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Amazon exec makes first appearance as House 45 candidate

June 6, 2024 at 8:31:47 PM

Norine Dworkin

Editor in Chief

Leonard Spencer, on June 4, 2024, in his first public outing as the Democratic candidate for House District 45, says he's running "to solve issues that are gonna make our lives better right here."

Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

On a breezy Tuesday evening, Leonard K. Spencer, self-described “recovering finance guy” in a charcoal suit, white shirt, no tie, was on the patio at The Pizza Press in Horizon West, shaking hands and chatting with folks who had come to meet the candidate that the Orange County Democratic Party had hand picked to challenge incumbent Republican State Rep. Carolina Amesty in House District 45 in November. 

Addressing the crowd, Samuel Vilchez Santiago, chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, acknowledged that it had been a long, tough search for the District 45 candidate. There had been billboard ads seeking candidates. False starts. A white-knuckled wait. “Many of you got calls,” he said.

Democrats now have candidates running in every race. And they believe District 45 is ripe for taking. Amesty has found herself the subject of several Orlando Sentinel investigations into the unaccredited university her family runs and nonpayment of taxes and other bills; attempting to swing a $3 million payment to the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Wellington for stormwater-sensing technology in Key Biscayne that no one in that town had requested (or knew about); and notarizing a document for her school to receive a state license that a teacher said he never signed and misrepresenting her school's faculty and credentials.

Vilchez Santiago told VoxPopuli that Spencer had been carefully vetted (“squeaky clean,” he said), and unlike during the 2022 midterms when Democratic candidate Allie Braswell got little help from the Florida Democratic Party to compete with Amesty’s fundraising juggernaut, Spencer will have party support. 

“We will be investing to flip House District 45,” Vilchez Santiago told VoxPopuli. 

The Pizza Press meet-n-greet was Spencer’s first public outing as a candidate as he steps into this marquee race from the private sector. He’s worked for Fortune 500 companies, including The Walt Disney Co. and GE. Currently, he’s at Amazon as senior manager of supplier engagement.

Introduced by State Rep. Rita Harris, running for re-election herself in District 44, Spencer spoke for about eight minutes, and shared that he's a native Floridian (born in Jacksonville, raised in Alabama), the son of a Navy veteran and that he and his family have lived in the district since 2005.

He’s running, he said, because “everybody wants someone who's going to be a representative for them, who's going to work for them and who's going to solve big problems that they see every day.”

Spencer immediately listed property insurance and women’s health as critical issues.

“Insurance rates are rising," he said. "Big issues around a woman's right to make their own health care choices. This isn't something that should be decided by legislatures in Tallahassee. This is something that should be between you and your doctor. For families who want to have children, they want access to IVF, right? That shouldn't be something that's decided outside of the folks who matter, right? 

“We need somebody in Tallahassee who's going to represent and talk to folks and solve issues that are gonna make our lives better right here. And that's what I vow to do.”

Spencer noted that he was “passionate about education” and said his two daughters had attended West Orange High School, “and they’ve gone on to do some pretty good things with their lives.” 

And he offered a peek into his economic goals, honed from years in supply and procurement. 

“How do we make sure that we create opportunities and align opportunities for small businesses? Oftentimes those businesses are owned by folks who have been historically disenfranchised and not been allowed to participate. What I know is that through my experience when you create opportunities for everyone to participate in the economic ecosystem of our great nation, we can grow our economy, we can lift people out of poverty, and we can create the communities that we all want to live in and raise our families in.”

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