By Greg Jackson, Esq.
Quietly, the Orange County District 2 Commission race is starting to heat up. On second thought, maybe saying it is "heating up" is a bit too much conjecture on my part. From the numerous calls I am receiving, although I cannot tell you what the ﬁnal slate of candidates will look like at qualiﬁcation time, I have surmised a few certainties. First off, I need to put to bed one horrible rumor; that being my immediate political ambitions. To be clear, I have no interest in running for public ofﬁce in 2018. As the recently elected Chairman of the Orange County Board of Zoning Adjustment, as well as my work through FEC to address issues with CRA's across the state and much more, I am plenty busy. Also, with my youngest child entering high school with plans to row for an Ivy-League school, I am focused on her success. So as New Edition once said "You'll have to count me out this time."
However, one lonely soul, Patricia Rumph, has ﬁled to run for the seat so far. Judging from her ﬁnancial reports, she is not a very strong candidate and has only raised $2,716.00, which includes a $100.00 loan to herself, since she entered the race in 2016. Rumph's list of contributors, 28 in total, includes two ODEC committee members, three people with the last name Rumph, 13 people outside of the district, a few Jones High School Alumni and at least four people who said they are planning to contribute to other candidates that get into the race. One thing for certain is that there are no heavy-hitters on Rumph's list. Also, Rumph has not done any work in the Apopka-area, so it is not surprising that no one knows her even though she is the only person in the race.
Next, a preacher, whose church has been displaced no less than ﬁve times in the last two years, has relocated his congregation to Apopka High School and is threatening to run for the District 2 seat. While the preacher has a slightly better chance than Rumph, he is equally weak in terms of experience and qualiﬁcations. Although it sounded imposing and important when then presidential candidate Barack Obama declared himself a "community organizer", when a potential county commission candidate with no political savvy says that, it sounds like something a person would say with no experience when asked about their lack of experience. Interestingly, both Rumph and the preacher will rely on their ties to Jones High School and the Pine Hills community to garner support, which will effectively split those votes. But, neither will be able to get the support needed from Ocoee or Apopka to really be competitive.
Additionally, the name of a former Disney Executive who also led a Central Florida organization has come into play. While he will deﬁnitely display the executive and administrative abilities to be highly competitive for the Orange County District 2 seat, the real question is whether or not he will want to endure the riggers of a campaign, which could potentially dig into the past that led to his quick exit from the state-wide race in 2014.
Lastly, there is a "dark horse" preparing to jump in the race and it is my initial assessment that this will be the person to beat. With the votes being split at least three-ways in Pine Hills by the three aforementioned persons, all of whom are African-American, this individual could quite possibly win the seat almost as easily as Commissioner Bryan Nelson did in 2014. If you recall, Commissioner Nelson nearly received 50% of the votes during the 2014 Primary Election with ﬁve African-Americans in that race. The "dark horse" candidate I am referring to has strong political ties to West Orange County, exceptional experience, has won several elections in the
area and can carry the votes in the places that matter, i.e., Apopka, Ocoee, College Park, Lockhart and quite possibly Eatonville.
While I recognize that anything can happen with elections, judging from elections over the past 20+ years for the Orange County District 2 seat, it cannot be ignored that whoever wins Apopka, wins the seat. As 2018 approaches and more folks jump into the race for Orange County District 2, I will give my honest assessments of each candidate, naming them as they ﬁle to enter the race. The future of District 2 is too important to leave it to chance that voters will get the information necessary to make informed decisions. Like it or not, I will stand ready to provide my assessments of each candidate in the District 2 race; and rest assured that I will do all of this -- in my humble opinion.
Greg Jackson is a past Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.