U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster (left) and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings

Demings easily wins 2nd term as OC mayor, while Webster thwarts ‘ultra-MAGA’ challenge to 11th Congressional District

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By
Dibya Sarkar

Managing Editor

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

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U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster (left) and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings

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There were few surprises in the Aug. 23 primaries for our coverage area. Republican U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster won his primary although the race was closer than expected, while Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings easily won re-election to a second term despite negative coverage over a sales-tax increase opposed by his challengers. Only incumbent Travaris McCurdy was unseated in state House District 41.

However, the Orlando Sentinel reported low voter turnout across Central Florida, with less 25 percent of eligible voters casting ballots. Among counties, Orange County reported the lowest turnout, less than 22 percent of those registered, which was about 3 percentage points lower than during the 2018 primary.

Below are the winners and losers in our coverage area:


Congressional District 11


In the 11th Congressional District, incumbent Daniel Webster, who has been a member of the U.S. House since 2011, fended off a challenge from far-right activist Laura Loomer, essentially guaranteeing him another term in Congress in the heavily Republican district. The redrawn Congressional District 11 includes Winter Garden, Ocoee, Oakland and Windermere in Orange County as well as areas in Lake, Citrus, Sumter, Hernando, Polk, and Marion counties.


The 73-year-old Webster will face Democrat Shante Munns and independent Kevin Porter in the Nov. 8 election. Munns did not face a primary challenge.


Webster of Clermont garnered 51.1 percent of the vote against Loomer’s 44.2 percent. A third candidate, moderate Republican Gavriel Soriano, got 4.8 percent.

Loomer, 29, Tuesday night said she wasn’t conceding, describing Webster a “RINO,” which stands for Republican in name only, and “do-nothing Webster.” She also said the Republican Party is “broken to its core.” She added, “What we have done tonight has really honestly shocked the nation. We have further exposed the corruption within our own feckless, cowardly Republican Party.”

Axios suggested in its morning newsletter that the race was among a handful in which “ultra-MAGA” candidates like Loomer “fell short in their primary bids – due in large part to not having former President Trump's endorsement.” And, like Loomer, several of the Trump “diehards” last night refused to concede.


Orange County Mayor


Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings easily won re-election in the non-partisan race, despite controversy over his push for a penny-per-dollar sales-tax increase to raise money for transportation projects. By winning 59.4 percent of the vote, Demings fended off a run-off election in November.

Demings, 63, defeated Chris Messina, who received 22.1 percent of the vote, Tony Sabb with 9.3 percent and Kelly Semrad with 9.2 percent. In 2018, Demings, the county’s first Black mayor, was elected with more than 61 percent of the vote.

Demings’ wife, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, also won the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat, getting 84.2 percent of the vote. Her opponents included Brian Rush with 6.3 percent, William Sanchez with 5.6 percent and Ricardo De La Fuente with 3.8 percent.


Florida Senate District 15

In the state Senate District 15, Rep. Geraldine Thompson defeated her Democratic colleague Rep. Kamia Brown, meaning that Thompson returns to the state Senate since there are no Republicans or other candidates filed to run in the area, which includes Oakland, Ocoee and Winter Garden. All voters who lived within the district were eligible to cast a ballot in the primary.


Thompson, 73, who has served five terms in the House and once occupied the same Senate seat, received 53.1 percent of the vote to Brown’s 46.9. (State Sen. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee vacated the seat to run for the 10th Congressional District. He came in second in that race, getting 24.7 percent of the vote to the winner, 25-year-old Maxwell Frost, who will likely become one of the first Gen Z’ers to go to Congress since the district is heavily Democratic.)

Florida House District 39

In the state House District 39, Apopka City Council Commissioner Doug Bankson easily defeated opponents Charles Hart, head of the Orange County Republican Party, and Randy Ross, who was ex-President Trump’s 2016 campaign chair.

Bankson received 53 percent of the vote to Hart’s 30.2 percent and Ross’ 16.8 percent. Bankson will face Democrat Tiffany Hughes, who did not have a primary challenge. The district includes parts of Winter Garden, Ocoee, Apopka and southwestern Seminole County. The voter base is “pretty evenly split between Democrats and Republicans” during the last two general elections, explained Florida Politics, meaning the race is expected to be competitive.

Florida House District 40

In her first run for elective office, LaVon Bracy Davis, sister of state Sen. Randolph Bracy, easily defeated her opponent Melissa Myers in the state House District 40 race. The district covers Ocoee, Pine Hills, Clarcona and College Park. Bracy Davis will now take on Republican Nate Robertson, who ran unopposed, in the Nov. 8 general election.

Bracy Davis won 63.6 percent of the vote to Myers’ 36.4 percent.

Florida House District 41


In what turned out to be a close state House District 41 race, Bruce Antone, who was a former longtime House representative before leaving due to term limits, eked out a win against incumbent Travaris McCurdy, who succeeded Antone in 2020. District 41 includes a sliver of Ocoee as well as the neighborhoods of Parramore, Orlo Vista, Oak Ridge and Washington Shores, a largely African-American, mostly working-class community.


Antone received 29.5 percent of the vote, while McCurdy got 28.6 percent. Other candidates included Shaniqua “Shan” Rose, who got 21.2 percent, and Pam Powell, who received 20.8 percent. Antone will face Green Party candidate Robin Denise Harris in November’s general election.

Florida House District 45

In a crowded Republican primary for state House District 45, Carolina Amesty emerged as the clear nominee, fending off four other candidates for the seat. She will now face Democrat Allie Braswell to represent the district that represents northwestern Osceola county and southwestern Orange County, including Windermere, parts of Winter Garden, Ocoee, Gotha, Dr. Phillips and Walt Disney World.

Amesty, who is executive vice president at Central Christian University in Orlando, received 45.5 percent of the vote, while Bruno Portigliatti got 21.9 percent, Vennia Francois received 16.9 percent, Mike Zhao got 12.1 percent and Janet Frevola got 4.4 percent.

Orange County Commission District 2

In the nonpartisan County Commission District 2 race, incumbent Christine Moore easily reclaimed her seat against challengers Sandra Fatmi-Hall and Christopher Delgado. The newly redrawn District 2 includes all of Ocoee as well as Apopka and the northwest part of the county.

Moore won 57.2 percent of the vote compared with Fatmi-Hall’s 27.1 percent and Delgado’s 15.7 percent. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the 61-year-old Moore, who is the commission’s most conservative member, opposed a proposed rent cap increase for a year and “survived” an ad blitz with campaign mailers that dubbed her “Christine ‘You Pay’ Moore,” funded by a Miami-based group identified as a social justice political action committee in organizational documents.

Orange County School Board Chair


In the race for the county’s school board chair, incumbent Teresa Jacobs, who is a former mayor of Orlando, easily thwarted her two challengers, winning a second four-year term with 69 percent of the vote. Both challengers Demensio Barton, who garnered 16 percent, and Carl Brewer Jr., who received 15 percent, espoused more conservative views, aligning themselves with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ views on education.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Jacobs sought more money for employees, supported expansion of mental health services for students, among other projects. She also expressed gratitude for voters who supported a special tax for Orange County Public Schools that was facing a $177 million budget shortfall next year without it.