Incumbent Longwood Commissioners are resorting to desperate negative smears, as voters sour on their years long inaction.
By Jacob Engels
Sometimes, local elections can get just as nasty as presidential politics.
As Longwood voters prepare to go to the ballot box and decided to keep or vote off three incumbents, outside interests have turned to dirty tricks to hold to save establishment politicians.
The two incumbents are facing tough re-election bids are Mark Weller and John Maingot. Mike Dodane is fighting for an open seat against Richard Drummond, and has received total backing from the political establishment.
While all have claimed to detest and decry shadowy political attacks, all are currently benefiting from a slew of missives that spread outright lies about their opponents.
Honestly, the dark money in politics has always been involved at the local level, but its sinister presence this time around in Longwood is something different.
Most of the smears are coming from the Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, a Stuart-based political committee run by Tampa Bay political operative Anthony Pedicini.
That’s right folks, some guy from Tampa is polluting your local elections, and those efforts are funded by the likes of RAI, which has donated $50,000 to Pedicini’s group.
Reynolds America, Inc — or RAI — produces Camel, Newport, Paul Mall, Kent, and Doral cigarettes. It also produces Grizzly and Kodiak snuff. Big tobacco is quite literally bringing their cancer to Longwood politics.
The committee’s tens of thousands of dollars underwrote a mailer attacking all three political newcomers who are challenging the longtime incumbents.
Matt Morgan, Richard Drummond, and Abby Shoemaker have never run for office before and have been extremely critical of the horrific conditions of the fire department and a police department that is having a hard time finding recruits.
Morgan is a former world champion wrestler, Drummond is a former 20years police officer, and Shoemaker a longtime activist and community volunteer.
However, if you read the filth from the Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, you’d think all three want to bring Vegas style gambling to Longwood. The negative mail-outs even claim the challengers desire to also bring devastating crime to the area, and both assertions are 100% false.
The gambling boogeyman tactic was tried once before in Longwood elections, when first time candidate Ben Paris faced the same barrage of attacks, but ended up emerging victorious.
So, not only are these dirty tricks from out-of-town unoriginal, they are grossly ineffective and boring.
Never-mind the fact that Longwood is already home to the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, a major jobs creator and source of tax revenue for city residents, meaning residents are generally favorable to gambling or know someone who earns a living work the tracks.
Maingot challenger Abby Shoemaker said she opposes Vegas style gambling in Longwood, a point she wants residents to know.
“Contrary to the hit piece that was put out, if I could wave a magic wand I would not put a casino in Longwood. We’re not Vegas and I’d like to keep it that way.”
The race is getting so dirty as a result of the Weller/Dodane/Maingot dirty tricks via Tampa’s Anthony Pedicini, that one incumbent was busted yelling at the wife and daughter of Richard Drummond.
According to Drummond, Mark Weller intentionally approached and harassed his wife and his 10-year old daughter as they waived signs.
“He harassed and intimidated my family even though he was asked to leave them alone. This is enough! Obviously Mark Weller enjoys bullying women and children.”
Weller ironically sent out a mailer in an earlier election for the Longwood City Commission promising “No Dirty Politics.” That promise has no doubt fallen by the wayside, as Weller faces sizeable opposition from world wrestling champ Matt Morgan.
Mr. Morgan was heavily featured in the big tobacco funded mail-out claiming he wanted expanded gambling and the danger it would bring, which is total fiction. Morgan has even signed a pledge to stand against any proposed Vegas style gambling from harming Longwood.
“The majority of our citizens who asked me to run don’t believe any of this for one second, and while they’re wasting time with that, I’m out there knocking on every single door.”
Morgan added that he was asked to run by many Longwood residents for this very reason, to end the dirty politics in city elections.
“We’re going to end career politicians who literally tell us what’s best for us here in Longwood, constantly insulting our intelligence. Sadly, they actually think people are going to believe these lies and propaganda they continue to spread.”
And the lies in the upcoming November 7th Longwood elections aren’t limited to negative political maneuvers, even the positive mail defending the incumbents are full of misleading half-truths.
A mailer from the Traditional Values political committee asks voters “Why Make A Change?” How tone-deaf is that messaging coming of an election that saw insurgent candidates win big nationally and across the board in Seminole County.
It claims that the cities fire and police departments are top-notch, despite regular flooding at the fire department and six vacancies in the police department.
Longwood cops are also the lowest paid in Seminole County, no wonder police and fire unions are lining up to endorse those challenging the incumbents.
Jeff Sonsken, a local artists who operates the Paint The Trail Facebook page, said that the negative attacks have helped him make up his mind.
“The more I discovered, the more I realized I’m on the right side.” Sonksen is supporting Matt Morgan, Abby Shoemaker.
In the end, we can’t see how an electorate that elected Donald Trump and elected political outsiders in countywide constitutional offices would side with two incumbents and another candidate backed by the establishment with little or no major accomplishments.
The Central Florida Post will revisit the Longwood elections as they approach and provide instant analysis after the votes are tallied on election night, November 7th.
Jacob Engels is an Orlando based journalist whose work has been featured and republished in news outlets around the globe including Politico, InfoWars, MSNBC, Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Daily Mail UK, Associated Press, People Magazine, ABC, and Fox News to name a few. Mr. Engels focuses on stories that other news outlets neglect or willingly hide to curry favor among the political and business special interests in the state of Florida.