of seeking re-election in his home district 49 – instead deciding to seek election in the GOP leaning House District 50.
Republicans were hoping that Plasencia would not have a primary that could eat up the campaign and party resources. Earlier this summer, they dodged a major bullet when successful businessman Chadwick Hardee announced he would not be challenging the first term Hispanic Republican.
Hardee is widely respected in GOP circles from the activist to donor levels, and sources tell us he would have been capable of being competitive with Plasencia on financial and retail politicking level. With Hardee ultimately forgoing a bid and choosing to instead focus on his burgeoning entrepreneurial efforts, the GOP thought it had avoided a battle they did not need to have.
However, Collins entry reignites those problems and presents a primary that could have a great effect on the outcome of the eventual general election.
Democratic activist and East Orlando educator Sean Ashby kicked off his campaign earlier this summer, and has shown strong institutional support from local and statewide party leaders. Ashby, who almost knocked off Republican Tom Goodson in 2012, was bolstered by the endorsement from his close friend Rene Plasencia, who had just narrowly lost to Florida Hospital executive Marco Pena. Mr. Ashby, like Plasencia, is a longtime high school teacher and coach – with a strong and steady army of students ready to walk doors for him.
Ashby welcomed Collins into the race Tuesday night.
“Any opportunity where a new voice is added to the discussion, the voters get a clearer picture of what is best for the district.”
Now with Collins in the race and expected to self-fund his campaign to the tune of $65,000 or more, Plasencia has a three-pronged problem on his hand.
1). By leaving the Democratic leaning HD49 and instead deciding to move to the safer HD50, Plasencia will likely face charges of carpetbagging from his GOP opponent and general election opponents. It will happen, it’s just a matter of if it connects with voters and how much money is put behind the efforts.
2). Any primary for Plasencia, well funded or not, will require Plasencia and possibly the party to send out a few mailers (already sent 1), robocalls, etc. This is not cheap, and will draw funds away from other more high profile general election matches that could use the resources during primary season. It will also require him to run to the right, as Collins will certainly challenge his conservative credentials. If Plasencia runs too far to the right, that could hurt him in the general election against moderate Democrat Sean Ashby.
3). This primary battle will make Democrat Sean Ashby stronger. With Collins and Plasencia fighting it out, he can spend extra time focusing on turning out his base and reaching out to Independents and soft Democrats. While Collins and Plasencia are distracted with each other, Ashby will have LOTS of time to work the streets.
Over the next few months we will indeed see how much Mr. Collins will actually loan to the campaign, and more importantly, how much he is willing to spend. Plasencia will certainly not go down without a fight (naturally), and his ability to connect with voters on a personal level is remarkable to say the least. He has also conducted himself well in the legislature and made lots of connections that will help him raise the money he needs for both a primary and general election.
As always, we will keep you posted.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org