What's on the Aug. 20 ballot in Winter Park?

There’s big focus on November because of the presidential election, but August is key for local races

July 1, 2024

By Beth Kassab

With so much attention already on November because of the presidential contest, it’s important for Winter Park voters to know Aug. 20 is just as crucial of an Election Day when it comes to deciding how your local tax dollars are spent or how our schools and our elections are run.

The way the August primary works in Florida can be something of a mystery even for those of us who have lived here for a while. A series of state and local rules determine whether races are decided in August or November based on whether the races are partisan and how many candidates are running.

Here’s a preview of what to expect on the Winter Park ballot and keep following the Voice for more coverage of these Orange County races:

You are likely already hearing about (and being asked for money) for the most competitive races heading into August.

They are:

Orange County Commission District 5: This is a technically non-partisan seat that is open because current Commissioner Emily Bonilla, who represents Winter Park, has reached her term limits. The candidates are: Former Maitland City Council member and former legislator Joy Goff-Marcil; former Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary; attorney Joel Antonio Montilla and Kelly Semrad, a UCF associate professor of tourism economics. If none of the four candidates receives 50% plus one of the vote in August, then the top two vote getters will face off in November.

Supervisor of Elections: Glen Gilzean, who was appointed to the post earlier this year by Gov. Ron DeSantis after longtime Supervisor Bill Cowles left the job early, decided not to run. Vying for the now open partisan seat as registered Democrats are current School Board member Karen Castor Dentel, former Orange County Democratic chairman Wes Hodge, attorney Dan Helm and “Sunshine” Linda-Marie Grund, a real estate broker. Cynthia Harris, a non-profit executive who has also served as chairwoman of Valencia College Black Advisory Committee, according to her LinkedIn profile, qualified as a candidate without a party affiliation. Because there is an NPA candidate in the race, only registered Democrats can vote in August on the Democratic candidates. Then the winner will face Harris in November.

Tax Collector: Scott Randolph, the incumbent, and David Nelson Freeman qualified as Democrats for the partisan seat. Dennis Spencer Levy also qualified as a write-in candidate. Once again, because there is a write-in candidate, the August primary will be only for — and likely decided by — registered Democrats. The winner will appear on the November ballot with the write-in candidate.

School Board District 6: This seat, which represents Winter Park, is open because Castor Dentel is leaving to run for Supervisor of Elections. The candidates are Jeni Grieger, a former teacher, and Stephanie Vanos, an education advocate. Because this is a nonpartisan race and there are only two candidates, it will be open to all voters and will be decided in August.

Property Appraiser: Amy Mercado, the incumbent, and Kevin Pribell are the only candidates in the race and both are Democrats. As a result, the ballot will be open to all voters and decided in August.

State Attorney: Andrew Bain was appointed by DeSantis after the governor suspended Monique Worrell from office. Bain is running as an NPA and Worrell is running as a Democrat. In November, they will face whoever wins the August closed Republican primary. The Republican candidates are Thomas Feiter and Seth Hyman.

Public Defender: Bob Wesley is retiring from this post after 24 years, leaving the seat open. Melissa Vickers, a 21-year veteran of the office and former chief assistant, and Lenora Easter, also a former public defender in the district, are both running as Democrats. As a result the race is open to all voters and will be decided in August.

Automatically elected because of no opposition:

Clerk of Courts: Tiffany Moore Russell, the incumbent, is the only candidate who qualified and is automatically elected.

Comptroller: Phil Diamond, the incumbent, is the only candidate who qualified and is automatically elected.

Sheriff: John Mina, the incumbent, is the only candidate who qualified and is automatically elected. This is the first time an incumbent sheriff ran unopposed in Orange County since 2000.


Share This