Our Take: State House District 50 GOP Primary

Republican voters have a very easy choice in Tuesday’s primary election.


By Jacob Engels


Two years ago, Freshmen State legislator Rene Plasencia was a rising star in the Republican party.


After knocking off a high profile Democrat in a liberal leaning district, his campaign was a success story for the new Republican voter.


But as the story often goes in politics, he went up to Tallahassee and pulled the infamous “Tallahassee Two-Step” on his donors, volunteers, and supporters.


He quickly embraced medicaid expansion and state expansion of Obamacare, cast a vote for allowing sanctuary cities, and racked up one of the worst attendance records in the entire Florida House and Senate. Why would he betray basic core principles of the GOP so quickly?


The answer is simple, it was pure political calculation. He reasoned that if he were to be re-elected in his liberal leaning district, he had to go moderate on core issues.


Politics as usual, the same political games that he promised to stop when campaigning against Joe Saunders in 2014.


Then, he saw an opening when Florida House District 50 incumbent Tom Goodson switched districts, he saw a more conservative area that would be easier for him to win.


Unfortunately for him though, the damage had already been done and longtime East Orlando resident George Colliins had announced his candidacy for the seat.


Collins, a conservative firebrand and perennial candidate, said enough was enough. He immediately took a hard-line on Plasencia for being a carpetbagger and for his votes against conservative orthodoxy.


Now, Collins had run in the past and loaned his campaign sizeable amounts, but never opened the war-chest to compete seriously. In 2014, he made a respectable showing against former Florida House 50 incumbent Tom Goodson, so voters are more familiar with his name than they are with out-of-district Plasencia.


With Collins realizing his advantage on the issues and Plasencia’s many weaknesses, he has been spending big to take on the district-switching legislator.


While Plasencia has relied on special interest and out-of-district donors to make his case to residents in the East Orange/Brevard area seat, Collins’ self-funding campaign has made Plasencia explain his record time and again.


If you are explaining in politics, you are losing.


Look, I don’t agree with every stance Collins takes, but I respect his independence and relentless consistency in his values and beliefs. Plasencia has tried to label him as someone who has run multiple times and lost, but that is a weak line of attack.


How many times did Abe Lincoln lose before he won?


Democrat Sean Ashby waits for whomever makes it out of the GOP primary on Tuesday, and he has had months upon months head start to knock doors and interact with voters.


This will be Ashby’s second shot at the seat.


He narrowly lost against Tom Goodson in 2012, running on a shoestring budget.


Among his chief supporters in that race? None other than Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, who had just lost a GOP primary to Marco Pena. Violating his GOP loyalty oath, he endorsed Democrat Sean Ashby, calling him the “best man for the job,” and the only one capable of taking on “the capitol insiders.”


If GOP voters want a real shot at maintaining this seat, it’s best they go with Collins. He won’t have to explain his endorsement of Democrat Sean Ashby, his evolving political beliefs, or his indebtedness to special interests.


The last day to vote is this Tuesday.



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 info@eastorlandopost.com