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Sizing Up the Field in the Mayor’s Race

Of frontrunner Bill Segal’s three opponents, [Teresa] Jacobs has the best chance of beating him in a head-to-head contest.

Photo By Scott A. Miller

People who don’t vote (and even some who do) often say that all political candidates are the same, so why bother? But that just isn’t the case in the Orange County mayor’s race, which will be on the ballot in the Aug. 24 primary election.

Here’s my take on the four major candidates and my prediction about the outcome of the nonpartisan race:

Matthew Falconer: He is the only true political outsider of the four, but he may be the most knowledgeable about the workings and costs of county government. The Windermere businessman is against nearly everything that his opponents are for, with SunRail among his chief complaints, in terms of costly government projects. He vows that he’ll rescind the expressway toll increase, seek consolidations of services with other municipalities, end defined pension plans for new county employees, and lower taxes.

Good luck with all that, Matt.

I strongly agree with him on SunRail and defined pensions: The former is a boondoggle that ultimately will force the commuter train system’s regional partners to seek tax increases to sustain it, and the latter is a drain on government budgets. While I don’t think he’ll be a top two vote-getter, I don’t want to underestimate him either. Falconer has campaigned hard and his Tea Party politics set him apart from the pack. Purely for selfish reasons, Falconer is my favorite because he would stir things up, providing loads of columns for me.

Teresa Jacobs: She has the southwest side of Orange County, the area she once represented as a county commissioner, sewn up.

Jacobs enjoys good press in the Orlando Sentinel, and is known for getting right to the point as well as for demanding ethics reforms in county government. Her campaign platform includes the usual spiel of bringing jobs to the area, holding the line on taxes and supporting quality-of-life issues, such as public safety.

Name recognition is Jacobs’ greatest ally in the race, as her success at campaign fundraising has shown, even though she was the last of the four to join the race, entering in late January. Of frontrunner Bill Segal’s three opponents, Jacobs has the best chance of beating him in a head-to-head contest. But she’s also the most likely to feel the effects of Falconer’s presence in the primary if there is a surprisingly heavy voter turnout.

Bill Segal: Just about every major or minor endorsement has gone to him, along with the financial backing of Orlando’s politically involved. The District 5 county commissioner claims that his business background makes him the candidate best qualified to lure new businesses to the area. And he says he’ll protect public-safety spending while prudently managing the county’s recession-wracked budget.

Although Segal is the hands-down choice among Orange County’s movers and shakers, his name doesn’t resonate as strongly beyond the inner circles. Still, he should skate through the primary as the top vote-getter. His recent support of the controversial Mormon Church-backed mega-project in southeast Orange County was risky in this anti-development climate, but it showed that he’s willing to stick his neck out politically.

Linda Stewart: The District 4 county commissioner is the “green” candidate, with environmental concerns and mass-transit initiatives among her principal campaign platforms. Stewart has a solid base of support in her sprawling southeast Orange County district, but it hasn’t amounted to much in contributions. Of the candidates, she and Falconer have posted the most detailed platforms on their campaign websites.

I disagree with Stewart’s support for SunRail and high-speed rail, but she is right-on about Lynx: It needs a dedicated funding source, though her gas-tax proposal likely will cost her votes. If the race were between just her and Segal, Stewart could create some buzz. But Jacobs and Falconer have stolen some of her thunder.

Prediction: Segal takes 35 percent of the vote, with Jacobs a close second and Falconer claiming a respectable 20 percent. Segal and Jacobs advance to the general election.

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Comments, page 1 of 2 1 2 Next »
Jul 30, 2010 09:55 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

This is by far the dumbest and funniest thing I have read yet during this election cycle. How in the world do you expect Matt Falconer to claim 20%, and what makes Segal a front-runner? A load of cash that he's already blown through? Matt Falconer knows the most about county issues? What in the world are you smoking?

If Stewart and Falconer are the only ones with detailed platforms, I think Orange County voters are smart enough to see that. And what about Stewart's "solid base of support" - according to you, that doesn't even get her a percentage of the vote? You know less about politics than an ape.

Jul 30, 2010 06:36 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

For an advertiser, Mike, you should know that you can't always believe what people say. Take Matt Falconer for instance. He is going to change the Florida Retirement System from the Mayor's seat. What not offer to change the laws of Alabama if elected Mayor of Orange County. First it has to be under your authority to change it. But that is in keeping with everything else coming from someone who complains about the elected officials but has only voted twice in the last 16 years. As for Segal of course the insiders are for him, you know when you're a hammer everything looks like a nail. And when you're a developer every vacant piece of land looks like an opportunity to bring your friends in to make some money at the taxpayer's expense. We don't need a developer in that seat but we do need someone who understands development and will demand that every development have schools and roads and parks all those things that are just expenses for developers but create good places to live and work. Perhaps we need someone who graduated cum laude in economics and has a track record for ethical goverment. Or we could just go with the guy with the biggest ad and wonder why we were so stupid.

Jul 30, 2010 06:53 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

You say; "Purely for selfish reasons, Falconer is my favorite because he would stir things up, providing loads of columns for me."

Please don't ever claim to have the best interest of Orlando as one of your priorities. Shameful!

Jul 31, 2010 07:32 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Let's see. No New Taxes, repeal the last toll increase, eliminate the downtown mafia. Sounds like the best choice for me. As a taxpayer, 25 year resident of Orange County, and a dedicated retired employee, I choose Matthew Falconer. It's time to give honesty and integrity a chance.

Jul 31, 2010 07:48 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Dear Mike,
Segal and Jacobs means business as usual in County government. We just can't afford that anymore. Yes, I hope you have plenty of columns to write in the future because changes will occur, and Falconer will need input and direction from the great sources we have here in Orange County. Our teachers are the best, and our Fire Dept and Sheriff's Office are elite. Maybe even the best in the nation. We need leaders to support them, in the best interest of us, the citizens. We rely on people like you to keep us informed. Keep up the good work and let's make Orange County a great place to live again.

Jul 31, 2010 02:46 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Dear Mike;
Glad to see you at least admit that your choice is self serving rather than out of concern for the citizens.

People running for office sometimes think folks are so gullable because sometimes they are. If someone comes along and says all the things people want to hear a few jump at it. Also some people just vote against the incumbent because they are the incumbent. Imagine hiring employees that way.

The choices are: 1) Matt the unknown who promises whatever it takes to get elected and seems to have convinced the "hopey changy" group that he can even change laws he would have not authority over - honesty? integrity? ---where was his civic concern the 14 out of 16 years he didn't even vote; 2)Segal the developer who is supported by those who want to maintain the status quo and keep funds flowing in their direction; or, 3)vote for someone who actually has a credible record of representing the citizens and also making tough decisions based on real data rather than pie in the sky. I am still amazed at how few people would rather make a decision based on a ear-tickling ad than do the research to make the best decision. Matt keeps trying to lump her in with the crowd she has a documented history of fighting knowing that many people don't do a fact check.

I actually did the research and Teresa rises to the top on every issue. And I'm sure you, Mike will still find something to write about because she will stir things up just like she always has. I am so looking forward to a government for the people - oh my gosh I sound just like Morgan and Morgan --see what good advertising can do.

Jul 31, 2010 03:52 pm
 Posted by  RonRedlich

Matt Falconer is the only choice unless you want one of the other three who as comissioners, spent the County into a deep, deep hole from which we and our children may never escape.
I support Matthew Falconer and I'm proud to show my name ... Ron Redlich, Apopka, Florida

Jul 31, 2010 04:40 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Falconer 20%? I guess so, if he could get about 100,000 Neanderthals resurrected from their Pleistocene graves. But I see by your comments regarding advanced transportation systems, that is, high-speed rail and Sun Rail, that we have one breathing among our midst. Tell me, have you ever traveled anywhere where you had subways, urban rail and high-speed rail available? Or are you among those who think we in the United States have the best of everything already and need not do anything different?

Jul 31, 2010 08:05 pm
 Posted by  RonRedlich

Anonymous aks:
"Tell me, have you ever traveled anywhere where you had subways, urban rail and high-speed rail available?"

Yes, we moved from Miami Dade County with Metro-Rail. For the cost of the system we could have bought each rider a $140,000 Rolls-Rocye with a full time chauffeur. But that counted one way trips. So for each round trip rider, we could have two Rolls-Rocyes with two full time chauffeurs. Worse still, government workers and welfare recipents ride free. Government rail systems are a typical socialist dream. That is a nightmare.

Wake up folks. The USA is bankrupt.

Ron Redlich
Apopka, Florida

Aug 1, 2010 11:19 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Response to Ron Redlich, Apopka, Florida

Wow! Miami! What a cosmopolitan experience you have! When you take off your blinders, check these out:
http://www.renfe.com/
http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ad1ce14114bc9110VgnVCM10000080a3e90aRCRD
http://www.raileurope.co.uk/tgv.aspx
http://www.deutschebahn.com/site/bahn/en/start.html
http://www.o-keating.com/hsr/bullet.htm

Shall I continue?

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