Karen Castor Dentel announces run for elections supervisor at luminary-filled Ruth's List event
Gen Z Congressman Maxwell Frost and State Attorney Monique Worrell headlined the event at a Winter Park home to support women candidates
By Beth Kassab
Orange County School Board member Karen Castor Dentel said Friday night she will run for Supervisor of Elections next year as Bill Cowles retires from the position he’s held for more than 25 years.
Castor Dentel, who made the announcement at a Ruth’s List fundraiser in Winter Park, said she is drawn to the position because of the “current state of politics” and a desire to push “clear communication with voters and educate them about the process” amid a national landscape littered with misinformation.
Cowles, who was first elected in 1996, said in February that he will retire when his term ends in early 2025. So far Castor Dentel is the only person filed to run in the race that will be on the November 2024 ballot, according to the supervisor’s website.
She was one of a handful of candidates who announced races after U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, who represents Winter Park in Congress, and Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell talked about why more candidates are needed to combat what Worrell called “an unprecedented time” as “democracy is slipping away.”
“It’s been a rough couple of weeks,” Worrell said amid chuckles from the crowd gathered around a pool deck overlooking Lake Maitland.
The comment was a reference to criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said her office was negligent because she didn’t prosecute a man for a misdemeanor marijuana charge in 2021. That same man is the suspect in a triple shooting in February that killed a 9-year-old girl, a woman and a Spectrum News 13 reporter.
Worrell said mass incarceration will not build a stronger society and she questioned DeSantis’ claim that he presides over the “free state of Florida.”
“I submit to you that Florida is not free,” she said, noting that DeSantis and a “Legislature beholden to their dictator” have pushed new restrictions to what K-12 students can learn about gender identity, made it easier for Florida, which has the highest number of Death Row exonerations, to execute people and passed a ban on most abortions after six weeks.
Worrell, a mom to three boys, revealed that when she was 39 years old she became pregnant with a daughter she had “waited for my whole life.” But when she was 10 weeks along her doctor told her that tests revealed the baby was unlikely to survive.
She had to make a decision about whether to continue or end the pregnancy.
Ultimately, she said she decided to continue the pregnancy and delivered a baby girl who died just three weeks later.
“If I had to make that decision again I would possibly make a different decision,” she said.
Worrell, who gave birth to her youngest son about a year after her daughter’s death, said she shared the deeply personal story for the first time because she knows the toll restrictions on reproductive freedom can take on women and families.
“It’s an insult to call Florida free,” she said, noting the importance of Ruth’s List, which helps elect Democratic women who are in favor of abortion rights.
Ruth’s List was founded in 2008 by former state chief financial officer and gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink. The organization, which has raised $7.5 million over 15 years, is named for Florida Congresswoman Ruth Bryan Owen — elected in 1928 just eight years after women gained the right to vote.
Frost, known as Gen Z’s first congressman elected last year at age 25 to represent greater Orlando, including Winter Park, Maitland and the UCF area in east Orange County, said Ruth’s List is crucial in supporting progressive candidates.
He said he took an interest in politics at age 15 “because I didn’t want to get shot in school” in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.
“Generation Z … we truly are the mass shooting generation,” Frost said. “… We need to elect politicians who will see the world through the eyes of the most vulnerable.”