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School Board Member Johanna López, State Rep. Daisy Morales Could Face Off in New House District 43 Race

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Orange County School Board member Johanna López (left) photo courtesy of Orange County Public Schools. State Rep. Daisy Morales photo courtesy of Morales' campaign website.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – In March, the Florida Supreme Court approved a new Senate map (S 8058) with 40 districts and a House map (H 2013) with 120 seats for the 2022 elections.

Image: Florida House of Representatives

Image: Florida House of Representatives

The new State House map splits State Representative Daisy Morales‘ District 48 into Districts 43 and 44 (see above). In whole, District 48 has the largest Puerto Rican population in Orange County. Both new districts have a solid Democratic voter base, but that large Puerto Rican population is also split now.

Rep. Morales told Florida National News that all options are open as it relates to the new District map. She said she would take time to consult with family, friends, supporters and District 48 constituents in deciding the next step.

Rep. Morales’ District 48 office is located in newly redrawn District 43. Orange County School Board member Johanna López, who made history in 2018 by becoming the first Puerto Rican elected to the school board, recently announced her candidacy for House District 43.

According to Florida Politics, School Board member López told the news outlet that she’s running for HD 43 regardless of whether Morales runs for District 43 or 44.

School Board member López and State Rep. Morales, both Puerto Ricans, made education a top priority. At the state level, Morales is a member of the House’s Education and Employment Committee and the Post-Secondary Education & Lifelong Learning Subcommittee.

A possible Rep. Morales vs. School Board member López race won’t be a historic election for the newly drawn District 43 seat. U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, State Senator Victor Torres and Orange County Property Appraiser Amy Mercado, all Puerto Ricans, were elected by Orange County to the State House.

 

Morales Won the District 48 Seat by a Landslide

Image: Telemundo 31 (screen capture)

Image: Telemundo 31 (screen capture)

Rep. Morales, a Democrat of Puerto Rican descent, won the District 48 seat in 2020 by defeating her Republican opponent Jesus Martinez 65 percent to 35 percent of the vote.

Before winning the general election, Morales defeated four Democratic primary candidates, including Julio Rocha (11 percent of the vote), Nelson Peña (10 percent), Tony Tsonis (9 percent), and Samuel Vilchez Santiago (30 percent of the vote).

Morales defeated Santiago by 10 percent of the vote. He was endorsed by the party’s progressive leaders like School Board Member López (his campaign manager), Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, and District 48 incumbent Rep. Amy Mercado.

Santiago nabbed more major endorsements, including the Orlando Sentinel, and secured more funding than Morales. Both the establishment and the progressive community underestimated Morales, putting all of their chips in with Santiago.

Endorsements poured in for Santiago from current and former elected officials, and some of the most prominent political organizations and advocacy groups, including:

Image: Samuel Vilchez Santiago lists elected officials and former elected officials who endorsed him for Florida House District 48. Santiago campaign via Facebook.

  • State Representative Dan Daley
  • Former School Board Member Daryl Fernandez Flynn
  • Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Board Chair Dawn Curtis
  • Rainbow Democrats
  • IUPAC
  • SEIU Florida
  • National Organization for Women (NOW) Florida
  • Florida Realtors PAC
  • Orlando Regional Realtors Association (ORRA)
  • Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida
  • Florida LGBTQ Democratic Caucus
  • Equality Florida Action PAC
  • Florida For All
  • Young Democrats of Orange County
  • Latino Victory
  • IAFF
  • FPF
  • Vote Pro Choice
  • Women’s March Florida
  • Run for Something
  • Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association (CFHLA)
  • Florida Medical Association PAC
Samuel Vilchez Santiago racked up 21 endorsements during his three-month campaign push. Image: Samuel Vilchez Santiago campaign via Facebook.

Samuel Vilchez Santiago racked up 21 endorsements during his three-month campaign push. Image: Samuel Vilchez Santiago campaign via Facebook.

Santiago had an army of volunteers that knocked on thousands of doors. It looked as if he and his supporters had the victory in the bag.

In the end, though, none of that mattered to the voters who elected Morales.

Turns out Morales had countywide name recognition as an elected official. She had won re-election in 2018 by a landslide (64 percent to 36 percent) to retain her seat as an elected Supervisor on the Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District Board.

 

Communities in Districts 43 and 44

District 43 communities include East-central Orange, including Azalea Park, Union Park and Rio Pinar.

Communities in District 44 still include Hunters Creek, Taft, Meadow Woods, the Florida Mall area, Sky Lake and Southchase from the previous District 48. The redraw adds Doctor Phillips, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld areas (Williamsburg) and the northern portion of Lake Nona. It has a solid Democratic voter base.

Florida Politics reports that Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson and Rep. Morales represented various parts of that area prior to the redraw. Thompson is now running for Florida Senate.

 

A Quick Comparison

State Representative Daisy Morales (center, holding microphone) garners bipartisan applause at the moment her Barber Services bill unanimously passes the Florida House. Photo: Florida House of Representatives.

File – State Representative Daisy Morales (center, holding microphone) garners bipartisan applause at the moment her Barber Services bill unanimously passes the Florida House. Photo: Florida House of Representatives.

Should she choose to run in HD 43, Rep. Morales would enter the race with the incumbent advantage and track record of surprising results for a freshman lawmaker. In the 2021 Legislative Session, Morales sponsored and co-sponsored 58 bills that were signed into law. At the end of the 2022 Legislative Session in early March, 55 bills she sponsored and co-sponsored have passed both the Florida House and Florida Senate and are headed to the governor’s desk.

Additionally, during the 2021 Legislative Session, Rep. Morales’ proposal of over $900,000 in appropriations projects for District 48 was added to the state budget prior to Governor DeSantis’ budget cuts.

Rep. Morales made life easier for Florida barbers in the heat of the pandemic with the passage her Barber Services Bill, which allowed brick-and-mortar barbershop owners to go mobile with their services and meet clients where they are, which was instrumental during the Florida’s transition out of total shutdown.

Rep. Morales also spearheaded the House Resolution recognizing World Vitiligo Day, raising awareness of the “silent disease” in a ceremony at Orlando City Hall in June of 2021.

Morales has aided District 48 residents with food and clothing distribution events before and during the pandemic. Once COVID-19 vaccines were made available, she hosted COVID-19 vaccination events to ensure residents and their families felt safe. She also hosted her inaugural District 48 Community Job Fair in partnership with Orlando District 2 Commissioner Tony Ortiz in October of 2021.

 

School Board member Johanna López. Photo via Lopez's campaign website.

School Board member Johanna López. Photo via Lopez’s campaign website.

School Board member López enters the race as a strong proponent of family empowerment and quality education for Latino students and communities. She was recognized in the Congressional Record by U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy for Hispanic History Month in October of 2021.

According to her campaign website, since being elected to the Orange County School Board in 2018, López “has championed the well-being of students in the wake of the pandemic, worked to empower the most vulnerable students, fought to increase benefits and pay for teachers and other school staff such as bus drivers and janitors, and successfully led the renaming of Stonewall Jackson Middle School to Roberto Clemente Middle School.”

López was also named the Executive Director at Alianza Center, an Orlando-based non-profit that focuses on empowering the Latino community, at the start of 2021. Her campaign site shares that in her new leadership role, she “has led COVID-19 vaccination and information campaigns, youth summer camps, and community-based civic engagement programs.”

 

The primary election takes place August 23, 2022. After the chips fall where they may, the general election happens November 8, 2022.

Learn more about School Board member Johanna López’s campaign here. For State Rep. Morales’ campaign, click here.

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Lt. Governor Nominee Karla Hernández’s ‘Latinas for Choice’ Tour Kickoff Lacks Hispanic Women Leaders

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ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Karla Hernández, Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Florida, held a press conference outside of Orlando City Hall to announce the campaign’s Latinas For Choice tour Wednesday morning.

Hernández was joined by five progressive activists, including Orange County School Board Member Johnna Lopez, State Representative Anna Eskamani and former State Representative District 48 candidate Samuel Vilchez Santiago.

The following Orange County Hispanic women elected leaders did not attend Hernandez’s Latinas for Choice announcement:

  1. Florida State Representative Daisy Morales
  2. Orange County District 3 Commissioner Mayra Uribe
  3. Orange County District 4 Commissioner Maribel Gomez Cordero
  4. Orange County District 5 Commissioner Emily Bonilla
  5. Orange County Property Appraiser Amy Mercado
  6. Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Raquel Lozano

 

While the campaign tour is just launched and in its infancy, the press conference showcased a humble beginning in terms of support for a major support. It appeared that no Spanish-speaking news outlets were present to cover the announcement. Local media outlets WESH 2, WFTV Channel 9 and Florida National News were the outlets present.

Two of the six individuals at the podium being men, and one being a young student. The total number of Latinas, then, was three–if the young lady is included in the count.

However, there may be a reason for that.

 

New Poll Shows a Different Priority Among Latino Voters

The Palm Beach Post reported findings from a recent poll which showed that 70% of Florida Hispanics oppose making abortion illegal, but it’s not their biggest issue. According to the Post, a large majority of Florida Hispanic voters believe it’s wrong to make abortion illegal, even if it goes against their personal beliefs. Here’s the breakdown of what Hispanic voters in the poll feel are “the most important issues that elected officials should address”:

  1. Inflation/rising cost of living (53%)
  2. Crime/gun violence (38%)
  3. Jobs/economy (36%)
  4. Healthcare (21%)
  5. Climate/environment (16%)

Abortion, at 15%, tied with a lack of affordable housing/high rents and Social Security and Medicare.

Hispanics want to keep abortion legal, but it isn’t a top priority. Image via The Associated Press.

 

When asked about this during the press conference, Hernandez assured that Charlie Crist, assuming he’s elected governor in November, would prioritize legislation addressing the top three priorities listed in the poll. Watch the livestream of the full press conference above.

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VIDEO: Morales Campaign Drops Rita Harris’s F-Bomb-Laced Tirade Targeting Bernie Sanders and Progressive Supporters

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U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images. Jennifer "Rita" Harris photo: Scott Powers/Florida Politics.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – The Daisy Morales campaign released a video over the weekend of opponent Jennifer “Rita” Harris‘s profanity-laced tirade against U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and his progressive supporters on Harris’s Medium blog account.

Harris has deleted the account.

The Morales campaign brought the receipts in this press release, with screenshots from Harris’s Medium blog account and various Facebook posts.

Morales’s campaign pointed out the irony of Harris’s attack on Sen. Bernie Sanders and his supporters and her current backing by the progressive arm of the Democratic Party, United for Progress, Ruth’s List Florida, and other progressive groups.

The Morales campaign slammed Harris in the press release saying “she cannot be trusted, is unfit to serve in public office, and isn’t safe around children younger than 13 years old when it comes to vulgar language, dubbing herself a “part time a**hole” on her Medium blog account (which, by the way, has now been taken down).”

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Harris’s Medium post, “Be Gone Bernie Sanders, and Take Your Little Bots Too,” attacks Bernie Sanders and his progressive supporters with a slew of profanities. The campaign warns that viewers will need earbuds to view the video, which is an almost seven-minute voice-to-text read-along of the blog post.

The Morales campaign continued its attack, followed by several screenshots of Harris’s Facebook posts containing F-bombs: “Tallahassee lawmakers are expected to represent the people of our districts and the state of Florida with dignity and respect. Not everything has to be a vulgar attack. Anger must be controlled. And Harris seems to have a lot of it—minus the control.

“Her social media posts are riddled with F-bombs, whether they are friendly or contentious.”

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Source: Facebook.

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Source: Facebook.

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Source: Facebook.

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Source: Facebook.

The Morales campaign ended the video drop by saying, “This is the real Jennifer “Rita” Harris.”

 

The Morales Campaign Triples Down on Harris’s Business Background

Following the video drop, the Morales campaign again highlights Harris’s business background, referring to the Orlando Sentinel’s most recent article with Harris finally opening up about her business background.

The press release says in relevant part:

“If all that wasn’t enough, Harris isn’t forthcoming about her business background. She kept that information from the voters and from the media. Her campaign never listed her business background, and the voters have a right to know. She admitted herself to the Orlando Sentinel in a recent article that she only lists herself as a CEO of her husband’s company, Harris Cloud Consulting, on LinkedIn “for networking purposes.” Why is that deception necessary? There’s nothing wrong with being a housewife promoting your husband’s company on his behalf.

“It turns out Harris Cloud Consulting isn’t the first company she’s been listed as the CEO for. She was the CEO of Kronos Unlimited, LLC, a failed business dissolved by the State. This looks like a pattern. She’s essentially a fake CEO. It’s also interesting that the Orlando Sentinel learned of her deception after they endorsed her.

“If she’s being deceptive here and now, what’s to stop her from doing it in Tallahassee? What else is she being dishonest about? (Besides the work address for one of the companies they registered in Florida using a non-Florida address and zip code.)”

 

Morales Campaign Also Doubles Down on Lack of Vetting on Harris

“All of this foolishness speaks loudly to the lack of a real background check on the part of the people and organizations endorsing Harris, like the Democratic establishment and high profile Democrats like Charlie Crist, State Attorney Monique Worrell, State Senators Victor Torres and Jason Pizzo, and School Board Member Johanna Lopez, just name a few,” said Rep. Morales in the press release.

“There are Democratic candidates in other Florida races that organizations and elected officials have had to rescind their endorsements from because they failed to do their research. State Rep. Anna Eskamani warned Florida Democrats of that recently concerning the Ag Commissioner race.”

Rep. Morales went on to say that Harris’s titles as Orange County Democratic Party Vice Chair and founder and former President of the Democratic Women’s Club of South Orange County don’t exempt her from a thorough background check, saying that even those running for US President have to undergo rigorous scrutiny. “It seems like in this race, many turned a blind eye to Harris’s history.”

Morales ends the press release by expressed gratitude for “the concerned voters that brought this to my campaign’s attention.”

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Black Lives Matter Group Slams Osceola County Sheriff Lopez in Target Shooting

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Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk, Inc. co-founder and vice president Pastor Carl Soto calls for Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez's resignation during a press conference in Kissimmee Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Image: WESH 2 News (screen capture).

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (FNN) – Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk, Inc. called for the resignation of Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez during a press conference in Kissimmee Tuesday after the deputy-involved shooting at Target in late April resulting in a death.

Pastor Carl Soto, BLMRP co-founder and vice president, slammed Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez in light of the incident that killed 20-year-old Jayden Baez and injured 18-year-old Michael Gomez and 19-year-old Joseph Lowe.

Video released from the Osceola County sheriff’s office shows the victim’s car going forward when deputies surrounded it. Four people inside the car, including 20-year-old Jayden Baez, were accused of shoplifting. Baez died when deputies fired gunshots.

Pastor Soto noted that the surviving victims of the shooting claim they had their hands up before the shots fired. He clarified that according to the victims, all of the law enforcement vehicles were not only unmarked, but didn’t sound any sirens or flashed any police lights when they approached. He further said that, according to the video, an unmarked deputy vehicle, a silver Ford F-150, struck the vehicle the victims were in first before their vehicle made any moves.

Soto slammed the fact that the deputies involved weren’t wearing body cameras and Sheriff Lopez for clearing his deputies of any wrongdoing.

“We have severe concerns about the credibility of Sheriff Marcos Lopez and demand for him to resign,” Soto pushed during the press conference, demanding criminal charges be filed against “each and every deputy” that discharged their firearms during the incident. He further demanded an independent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice since, according to him, the FDLE “can’t be transparent” in shootings that involve law enforcement officers. He called on State Attorney Monique Worrell to “do her job” and press charges against the deputies involved immediately.

“We are talking about three teens that allegedly took Pokemon cards…and a box of pizza. We’re not condoning that, but that amounts to a misdemeanor. We now have a 20-year-old that’s dead, we have a 19-year-old that’s in the hospital, and an 18-year-old that nearly got his hand blown off.”

Soto, who said he is the nephew of a lieutenant and the brother of a sergeant, emphasized that the deputies involved are “peace officers” first and should have pursued peaceful means of apprehending the victims first, but instead “chose violence.”

He acknowledged that attorney Mark Nejame is pursuing litigation and that the families of the victims are “appalled” and “angry.”

“This is murder,” he said. “And we’re calling for federal charges.”

_____________________________________________

Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

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