At first glance Poe might seem like an unlikely fit, but the former Florida Democratic Party head has a unique history that could prove powerful.
By Jacob Engels
With incumbent Congressman Daniel Webster likely eyeing a jump to a more conservative district, the residents of Florida’s 10th district have three viable candidates to pick from on the Democratic line.
First, there is former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, who doesn’t exactly inspire confidence following her Benedict Arnold’esque handling of the Orange County Mayoral race in 2014. Worthless…
Then, there is elder stateswoman and career politician Geraldine Thompson, who has hopscotched between the Florida House and State Senate in the past 10 years. Nice lady, but this is the year of the outsider and she has had her shot. Next…
That leaves former Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe, the most appealing option. While Poe has been a Democratic rainmaker and fixture since his tenure in the early 2000’s, most are unaware of his modest upbringing and storied entrepreneurial career.
From cutting his teeth during the early days of Disney to bringing the Orlando Magic to town, Poe has a background that demonstrates a self-made man focused on empowerment, and that is exactly what the 10th district needs.
Our Q&A with the newly minted candidate is below. Listen up…
Who is Bob Poe…tell us about your upbringing and what makes now the right time for a congressional bid?
I am a successful entrepreneur, long time political activist and accomplished artist. I grew up in a working class family, moved to Orlando in 1969, graduated from Evans High School and was a part of the opening cast of Walt Disney World in 1971. My career choices trumped a college education and through many years of fearless hard work, bucking conventional wisdom and a measure of good luck, I became successful entrepreneur.
Throughout my career, I’ve helped start a number of successful businesses – among them are the Orlando Magic, WMMO Radio and Emergency Communications Network. Politics became my passion at the age of 12 when I skipped out of work at my father’s convenience store and wandered into the Sarasota County Democratic Headquarters.
The ladies there asked me to hand out leaflets in the shopping center which seemed a lot more fun than working around my father’s store. That was the 1966 election and I have been involved at one level or another in every election since. One of the highlights of my political career was when I was elected Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party in 2000. I also served as Central Florida Finance Chair for the 2012 Obama Campaign and Chairman of the Charlie Crist for Florida Political Committee in 2013-14 – which raised more than $30 million.
Due to my background in creative fields and drive to discover and imaginatively use innovative products, I began experimenting with iPhone photography as soon as it came on the market in 2007. My spontaneous and thought-provoking photographs sparked interest from collectors, and gained me international recognition for my groundbreaking art. I retired from the business world in 2011 and, since then, have devoted most of my time and resources to political causes and candidates I believe in.
When the courts re-drew the boundaries of the 10th Congressional District, friends in the area encouraged me to run. At first I was reluctant. I was, for the most part, a behind the scenes kind of guy. But, the more I looked at it, the more I saw this as an opportunity to do what I have always done – only in a slightly different way. I could work together with the people in the community to make Orlando a better place to live.
There is an old saying: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” What we’ve got now is a group of career politicians and bureaucrats that can’t seem to get anything done. I have a proven track record of working with others to get things done. I can bring the experience of doing the hard work it takes to find solutions to difficult problems.
You are a proud progressive… how will you package your platform in a way that appeals to people beyond your base?
My experience has taught me that finding common ground and building on it is much more effective than dwelling on areas of disagreement. My economic message does that. I have an economic plan that transcends traditional political boundaries. All my years in business taught me that I could only make money if my customers had money.
Republicans call people like me “Job Creators.” But, I understood that it was my customers – hard working men and women who pay their bills and pay their taxes – who were the real “Job Creators.” When our community is prosperous, our businesses will flourish. That’s a message that people from all parts of the political and economic spectrum can agree on.
Florida Democrats have had a hard time competing with the GOP locally and statewide, what gives you the edge?
My message, my penchant for fearless hard work and, hopefully, a measure of good luck. Often times, Democrats haven’t been able to articulate a winning message or, if they did, they didn’t have the financial resources to get that message out there. I’ll have both.
What will be your top three areas of focus?
Economic Empowerment: Making our community prosperous so that our businesses can flourish. More high paying jobs, increased Minimum Wage and expansion of Social Security and Medicare. I will be an independent voice for the people who feel like they have no voice. Because most politicians have to spend most of their time raising money – mostly from lobbyists, our political system has been hijacked by the special interests those lobbyists represent. I don’t have to do that. My only special interest will be the people of the 10th Congressional District.
Education: The quality of education our children receive is directly proportional to the quality of life they will have as adults. And a college education can no longer be the privilege of the few. I’m a college dropout. I’m one of the lucky few who made it without a degree. Most others aren’t as fortunate. No one should be forced, like I was, to choose between earning a living and earning a college degree.
It must be the right of every young person who is dedicated to bettering themselves to have a tuition-free college education at a Community College. And those people who are already burdened by carrying a huge load of college debt must be able to re-structure that debt to a low interest loan.
Constituent Services: In addition to representing the District in Washington, the most important thing a Congressman can do is representing them here at home. Too often people are unable to navigate through the complicated maze of government bureaucracy when they have a problem. Adding to the problem is that many working people can’t afford to take the time off during the day to address these issues.
I will have a constituent services office that is open at nights and on the weekends so that people who can’t deal with these issues during working hours can have the access to their government – which they rightly deserve.
Learn more about Poe’s congressional campaign by clicking here.
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