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Democratic candidates stump at The Pizza Press in Horizon West

June 6, 2024 at 10:58:57 PM

Norine Dworkin

Editor in Chief

Democratic candidates Jake Petroski (L), Melissa Vickers, Barbie Harden Hall, Wes Hodge, Leonard Spencer make their pitches to voters June 4, 2024 at The Pizza Press in Horizon West.

Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

Several Democratic candidates running in the August primaries turned out Tuesday for the meet-n-greet at The Pizza Press to welcome Amazon executive Leonard K. Spencer to the team as the candidate for House District 45. While they were out on the patio, some of the candidates did some stumping for their own races. Here's what they had to say.

Barbie Harden Hall

Democratic nominee for Congress, District 11

She will face the winner of the Republican primary in the Nov. 5 election.  

After the [Trump] verdict last week, Anthony Sabatini decided to post, “I'm running for Congress to imprison as many Democrats as possible. Vote for me if you believe Democrats are the enemy and must be jailed and removed from public life.” 

So I'm up against Daniel Webster — who is so anti-woman, not only does he not believe in any type of abortion here, he is anti-IVF, anti-birth control, believes that vasectomies and tubal ligation should be reversed because you should have as many children as your body allows — and Anthony Sabatini. He's running on the fact that he wants Democrats to be jailed.  

“…we need to protect our freedom, protect our future and make sure that we have somebody who is not out of their mind representing this district in Congress, and I'm not scared to say it because, to me, if you're literally posting and backing up that you want to jail anybody that doesn't believe in the things that you do, that's not what our country is about.” 

When VoxPopuli asked Sabatini about that tweet, he said it was “ironic.” He later posted another tweet to clarify his earlier tweet, which said it was what “Democrats who arrested & prosecuted Trump 4x (and many other Republicans) ran on —replace Democrats with Trump/Republicans and that was their message...” 

Harden Hall responded in a Thursday Facebook message, “Anthony Sabatini’s comments are far from irony and should not be taken lightly by Democrats or anyone that does not share his political views. Every person should consider his years of extremist comments—that too frequently cross the line into hate, incitement, and fascism—to see that his words reflect his beliefs and intentions. Myself and other Americans who value our rights and freedom would never disregard or take lightly the democratic foundations of our Country (sic). We will continue to defend and protect what so many have fought and died to maintain for nearly 250 years —and will never view those most important values as ironic."

Melissa Vickers

Candidate for Orange/Osceola Counties Public Defender

Longtime Public Defender Robert Wesley is not seeking re-election and so this is the first time this seat is open and on the ballot in 23 years. Vickers, the former chief assistant public defender now in private practice, faces fellow Democrat Lenora Easter in the Aug. 20 primary. The winner will become the Public Defender.    

I am the one every day standing in court next to somebody defending their rights. For homeless people, who get arrested for being homeless. For women who are going to seek abortions and get arrested, I’m standing next to them defending their rights and their freedom. This is a very important office that has not been on the ballot in 23 years because the incumbent has been there for the last 23 years. … It is my heart. It is my career love. 

Jake Petroski

Candidate for Orange County School Board, District 4

He faces fellow educator Anne Douglas and customer service manager Kyle Goudy in the Aug. 20 primary. This is a nonpartisan race, and the winner gets the school board seat. 

“We need to keep extremism off the board. … Our teachers are so important. They’re the authors of every great success story that OCPS has one way or the other. I’m a former teacher myself — years of classroom experience. I have two amazing daughters in the OCPS school system right now, so I understand the frustrations, but I also understand the opportunities. I’m optimistic. We have great opportunities in our schools right now to really excel and give the communities the schools they deserve.” 

Wes Hodge

Candidate for Supervisor of Elections

He will face two other Democrats in the Aug. 20 primary. The winner will face independent Cynthia Harris in the general election Nov. 5. 

Right now there is a party that is trying to undermine our election system, and we need someone with the experience and integrity to stand up and say, "No, voting in Orange County is safe and it’s secure and your vote counts."

I want to bring in an early voting appointment system here, similar to the tax collector's office. You want to vote, you make an appointment and you show up. No matter how long that line is, you go to the front. Palm Beach County is already doing this, so I know that it’s legal. It’s a way to get more people involved in our process. I hope when we have more people involved, we have more representatives that better reflect us. 

One of my other things is, we already have the technology for voters with disabilities — it’s a touch screen system. We can use that for language access. While we do English and Spanish, we do not cater to our Haitian/Creole community. We do not cater to our Portuguese community or our Vietnamese community. And those are the top five languages spoken in Orange County. We can use those machines to offer ballots in native languages, so, again, we can get more people involved. 

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