Big money flows into Winter Park elections

Big money flows into Winter Park elections

Big money flows into Winter Park elections

The three-way race for Seat 2 on the City Commission is also proving a tight financial contest

Feb. 28, 2024

By Beth Kassab

Money is flowing into Winter Park elections, with five candidates for two open seats raising a combined $200,000 so far, and about half of that still on hand to spend before the March 19 election.

The biggest money is pouring into the three-way race for Seat 2 on the City Commission.

Craig Russell, a teacher and coach at Winter Park High School and first-time candidate, raised $49,128, according to the most recent reports filed with the city clerk last week. That figure was enough to overtake the $41,952 raised by Jason Johnson, an attorney and also a first-time candidate, who was the early money leader in the race.

The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce announced earlier this month that it would endorse Russell and his contribution records show a $1,000 check from the chamber’s political action committee as well as donations from other business leaders associated with the chamber.

Notably, at least $8,000 in contributions are from businesses owned by or associated with the Holler family, which owns car dealerships and Winter Park real estate. Individual checks are logged from Holler Honda, Holler Hyundai, Holler Driver’s Mart, Classic Mazda and Audi among others, according to the reports.

Frank Hamner, an attorney for the Hollers, gave two separate checks of $1,000 a piece on Jan. 16 and Feb. 16, both marked as individual contributions. Hamner said in an email message that one of those contributions was “misclassified” on the report and was actually from his law firm rather than a personal check. Each individual and business is limited to $1,000 maximum per cycle.

Strong Persuader Arms, a gun store on Wymore Road owned by Hamner, also contributed $1,000 on Feb. 16.

The combined total donations related to Hamner and the Hollers adds up to $11,000 or more than 20% of Russell’s total contributions.

The Holler family or corporations affiliated with the family own prominent land along Orange, Fairbanks and Park avenues that could one day be redeveloped. The family also was at one time involved in a lawsuit against the city of Winter Park, arguing that commissioners improperly overturned the original Orange Avenue Overlay zoning rules.

Hamner said the Hollers’ support of Russell evolved because they know him as a leader in the community from his work at the high school and his nonprofit Army of Angels.

“The property they own and plans for that property have zero to do with supporting Coach Russell,” he said, noting that Russell is “a great leader” and an “impressive young man.”

Russell told the Voice, “I am no more beholden to developers than I am to the other citizens of Winter Park, including our police, firemen, nurses, young professionals and others who can’t enjoy Winter Park because there’s nowhere for them to live.”

At a candidate forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, he said he was open to the idea of revisiting the original overlay plans.

At that same forum, Johnson said he was not interested in revisiting the OAO.

A mix of well-known names contributed to Johnson, including Full Sail University CEO Ed Haddock and his wife Edye, who each gave $1,000; a $1,000 from former Winter Park Mayor David Strong; $1,000 from former gubernatorial candidate Chris King and $1,000 from former U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson.

Noting that his opponents have surpassed him in fundraising, Johnson said he doesn’t believe the race will be decided on money alone. He said he’s been focusing on talking with as many voters as he can in individual and small group meetings.

He is the only candidate who lists detailed expenses for coffee with voters or stakeholders such as Police Chief Tim Volkerson and former Mayor Terry Hotard and sponsoring a golf tournament for Dommerich Elementary.

“I’m not trying to win the battle of the mailers,” Johnson said. “Getting in front of people and talking to voters is really, in my opinion, where this race is won.”

Mailers appear to be a key strategy for Stockton Reeves, who has sent at least eight to voters homes so far.

Reeves, the executive director for the Center for Public Safety who also ran for a Florida House seat, has brought the most money into his campaign account with more than $69,000 so far. But the bulk of that total — $53,000 — is in the form of loans from himself to his campaign. That means he’s raised just $16,000 from other contributors.

He received $250 from David Albertson, a former citrus grower and real estate investor who was one of the original founders of the Orlando Magic and $250 from Mike Clelland, an attorney and former Democratic member of the Florida House among others.

Reeves declined to answer questions about his mailers or fundraising because, “I will be giving away our strategy for the final few weeks of the campaign.”

With less than three weeks until Election Day on March 19, vote-by-mail has already started and early voting at select locations will begin on March 4 and run through March 17.

Sheila DeCiccio, who is leaving Seat 2 to run for mayor, is the clear money frontrunner in her race. She has picked up nearly $40,000 in contributions and spent more than $25,000 so far, according to reports.

Her contributors include $1,000 from King, the former gubernatorial candidate, Strong, the former mayor, and Alan Keen, an attorney and developer.

Michael Cameron, who is running against DeCiccio and owns a real estate school, has raised $4,971 and has spent nearly all of that on a political consultant called Panoplia Consulting Group started in 2022 by former Republican state house candidate Jeremy Sisson.

Panoplia’s web site describes itself as a firm that “exclusively serves Kingdom-focused candidates who are called to serve their communities in a civic capacity.”

The site calls on candidates to “put on the full armor of God” and says, “We equip our clients with the armor and weapons necessary to do battle in the political arena.”

Cameron, who has not appeared at any public forums and also skipped a private forum at the Mayflower senior living community, did not respond to questions from the Voice.

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Seat 2 campaigns intensify over development, public safety claims

Seat 2 campaigns intensify over development, public safety claims

Seat 2 campaigns intensify over development, public safety claims

The three-way race appears focused on one of Winter Park’s most asked questions: How will growth look in the future?

Feb. 22, 2024

By Beth Kassab

Election mailers and the accusations that come along with them are flying in Winter Park as three candidates compete for the seat on the City Commission vacated by Sheila DeCiccio, who is running for mayor.

The issue taking the most attention? Growth and development — Winter Park’s perennial dog fight.

At stake is how Orange and Fairbanks avenues as well as U.S. 17-92 look over time as major property owners begin to redevelop their land along with continuing redevelopment across the city’s western neighborhoods.

The person who is elected to the open seat will likely have significant influence over those projects and two of the candidates, Jason Johnson and Craig Russell, are clearly differentiating themselves on the matter. A third candidate, Stockton Reeves, appears to be focusing on taxes and inflation as well as claims about public safety.

A mailer to residents from the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce’s Political Action Committee somewhat crystalizes what is emerging as a defining issue in the race: Whether development codes should be more lenient.

“Did you know?” the mailer asks is large type. “Park Avenue would be prohibited from being built today under current city code.”

The mailer goes on to say that the code “blocks Winter Park’s iconic charm from enhancing other parts of the city.”

The chamber endorsed Russell, a teacher and coach at Winter Park High School, who was the only candidate at the chamber election forum who said he was open to revisiting the original Orange Avenue Overlay rules that allow for taller buildings and higher density. Those rules were overturned by the City Commission in 2020 and the city won a lawsuit filed by major property holders over that decision.

Russell is also the only candidate who said he was open to the chamber’s proposal to do away with the city’s parking codes that require developers provide a certain number of spaces based on the type of development.

“Current codes limit commercial land owners from creating new mixed use venues of a similar size and aesthetic to Park Avenue because of the onerous and outdated parking requirements,” Betsy Gardner, chamber president and CEO, said in a statement. “Small concessions have been made over time for tenants in the Central Business District, but any new development in the city faces parking mandates that leave businesses overparked, creating empty lots, visual blight and a less walkable and more car-centric environment.”

Russell, who did not respond to a request for comment, has said at previous public forums that he would “listen to the experts” for guidance on growth and development issues. One recent mailer from Russell’s own campaign said he wants to “promote smart growth, opposing irresponsible high-density developments.”

Johnson, who opposes tossing out parking codes and emphatically said he did not agree with returning to the original OAO rules, questioned whether Russell would speak for residents or business interests when it comes to new development.

“The comment about ‘listening to the experts’ is a deflection and a way of saying if an expert comes in on behalf of a developer and says something, we should just listen to that rather than what the residents think,” he said.

Johnson, an attorney who has made maintaining Winter Park’s charm a central element of his campaign, sent out an email to voters this week that emphasized, “I am NOT endorsed by the Winter Park Chamber’s PAC, which endorsed a candidate who supports development of large out-of-scale buildings near Park Avenue, and doing away with parking requirements for future commercial developments.”

Reeves, who did not show up at the public candidate forums, has sent at least eight mailers to voters so far — the most of the three candidates.

One of his pieces exclaims “higher prices and inflation aren’t the only things out of control” and says “our property taxes are going up too!” He accused the commission of increasing taxes by 7% in 2022 and nearly 9% in 2023.

His claims are based on the idea that commissioners could have adopted the “rollback rate” or lowered the city’s milage rate to collect the same tax revenue as was collected the prior year.

Instead, commissioners kept the tax rate the same, but collected more taxes because property values have increased. That means each property owner paid a higher assessment based on their increased value.

During budget meetings last year, commissioners noted the need to increase police and fire budgets as inflation and other factors, have driven up wages and equipment costs.  Police and fire make up the largest portion of the city’s general fund expenses followed by parks and public works.

In a separate mailer, Reeves asks “Quick question – How many ambulances does Winter Park have for over 30,000 resident?”

“It is shocking to me that we only have 2 full-time ambulances,” the piece stated.

City officials said a third ambulance is already being staffed part-time and that is set to increase over the coming year.

“Winter Park Fire Department uses the ‘right-sized’ approach, which has proven world-class and credible as WPFD is five-times fire accredited and four-times EMS accredited,” said a statement from the department. “We have already phased in a third rescue/ambulance at Station 64 during select periods.  This will continue with the adoption of the [2025] budget, which already includes the hiring of additional personnel.”

Reeves told the Voice that staffing the third ambulance should happen sooner, “I am not satisfied with this and believe it should be staffed full time.”

But considering Reeves also says he supports adopting a rollback tax rate and wants to collect less revenue for the city, it’s unclear where he would find the money to continue to keep up with the costs of public safety.

He did not respond to a question from the Voice seeking details of his plan.

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Candidates offer views on parking and development at Chamber forum

Candidates offer views on parking and development at Chamber forum

Candidates offer views on parking and development at Chamber forum

Two candidates failed to show (again) to face voters

Feb. 7, 2024

By Beth Kassab

Mayoral candidate Sheila DeCiccio and Commission Seat 2 candidates Jason Johnson and Craig Russell met Wednesday afternoon at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce to answer questions that largely centered on future development. (You can watch a recording of the debate here.)

Michael Cameron, a candidate for mayor, and Stockton Reeves, a candidate for Seat 2, declined to attend. Both also failed to show up for public forums for their races at the Winter Park Library.

Reeves told the Voice this week he does plan to attend forums at the Mayflower and Westminster senior residential complexes, but those are not open to the public. Turnout among senior voters is reliably strong and considered crucial in Winter Park elections.

The Chamber forum offered an opportunity for Johnson and Russell, two first-time candidates for the seat vacated by DeCiccio because she is running for mayor, to draw some clear distinctions about what they would bring to the office.

Topics that highlighted those differences included the Orange Avenue Overlay, a special zoning district that was put into place by a previous commission and overturned in 2020 after DeCiccio was elected. The district allowed for taller and denser development along Orange Avenue roughly between Rollins College and U.S. 17-92.

The effort to overturn the OAO became the subject of a contentious lawsuit brought against the city by major property owners Mary Demetree and the Holler Family. The city prevailed in the lawsuit last year.

Forum moderator Fred Kittinger asked the candidates if they had any appetite to revisit the original provisions to help encourage investment along the corridor.

Russell, a teacher and coach at Winter Park High School, was the only candidate who said yes and the only candidate on Thursday whom the Chamber announced it would endorse this year through its political action committee known as Winter Park PAC.

He noted a lot of time and taxpayer money was spent on the original overlay and then a new commission said, “never mind.”

“I’m not OK with that,” Russell said, calling it “careless” to not at least take another look at a “great project.”

Johnson, though, emphatically stated he was not in favor of returning to the original OAO and wondered aloud if the large property owners along the strip were waiting for the makeup of the City Commission to change before moving ahead with redevelopment plans.

“I’m not sure I’m going to be their guy if that’s what they want,” he said.

DeCiccio, who was instrumental in overturning the OAO, said that without that decision Seven Oaks Park — the city’s newest open space under construction at Orange and Denning — would instead be a new tower and pointed out that badly needed road alignment and drainage projects could not have gone forward as they are today. She said she is open to tweaks in zoning along the corridor, but that the vast majority of residents did not want the kind of development the original OAO would have allowed.

Another question that showcased differences in the candidates related to parking. Candidates were asked how they might change the city’s rules about how many parking spaces developers must provide for different types of development — a code some chamber members consider antiquated and wasteful because they say too much land is set aside for parking that goes unused.

Again, only Russell appeared open to the types of changes the Chamber has advocated for, noting that he doesn’t mind “parking and then walking to where I need to go.” He didn’t offer specifics, but suggested the city look to other municipalities and experts for solutions.

Johnson said he would be OK with making some changes to the code, but he noted the challenges residents face finding parking along Park Avenue and other busy areas.

“I’m open to making those tweaks, but I’m not in favor of eviscerating the parking code as it stands,” he said.

DeCiccio added that the city is building parking along with Seven Oaks Park to help merchants on that end of Orange Avenue where parking is scarce.

The moderator also asked candidates what they would do to “generate charm” in the business areas such as Fairbanks Avenue and Lee Road.

DeCiccio pointed out that those roads are controlled by the state and said working with business owners is key to a solution.

Johnson suggested additional trees, wider sidewalks and offering incentives for businesses to redevelop their properties would be part of the answer.

For his part, Russell said, “I just have a problem with the word ‘charm.’ “I’m charming,” he joked. “This city is rich with history and tradition and we need to preserve that.”

Johnson used his closing statement to rebut that sentiment.

“Lots of people I’ve been talking to have asked me what’s the difference between you two?” he said referring to himself and Russell. “Craig, I appreciate anybody who puts his name on a ballot. I certainly appreciate Craig for showing up here tonight. But you heard one of the contrasts between us. Craig doesn’t like the word charm. I embrace it. It is my north star for running in this election. I’m not a politician, I’m just trying to do some public service for a city I love. The whole reason I’m running is to preserve the charm and village feel that we all love about Winter Park.”

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Parking, Orange Avenue Overlay, CRA

Johnson on charm

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Sen. Jason Brodeur files — then immediately withdraws — preemption on leaf blowers

Sen. Jason Brodeur files — then immediately withdraws — preemption on leaf blowers

Sen. Jason Brodeur files -- then immediately withdraws -- preemption on leaf blowers

The amendment would prevent local governments from banning the gas-powered devices

Feb. 6, 2024

By Beth Kassab

Sen. Jason Brodeur launched a stern but fleeting attempt to prohibit cities like Winter Park from banning gas-powered leaf blowers.

In a short exchange during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Community Affairs on Tuesday, Brodeur said Winter Park was the impetus behind the idea, but immediately withdrew the amendment he filed on an unrelated bill. He warned he would “keep the language” and potentially make a harder push to preempt local governments from mandating electric leaf blowers another time.

“I intend to keep working with the city of Winter Park to show them if they keep doing nonsense like this to hurt their small businesses it’s going to be a lot worse later,” he said.

Brodeur, the Republican who represents Winter Park and Maitland along with Seminole County, called the city’s ban on gas-powered leaf blowers “preposterous” and “akin to mandating that you screen in pools.”

(In fact, Florida statutes do require new pools be enclosed, fenced or meet other safety measures to pass a final inspection.)

State legislators have responded to local officials in recent years with an increasing number of preemptions — measures that take control away from from elected city and county leaders.

The idea of “local control” was once the mantra of many Florida Republicans. But that has evolved into cheerleading a heavier-handed state government, particularly when the topics resonate as the ideological battles or culture wars popularized by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Florida Legislature has removed the ability of local governments or school boards to have a say in matters such as setting renewable energy standards, gun ranges, tenants’ rights, affordable housing projects and the books on the shelves at public schools.

Vice Mayor Sheila DeCiccio, who is running for mayor, said during a forum at the Winter Park Library on Thursday that she understood the reason Brodeur pulled the amendment is because of the number of cities in South Florida who “complained bitterly” that they are very satisfied with their bans on gas leaf blowers.

She noted that Winter Park adopted the gas leaf blower ban in 2022, joining cities such as Naples and Bicayne Bay, because of noise complaints during the pandemic. She said city officials believed at the time that waiting 30 months — or until July 1 of this year — to enact the ban was enough time for landscape companies to transition to new equipment.

In addition to regulating noise, the ban takes an incremental but significant step away from the emission-producing devices.

“This decision reflects the city’s dedication to prioritizing environmentally conscious practices as well as its commitment to sustainability, reducing noise and air pollution, and protecting the water quality of its lakes,” according to a recent city press release. “Gas-powered leaf blowers are known for their noise and significant environmental impact, emitting harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. These pollutants contribute to air quality degradation and pose health risks to both residents and the environment.”

In January, commissioners approved a $50 utility bill rebate for any resident who purchased an electric leaf blower. That move sparked debate over the ban, originally passed in 2022 but with a 30-month delay before it begins in July.

Landscape companies complained about the cost of high-grade electric models, the duration of the batteries and the weight of the equipment on workers’ backs.

Mayor Phil Anderson proposed an additional six-month delay of the ban, but commissioners voted 3-2 in a special meeting called on the topic to keep the July 1 start date.

A city web page is now devoted to the reasoning behind the ban as well as this comparison of gas-powered vs. electric leaf blowers.

The city’s comparison shows that the upfront cost of the electric devices and their batteries are far higher than the gas-powered models. But the cost of operating each model per hour is lower for the electric blowers when the cost of electricity vs. gasoline is factored in.

The city says its Parks & Recreation Department has replaced 98% of its leaf blowers with electric models and 100% of its trimmers. It’s also invested in two zero-turn lawn mowers and three utility carts.

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Big money flows into Winter Park elections

Two commission candidates offer views on growth, old library, Rollins apartments and more

Two commission candidates offer views on growth, old library, Rollins apartments and more

Monday’s forum at the Winter Park Library was the first of the election season

Jan. 22, 2024

By Beth Kassab

Commission Seat 2 candidates Jason Johnson and Craig Russell faced off at a forum Monday night at the Winter Park Library, revealing some clear, if subtle, differences in their philosophies on questions such as what to do with the old library building, a proposal for Rollins College faculty apartments and the future of development in Winter Park. (Watch a recording of the event here.)

Stockton Reeves, the third candidate in the race, did not attend the forum. Carol Foglesong, the moderator from the Orange County League of Women Voters, announced Reeves was “caught out of town on his job and was not able get back  … so it’s not that he didn’t show it’s that the job got in the way for tonight.”

Jason Johnson shares a hug with his daughter after the forum.

That raised some confusion, however, because Reeves met in person on Monday with Winter Park residents involved in the Fix 426 effort at an Orlando office. He did not immediately respond to a question from the Voice about whether he was out of town during the forum, though he previously told the Voice he had a work conflict during the event that he was trying to reschedule.

Russell and Johnson, both first-time candidates for public office, showcased their knowledge and experience in the local community.

Both credited their children and families as their biggest accomplishments and appeared to agree on issues like examining how the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, a special downtown tax increment district that the current City Commission is trying to expand, could play a role in providing more affordable housing.

They also agreed that recent increases in pay for police officers have made the department more competitive in hiring.

Neither expressed a firm opinion when asked whether Winter Park should let voters decide whether to adopt single-member districts or carving the city into sections that each elect a representative to the City Commission. Russell, who is Black, nodded to the merits of diversity several times during the forum. Winter Park has not elected a Black commissioner in more than 130 years.

“There isn’t enough data for me to answer,” said Russell, a teacher and coach at Winter Park High who also serves on the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and as a trustee for the Winter Park Library. “If there’s true representation that kind of solves that problem.”

Craig Russell poses with students who came out to support him at the candidate forum.

Johnson, an attorney and current chairman of the city’s Board of Adjustments, said he’s “always in favor of allowing voters to decide” and noted single-member districts have positives and negatives and he would want more information.

While both candidates largely described their future vision of Winter Park as keeping the look and feel of the city much the way it is today, some differences emerged.

On the Rollins College proposal for 48 new apartments aimed at providing attainable housing for faculty closer to campus, Russell signaled a willingness to find a way to make it happen.

“How do we make it work?” Russell asked of the project on New England Avenue that has drawn complaints from neighbors about its density, architecture and potential shortage of parking. “I don’t think the immediate answer is no … Rollins historically has been a good neighbor to us and it’s an opportunity for something we haven’t done here in Winter Park and I’m very open to hear more about it.”

Johnson said he didn’t want to express a firm viewpoint, but seemed more skeptical.

“I do think there is a need for housing for faculty and staff in the city, so I understand why Rollins wants to do it,” he said. “But I also understand some of the residential concerns.”

On the matter of the old library building, which continues to pose a conundrum for city officials since the City Commission recently rejected a second round of proposals that came in to redevelop the parcel, Johnson said he opposed selling the land. A sale has been brought up multiple times to raise revenue for other projects.

A packed crowd listens to candidates for Commission Seat 2 at the Winter Park Library.

He said a sale is on the “bottom of my list of priorities,” because “it’s a gateway and it’s too valuable of an asset to sell off for a few dollars today. I wouldn’t’ support that right now.”

Later in the forum, Johnson brought up one idea that’s been discussed, which is to turn the land into a small park space.

Russell said he would “have to lean on a bunch of contacts that I have to learn more about that situation” and expressed concern about the building falling into disrepair.

When it comes to a general growth philosophy, Johnson appeared to express a bit more skepticism there, too.

“I think there’s a certain segment that would have you believe we need greater balance between residential and commercial tax bases,” he said. “I don’t know that I share that belief. I want to protect our neighborhoods from commercial encroachment, but I do think there are ways we can improve both the neighborhoods and the commercial vitality. We need to make sure our infrastructure is better improved and maintained.”

Russell said he wanted to talk to experts about the possibility of growth.

“We have to be able to open to listen to the possibility of growth,” he said. “We have to be open to listen to the experts who can tell us how can we solve this problem. I don’t know all the answers. I know where we can find the answers … I know there are generations that want to come back here and I’m open to listen to all ideas.”

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Seat 2 campaigns intensify over development, public safety claims

With just two months to go, campaigns for two city seats heat up

With just two months to go, campaigns for two city seats heat up

At least two candidate events are scheduled for the coming week

Jan. 19, 2024

By Beth Kassab

With less than two months until Election Day, candidates are shifting into an intensified ground game for votes with multiple forums on the calendar, social media pushes and a dose of partisan politics that prompted one sitting commissioner to back out of an upcoming event for one candidate.

Kris Cruzada, who was elected in 2022 to Seat 3 with nearly 52% of the vote, said Friday he would no longer attend a lunch scheduled for Tuesday hosted by the Winter Park Republican Women Federated that will feature Stockton Reeves, a candidate for Seat 2.City elections are non-partisan — no party affiliation appears on the ballot next to candidate names. But it’s not uncommon for partisan groups to endorse candidates and to provide financial support.

Winter Parkers will go to the polls on March 19, the same day as Florida’s Republican presidential primary. That means the 38% of the city’s nearly 22,000 voters who are registered as Republicans will also find the presidential candidates on their ballots. Democrats account for 36% of city voters and those without a party affiliation make up another 24%, according to the most recent counts from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections.

An invitation from the Republican group said Cruzada would speak after Reeves talks about “some very direct and enlightening information on what is actually going on in City Hall.”

“You will be surprised to hear how the left is turning our gem of a city into a liberal bastion of taxing and spending with a woke agenda,” read the invitation from Hattie Bryant, president of Winter Park Republican Women.

Cruzada, the only elected Republican who serves on the commission, said he disagreed with that characterization.

“I disagree because we have a balanced budget,” Cruzada said. “We have to keep up with the rate of inflation and we’ve also increased our tax rolls because of the increase in appraised property values. Like everybody else, we are trying to keep employees and run a city with limited resources when everything is going up in price.”

Bryant confirmed Cruzada would instead appear at a future meeting and said Reeves, who also ran as a Republican for a State House seat, would have about five minutes to speak.

Reeves, who recently loaned $50,000 to his own campaign, according to reports filed on Friday, said his message that day would be the same as it is to any other group and emphasized his focus on public safety and other issues such as historic preservation and the budget.

“I am not asking any political party for help or support though I have people from both major parties, independents and non-party affiliates helping me and supporting me financially,” he told the Voice.

Jason Johnson, an attorney who has so far raised more than $26,000, and Craig Russell, a teacher and coach at Winter Park High who has raised $4,600, are expected to appear at the forum for Seat 2 candidates on Monday evening at the Winter Park Library. Reeves said he is trying to work out a scheduling conflict so that he can also attend.

A similar event for the two candidates for mayor is scheduled for the morning of Feb. 8. The events are free and open to the public.

Vice Mayor Sheila DeCiccio is running for mayor against real estate school owner Michael Cameron. DeCiccio has raised nearly $22,000 so far, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

Cameron, who reported $1,500 in contributions, has  run a relatively quiet campaign so far, but in recent days he created a profile dedicated to the campaign on Facebook and TikTok. His posts include his apparent support of the Republican Party and Gov. Ron DeSantis based on the hashtags he included such as #redwave, #conservative and the governor’s name.

“I had so many great conversations today and sometimes I just got the door slammed directly in my face and that’s OK,” he said in a video about his collection of signatures to get on the ballot. “There are residents of Winter Park who don’t have a voice and I want to try to be that voice.”

The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce will host a forum for all five candidates on Feb. 7.

NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect more context surrounding the quote from the invitation from Winter Park Republican Women. 

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