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

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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