The Orange County Commissioner finishing out her second and final term, is emerging as a serious contender for Florida’s 9th congressional district.
By Jacob Engels
With Alan Grayson taking a shot at the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio in his bid for the presidency, the fight for his congressional seat is about to bust wide open.
The Democrats already have a heated primary between State Senator Darren Soto, longtime Democratic staffer/operative Susannah Randolph, and Grayson’s love interest Dr. Dena Minning.
On the Republican side, a strong candidate has yet to emerge. Kissimmee City Commissioner and Vice Mayor Wanda Rentas entered the race a little less than a month ago, but has failed to garner any support. Rentas’ announcement fell flat on its face and we’re told that her meetings with party officials in DC were “unimpressive”.
Businessman and veteran Wayne Liebnitzky has also filed to run as a Republican, but has not demonstrated any significant fundraising or structural support.
The lack of a formidable and credible candidates on the Republican side has left many donors and party leaders looking for another choice. That is where Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson comes in.
Several sources have floated her name a top-tier contender because of her fundraising ability and the fact that her current county commission district encompasses a large part of CD9. Thompson, who has strong ties to the business and development community, once raised nearly $100,000 in a single night for her recent re-election bid.
She has focused mainly on parks initiatives and the Alafaya/Colonial construction debacles during her time at the county commission.
“Growing up here as I have, Commissioner Thompson has been engaged in the work that we are doing to make positive changes to improve the lives of others in Orange County.
In fact, though Bithlo is not actually in her district, she has often attended community events and been an advocate for many of our efforts. I have no doubt she would continue to do the same whatever her future undertaking,” explained Timothy McKinney – a humanitarian and philanthropist who runs United Global Outreach.
Following her re-election to a second term, we have seen Thompson vote against several innovative and groundbreaking developments in East Orange County, which could effect fundraising efforts for her potential congressional bid.
Nonetheless, a Thompson candidacy would be well funded and face little opposition from Rentas and Liebnitzky. She would likely have to face questions over her involvement in the “Textgate” scandal, which engulfed nearly the entire county commission during a controversial vote on paid sick leave.
Depending on the results of the Democratic primary, Mrs. Thompson’s ties to the East Orlando and Lake Nona communities would make her the best footed Republican candidate CD9 has ever seen. For Thompson, this might be her only “bite at the apple” for higher office and a congressional campaign would fall right in the middle of her second term.
However, in a presidential election year where voters are likely to have to pick between Hillary Clinton and one of the Republican candidates… it is Republicans best shot at winning this seat back.
Polls indicate that voters are not likely to continue a Bush or Clinton dynasty in 2016.
“Given the weak field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the Grayson seat, Thompson would present voters with a clear choice of an elected official with a great record who can raise substantial funds and doesn’t even need to resign to run,” said longtime Republican consultant and anti-tax crusader Doug Guetzloe.
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