The GOP primary for the East Orlando & Brevard seat could be a bloody battle.
By Jacob Engels
With 2016 fast approaching, Republican voters in State House District 50 could be bombarded with a large amount of direct mail, emails, robo-calls and targeted social media advertising campaigns very soon.
Freshmen legislator Rene Plasencia, who was elected in HD49 (UCF area seat), decided a few months ago to abandon his home district and instead run for re-election in the more conservative HD50 after the HD50 incumbent announced he would run for a different district.
Republican insiders and donors had been worried about Plasencia’s chances in the Democratic heavy HD49, which he only won by a few hundred votes in 2014. However, with the entry of George Collins into the race, GOP voters will receive a primary contest between Collins & Plasencia in August of 2016.
Collins, a former college professor, has run for office several times before. In 2014, he lent his campaign over $60,000.00 to challenge conservative incumbent Tom Goodson but came up short. The 2016 contest could be quite different for Collins… here’s why.
1). Mr. Collins would be the conservative in the race. Plasencia’s voting record and moderate stances on social issues will prevent him from being able to run to the right of Collins. He is a regular at conservative meetings and has solid support from local Tea Party groups.
2). GOP voters in HD50 have not nominated an Hispanic candidate before and the district has not ever had a Hispanic Republican nominee. Unlike Plasencia’s HD49, the Hispanic voting demographic is simply not there, especially among GOP primary voters.
3). George Collins has been known to loan himself tens of thousands of dollars in the past, and our sources tell us he could loan up to $80,000.00 to his campaign.
4). In 2014, he tried to peg incumbent Tom Goodson’s residency issues to no avail. While Goodson did not live in the district and claimed his daughters residence on campaign filings, Collins attacks did not stick. However, making that argument against Plasencia will be much easier. Mr. Plasencia is hopping districts for political expediency, leaving him ripe for “carpetbagger” and “career politician” attacks.
Now, the Collins vs. Plasencia match-up only gets hot if Mr. Collins assembles a better team than the last go-round… bolstered by a legitimate consultant who knows how to win. If he is able to do that and is willing to spend at least $50 to $80k, he could really give Representative Plasencia a tough fight.
A bloody primary between these two Republicans is bad news for Republican leadership who want to keep as many Hispanic Republicans in their ranks as possible. They have expressed interest in Plasencia rising in party leadership.
Collin’s chances at toppling Plasencia dwindle with every moment he waits to start putting together a campaign team and ground operation.
One thing is for sure though, if we do see a contested primary in HD50, Democratic candidate Sean Ashby will be the clear benefactor. If his fundraising picks up steam in 2016, he could very well stockpile enough cash to present a viable challenge to the eventual Republican nominee – who will have to recuperate resources and energy lost during a primary fight.
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