Republicans lead early voting in Winter Park and across Orange

How will the GOP’s presidential primary impact municipal elections?

March 13, 2024

By Beth Kassab

Republicans are turning out by a big margin in Orange County ahead of next week’s GOP presidential primary, which is also regular spring elections for Winter Park and other local cities such as Eatonville and Maitland.

Of all the county’s early voting sites, the Winter Park Library has seen the highest number of votes cast so far with 1,339, according to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections. Of those, nearly 60% or 774 are from registered Republicans. About 30%, or 395, are from Democrats. Another 160 votes are from people registered without a party affiliation.

Anyone can vote at the early voting sites, which means some of the votes cast at the library could have been from voters who live outside Winter Park. But it’s the best early indicator of how voting stands so far.

In Winter Park there are about 22,000 active registered voters. They are close to evenly split among Republicans and Democrats with Republicans leading slightly with 8,300 versus 7,700 Democrats.

Yet Republicans are driving early voting by nearly 2 to 1.

County wide, Republicans are driving early votes by an even wider margin with more than 23,000 ballots so far compared to 4,000 from Democrats.

Winter Park’s election for mayor and Seat 2 commissioner are technically non-partisan, but party politics often plays a role.

The Republican women’s club in Winter Park, for example, held an event for Seat 2 candidate Stockton Reeves, who has also run as a Republican (and lost) for a Florida House seat.

Past elections, though, have shown Winter Parkers to be discerning when it comes to local politics. Issues like development rules, brick streets, lake quality and parks rarely appear to fall along strict party lines.

In other words, it’s not clear that Donald Trump’s name on the ballot will drive turnout for a single candidate among Republican voters in the municipal races. Democrats decided last year to scrap their presidential primary in Florida in an effort to aid President Joe Biden.

Jason Johnson and Craig Russell, who are also running for Seat 2, appear to have refrained from party rhetoric in their campaigns.

The key differences between Johnson and Russell come in the form of their responses on development questions. For instance, Russell, who is backed by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce has said he is open to revisiting the original Orange Avenue Overlay, which allows for taller buildings and more dense development, and is also open to lessening the requirements for developers to build parking spaces. Johnson has said he would not return to the old zoning rules and does not want to see major changes in the parking code.

Early precinct data from the nine precincts with Winter Park addresses shows 2,685 returned mail ballots and early votes so far, according to the supervisor’s office. A party breakdown for that data isn’t available.

The most votes so far are associated with the precinct at the Winter Park YMCA, which has 538 returned mail votes and 159 early votes. That’s followed by the Winter Park 9th Grade Center, which totals 255 returned mail votes and 107 early votes and Orange Technical College with 212 returned mail votes and 98 early votes.

Early voting runs through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Click here for locations.  

Polls open on Election Day (March 19) at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Voters can find their precincts here.


Donald Trump may be the clear Republican nominee for president, but the question

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