Candidate, Orange County mayor
Retired colonel, U.S. Army 1983-2008
East Stroudsburg University
U.S. Army Jump Master (Airborne) Course
U.S. Army Ranger Course
Retired Army Col. Tony Sabb is one of three challengers — along with fellow Republican Chris Messina and Democrat Kelly Semrad — taking on incumbent Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings in this nonpartisan race. Unlike closed primary races, Democrats, Republicans and Independents can all vote in nonpartisan races in the Aug. 23 primary. The candidate with more than 50 percent of the vote will be mayor. If no candidate wins a majority in the primary, the top two will face off in a run-off election in the Nov. 8 general election.
One of the key issues shaping the mayoral race is a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund Mayor Demings’s transportation plan to fix county roads, Sunrail and Lynx buses. Voters will have an opportunity to vote yea or nay on the increase in November.
When Sabb talked with VoxPopuli at the West Orange Chamber of Commerce Hob Nob in Ocoee, July 28, he described the Demings transportation plan as “regressive,” adding that with high inflation rates, it wasn’t the time to raise taxes. “We have so many other options on the table we could explore,” he said, pointing to electric buses and self-driving cars as possible solutions. “If we take another look at how we move people around this county and look at it from a perspective other than rail, I believe we can solve this problem without further hard-shipping our residents. We do not need a 1-percent tax.”
Education is another pillar of Sabb’s campaign. He’s a strong proponent of school voucher programs because “I don’t believe lower income families are being given a fair shot.” Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, he said his parents couldn’t afford to send him to good schools and he was “stuck with [the public school] in the neighborhood.”
“I have nothing against public school systems, but everyone needs to compete,” he continued. “Open it up with vouchers. We don’t shut down public school systems, but we make them compete with every private school system that’s out there.”
Sabb also said that he supports ensuring that books that are challenged in school libraries go through the proper procedures to prevent them from being indiscriminately removed from the shelves. Orange County Public Schools Board has been criticized for labeling books by LGBTQ+ and BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) authors as pornography and preemptively removing them without going through the formal challenge and review process.
"If it’s not going through the proper channels, then how do we know that what they’re pulling out of the school is appropriately restricted from the student,” Sabb said to VoxPopuli.
If elected, Sabb pledged not to institute vaccine or mask mandates. He also plans to fix the housing shortage crisis by refurbishing rundown buildings under county control to create housing stock for young families to buy. He also favors a temporary rent moratorium “until we can figure out a plan for how we can get some relief to these residents.”
He told conservative, Christian-based organization Red America First that he agreed with Gov. Ron DeSantis’s dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which will occur in June 2023. “When they [Walt Disney Company] got involved with politics, and it was adverse to the governor’s politics, and it was ‘woke,’ and they started making opinions on how parents were going to raise their kids and other aspects of how they wanted the state to be governed, at that point, Reedy Creek is no longer something Gov. DeSantis has to put up with and he immediately abolished it,” he said.
A highly decorated Army veteran with two Bronze Stars and three Air Medals, among other commendations, Sabb served in the 101st Airborne and 82nd Airborne as a helicopter pilot and commander. Since leaving the Army, he’s worked in military-adjacent fields, in communications, as a defense contractor and a trainer for the Saudi Arabian National Guard and Afghan National Army Commandos.
Interestingly, Sabb told Red America First that the “catalyst” for his entering the mayoral race was watching the “13 innocent young men and women, those soldiers, airmen, and Marines that were killed and also people hanging off the landing gear of a C-17 trying to get out of Kabul International. I knew at that point, that’s not who we are.” Sabb entertained questions from the YouTube audience about national policy and foreign policy issues like the requirement that military personnel be vaccinated against Covid-19, Ukraine, the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, the Iran Nuclear Deal — a possible indicator that should he win, the mayor’s chair is merely a stepping stone on the way to higher office.
He told Red America First that the country was going in the wrong direction and that “we seem to have lost all of our institutions to a force that is not of our Constitution and a people that are not of our Constitution.”
He added, “I didn’t spend 25 years in the military for us to go down like this. It’s not going to happen like this. We’re going to fight back. We’re going to get our country back.”