TAKING BACK CD7: Who Can Defeat Murphy In 2018?

The Seminole County Post explores the people rumored to be considering a run and more.

By Jacob Engels

As we predicted several days ago, it seems that John Mica might be our new Transportation Secretary under President Trump.

Florida Politics confirmed this in an article published today, which you can read here.

So, that has left many people wondering who the Republican Party will field in 2018 to snatch the seat back from DC liberal Stephanie Murphy.

Instead of starting with the people who have popped up as potential candidates, we need to make a very important point about the new makeup of the district.

While Mica held his own in the Seminole County segments of the district on election day, he did not do well in the Orange County segments where there is a significant portion of Hispanic voters.

Some have argued that Mica fell asleep at the switch or underestimated Murphy, which is simply not true.

Murphy’s story was simply more intriguing to these Hispanic voters, who saw themselves in her campaign.

Murphy is of Vietnamese descent and touted her credentials as a female and minority, which worked.

GOP leaders take note, whomever comes out of this primary must have a compelling story and ability to use digital/alternative media to reach voters.

That brings us to our first potential candidate for the seat.

State Representative Bob Cortes

The recently re-elected Cortes would be Democrats worst nightmare.

His current State House District is essentially a smaller version of Mica’s congressional district, including Orange and Seminole County.

Several party insiders have told us that Cortes’ ability to defeat an aggressive self-fund challenge from liberal Democrat Ryan Yadav speaks volumes.

“Bob has that appeal to Hispanic voters who traditionally vote Democrat. He is a working class small businessman who has excelled in public office.”

But GOP operatives looking to draft Cortes will have to work extra hard to convince him to run, according to a source close to Representative Cortes. While Cortes as a candidate makes sense, a congressional run might be a risk the second term legislator does not want to take.

Aside from the speculation about a congressional bid, many have argued that Cortes would be the logical choice for Lt. Governor in 2018, no matter who secures the nod for Governor.

We think Mr. Cortes would be great in either role. Ultimately, it is a choice he will have to make sooner than later.

We’re told that Cortes is open to the idea, but wants to accomplish more for his constituents on the state level before entering another grueling campaign.

As of now, Bob is the front runner.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs

Her final term as Mayor of Orange County comes to an end in 2018 and Jacobs is already calling donors to explore the possibility of challenging Murphy.

Jacobs is afraid of losing her power in the community post-Mayor, which remains the driving force behind her exploring a congressional run.

Sadly for her, the prospective campaign is already DOA for several reasons.

She has become known for her unwillingness to endorse and raise money for fellow GOP candidates on all levels. From County Commission races to President, she has made a lot of enemies within her own party.

Those enemies would like nothing more than to savage her in a primary. I appreciate and admire her support for LGBT rights as Mayor, but that is not enough to justify a run for congress.

Furthermore, her liberal stances on social issues would make it hard for her to get through a GOP primary. And quite frankly, her story does not exactly inspire.

She is a privileged white lady and career politician who has never been a team player for the GOP.

If someone can present a logical and possible path to victory for Jacobs, I’ll donate $250.00 to a charity of their choice.

Until then… “Teresa, you are drunk on power… GO HOME.”

Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett

Triplett, who rose to fame during the Trayvon Martin incident, is currently making calls to his top donors about possibly running.

Mr. Triplett gained considerable name ID while Sanford was in the national spotlight, but is known to be a little bit of a loose cannon.

He would need to go to candidate training school if he is serious about making this move, and hire a damn good consultant who will not be a “YES MAN” looking for a paycheck.

His biggest challenge would be reaching voters outside Sanford in the rest of Seminole and Orange County.

Triplett would need to be able to raise at least $350,000.00 to be a viable candidate.

However, that money would have to come with a compelling personal story and message from Triplett.

At the end of the day he faces some of the same problems that Jacobs faces.

We will remain skeptical on his chances, but he has more room to grow than Jacobs at this point.

Ben Newman, Shareholder at GrayRobinson

This is one of the more out of the box candidates we have heard about so far.

Newman is an extremely talented and competent attorney for one of the state most powerful lobbying and law firms. He would be able to raise money lickity split and money is the mother’s milk of politics.

Having no background in elected office could be his most valuable asset.

Newman is also well-liked among the power players in the state and beyond.

Our sources indicate that Newman is in the early stages of evaluating his chances and assembling a campaign team.

Again, he has the same problem that Triplett/Jacobs have in terms of being able to appeal to Hispanic voters in Orange in Seminole.

At the end of the day though, he would have the money to form a compelling message.

Newman’s chances are hinged entirely upon how quickly he moves to secure the same donors that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs is currently courting.

If he is able to lock down those resources, he could kill Teresa’s viability as candidate in just a few phone calls.

Bob Dello Russo, Del-Air Founder

Enter one of two potential candidates who could self-fund a mutli-million dollar effort to get through the primary and knock out Murphy in the general.

A longtime GOP donor and booster, Dello Russo has gravitas and heft like no other.

His name is extremely well known, thanks to his successful and positively reviewed heating and air conditioning business.

Like with any successful businessman, he will have to think long and hard about everything that comes with a run for public office.

Will he want to trade the immense amount of personal freedom for months of mixers, door-to-door campaigning, and media scrutiny?

Whether he runs or doesn’t, Dello Russo will wield considerable power as a candidate or top bundler for whomever lands him as a booster.

Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel

One of the hardest working elected officials in the state, Ertel is gaining the most buzz out of the candidates we have discussed so far.

Armed with a VERY COMPELLING personal story that includes being homeless during his formative years to serving our nation as a Sergeant in the US Army, Ertel would be a strong primary and general election candidate.

In his role as Supervisor of Elections in Seminole County, his methods and leadership techniques have protected Seminole County from the scandals that normally occur in the voting booth.

One of Ertel’s biggest positives is his responsiveness. Whenever an outside group tries to intimidate voters or confuse them during election year, Ertel is swift and just in his response.

Another equally important asset is his ability to use digital and traditional media to communicate the message and goals of his office.

Most importantly though, is his friendly disposition with candidates and elected officials on both sides of the aisles.

He takes his role as Supervisor of Elections so seriously, that he does not donate or openly endorse one candidate over another, unlike many others across the state. Unfortunately for the GOP, Ertel told us that a congressional run in not in the cards at this point for him.

“It may be a bit nerdy or book wormish, but I am extremely passionate about making sure Seminole County residents have the best voting experience possible. I can’t see myself leaving our community and the great people who work at the Supervisor of Election’s office for DC.”

State Senator David Simmons

The under the radar statesman of Seminole County has vast personal wealth to call on if he decides to run. Backed with a strong legislative background, Simmons would do well in the big leagues.

However, while we are hearing his name being floated for CD7, we also know he is considering a run for Attorney General.

A longtime friend and confidant of Simmons said that he has no doubt he could raise the money and make a strong bid.

“I think the prospect of being able to run in a smaller race like CD7 is certainly appealing to David. He is firmly rooted in the Central Florida area and has powerful relationships with residents and party leaders alike.”

Reached by phone, Senator Simmons told the Seminole County Post that he was keeping his options open.

“My focus has been on Attorney General, but this is an important seat for Republicans to take back. As always, I will continue to listen to those in the community who are offering words of encouragement.”

Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg

Greenberg burst onto the political scene this past summer in a hard charging campaign against longtime Tax Collector Ray Valdes.

His decisive victory over Valdes, who became embroiled in corruption and abuse of power charges, was buoyed by his investment of over $250,000 of his personal wealth.

Mr. Greenberg benefits from almost universal name ID in the district, thanks to his family’s dental business, which was founded 30 years ago.

During the 2016 election cycle, Greenberg was the only elected official in Central Florida to introduce President-elect Donald Trump during a rally in Sanford, Florida.

The rousing speech was a crowd favorite and gave politicos a look into Greenberg’s consistently improving retail politicking.

He would likely be a late entry into the race and would bring back his blitzkrieg approach that helped him defeat Valdes in August of 2016.

However, a close family friend and mentor to Mr. Greenberg said it would take a significant amount of convincing. “Joel has always been a bridge-builder who empowers those around him. He is excited to modernize the Tax Collector’s office and has a baby on the way.”

No matter the decision he makes about CD7, Republican party leaders could learn a thing or two from the advertising whiz, who Co-Founded a business that won two consecutive awards from Inc Magazine.


Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. His work through these publications has been showcased in hundreds of publications and news outlets in the state of Florida, the United States, and around the globe. 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@seminolecountypost.com