Anne Mooney & Janet Hommel
In Winter Park’s first run-off election, voters sent incumbent Pete Weldon packing and handed Todd Weaver a comfortable 285-vote victory — a margin of 4.6 percent.
High Turn-out Despite Rain
Typically, run-off elections draw fewer voters, but voter enthusiasm generated by this runoff was high. Vote-by-Mail was greater than normal. As the last ballot was counted, more than 700 additional voters had cast ballots in the runoff. That’s an increase of 13 percent over the vote in the March 12 general election.
Did Republican Electioneering Steer Voters to the Polls?
The Winter Park City Charter mandates that Commission races be non-partisan, but since 2012, the Orange County Republican Executive Committee (OCREC) has ignored the Charter and played an active role in Winter Park elections. Here is one example of an OCREC mailer sent on the eve of the April 9 runoff.
Republican voters were subjected to a barrage of OCREC-sponsored mailers, emails and robo-calls. Weldon won big in the heavily Republican Precinct 1, where voter turnout was up 15 percent. OCREC electioneering seemed to have less impact elsewhere, however, and Weaver easily carried the other four precincts.
The Chandler Effect and Lee Road
Weaver also appears to have benefited from the endorsement of former candidate Barbara Chandler. Almost half of Ms. Chandler’s votes in the March 12 general election came from Precinct 4, which includes both the traditional West Side neighborhood and the Lee Road corridor. Weaver targeted the Lee Road neighborhoods with a message about controlling traffic and development and had his best results in Precinct 4.
Did the Run-Off Deliver a Message about the Canopy Project?
High voter turn-out and a clear win for Weaver may make the City sit up and take notice. The main plank in Weaver’s platform was that the Canopy Project has gone astray. He pointed out that the project – particularly the events center — is over budget and not delivering what the voters were promised – a bigger library. Weaver suggested we hit the pause button and re-evaluate the project in light of current cost projections and City leaders’ plans to use the Canopy events center to attract tourist dollars.