Best Local Politician? Orlando Weekly Finalists Released

Nearly 40% of the final eight local politicians are Republicans, including millennial Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg.

By Jacob Engels

Orlando Weekly’s annual “Best Of” covers everything from eats to arts & culture, and even local politicians. Progressive Democrats usually dominate the final picks, but in the year of the alleged “blue-wave”, Republicans have surprised.

Three out of eight finalists for “Best Local Politician” include Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary, and Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg. State House candidate Anna Eskamani, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Representative Carlos Smith, and Commissioner Patty Sheehan round out the list.

Here is your cheat-sheet for each finalist. Voting ends on August 6th.

Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg: In 2016, he crushed a corrupt incumbent who had been at the helm for 20 years. Greenberg immediately modernized the office with electronic payments, a complete branding overhaul, allowed employees to get certified in active shooter scenarios and carry firearms after going through rigorous approval. Most recently, his office became the first governmental entity in the nation to accept Bitcoin as a method of payment. Greenberg was a successful businessman before running for office. He is the only constitutional officer to become a finalist and is known as a New Age Republican, working hard to reshape his party with a focus on younger voters.

State Representative Carlos Smith: While I find little that I can agree with Smith on aside from marijuana legalization, the man is a fighter and one of the hardest workers in the Florida legislature. I’d like to see him get more bills passed, but when you are in the minority party like Smith, sometimes fighting the good fight in the streets and in the media help you accomplish that goal. If he doesn’t get plucked to become a Lieutenant Governor candidate for the eventual Democratic nominee, I expect he will have even more of a bully pulpit in the state capitol to advocate for issues important to him.

Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary: The Mayor is now in his second term and is generally regarded as one of the more popular elected officials in Central Florida. Leary’s efforts to preserve Winter Park while also recognizing areas that need improvement have given residents a much-needed balance in public policy. Under Leary, Winter Park has started to be less closed off than under previous administrations to new ideas, with Mayor Leary leading that charge on almost every front.

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy: It boggles the mind to see what Central Floridians would find Mrs. Murphy to be “Best Of”. Best flip-flopper? Best Winter Park elitist? The Congresswoman had an infamous meltdown at Interlachen Country Club over a “ghetto playground, held a ritzy DC steak fundraiser during the Hurricane Irma state of emergency in 2017 (Steakhouse Stephanie), and has little or no legislative accomplishments. She votes with Pelosi when it suits her and sometimes sides with Trump when Democratic leadership gives her the okay.. since she does represent a Republican-leaning district. Her campaign email blasts read like a wet dream from Michael Moore or any number of #Resist members of the Alt-Left, while she attempts to maintain a veneer of bipartisanship to the masses. At least you know where firebrands like Alan Grayson or Matt Gaetz stand in Congress. Murphy flips and flops, floating in whichever direction she thinks improves her re-election chances.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs: Mayor Jacobs was supposed to run for Congress and take back the seat from Democrat Stephanie Murphy. Then she was supposed to run for Chief Financial Officer. Now, as she is term-limited and forbidden from seeking another term as Mayor of Orange County, she wants to be Orange County’s next School Board Chair. She might be popular among some, but when is enough enough? She has left her mark on Central Florida and people on both sides of the aisle want fewer career politicians and more fresh blood in elected office.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer: People often joke that Buddy Dyer is the “best Republican mayor we have ever had.” They aren’t wrong. While Buddy is firmly progressive on social issues, he might as well be called “Buddy the Builder” for his push to gentrify minority areas, build billion dollar sports stadium, prop up pricey high-rises on whatever plots of land are left in Downtown, and cozy up to the right-leaning Chamber of Commerce crowds. He’s the first voice you hear when you arrive and depart the City Beautiful at Orlando International Airport. Dyer has his warts as we all do, but we already know he is a popular figure. Maybe someone new should win this year, maybe not.

State House Candidate Anna Eskamani: No first-time candidate in the whole state of Florida has been able to put together the type of campaign for the legislature that Eskamani has. She has dozens of energized volunteers and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. The national press, statewide, local… all fawning over her passion and radical progressive message. Like Carlos Smith, there is little I like about her politics… but she is a workhorse and the most politically aggressive female candidate I’ve ever seen run for office.

Commissioner Patty Sheehan: She has been on the Orlando City Commission for quite some time and is likely the most consistent advocate for LGBT people in Orlando. It’s hard for me to point to specific accomplishments of Sheehan’s on the City Commission. I do know that she is a woman about town who is very connected to the people of her district, past that not much.

There it is. Remember, these are simply my thoughts on who the finalists are for Orlando Weekly’s “Best Of” Orlando awards of 2018. I find it interesting that so many Republicans, including Seminole County’s Joel Greenberg, made the final cut… what a coup that would be if a Millennial Republican was crowned “Best Local Politician.”

Blue wave? Red wall? Or just plain popularity contest? We shall see! Vote by clicking here.

**Orlando Weekly wants a clean votes folks, so in case they are reading this and think that we are trying to stuff ballots like a crooked Chicago ballot broker on behalf of anyone mentioned in this article… we aren’t.**


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, Fox News, and Australia’s New Dawn Magazine. 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.