ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Even though Florida is a closed primary state, there are still a number of nonpartisan positions up for grabs in the Aug. 23 primary election, including Orange County mayor.
There are three candidates looking to unseat Mayor Jerry Demings who can avoid a run-off election in November if he gets the majority of the votes in the primary.
News 6′sJustin Warmoth sat down with mayoral candidate Kelly Semrad, an associate professor at UCF and vice chair of Save Orange County, about her platform and why she decided to run.
“I got to the point in Orange County where I said, ‘What is it that we have to do as citizens to be heard,’” Semrad said. “Why is it that special interests come before citizens? Why is it that we can show up at the Board of County Commissioners and our voices still don’t matter? Over the years, I’ve been in the trenches fighting with different groups of people, fighting for sustainable development. With Save Orange County, we realized early on that this was a legal and political battle.”
Semrad said she’s against the mayor’s transportation tax proposal, which will be up to voters in November. The one-cent sales tax hike would raise an estimated $600 million annually to improve the county’s roads and transit systems, according to Demings.
Instead of raising taxes to 7.5% for Orange County residents, Semrad said reforming the tourist development tax is the better option.
“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Semrad said. “What I do for UCF is I’m part of a research team where we focus on doing socio-economic policy reform to ensure that the benefits of tourism come back out to the local community. In accordance with state statute, we can massage, we can maneuver, and we can reform our tourism development tax so that money comes back out and it goes into infrastructural improvements.”
Semrad is also critical of Demings’ stance in favor of the Central Florida Expressway Authority’s plan to build a road through a piece of the Split Oak Forest and his refusal to participate in a debate with his challengers.
“He says the candidates don’t have anything worthwhile to put them on the same platform as him,” Semrad said. “It’s really taking away a critical piece of information for voters to be able to make an informed vote. We depend upon the debates to inform ourselves on which candidate is going to represent our needs, our family’s needs, and our community’s needs, and he’s robbing the people of that experience with saying, ‘Let my record stand before me.’ His record is standing before him. We had two charter amendments with 86% of the vote for Split Oak Forest and almost 90% for the right to clean water, and he’s failed to implement either. He lets his record stand before him. He doesn’t listen to the people.”
The deadline to register to vote in the primary election is tomorrow, July 25.
Watch the full interview in the video player above.