Orlando Mayor Candidates wrap up debate series at Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

In front of a capacity audience in La Casa de Puerto Rico, the candidates for Orlando wrapped up their series of debates before the April 3rd election.

Mayor Buddy Dyer, Commissioner Phil Diamond, Businessman Ken Mulvaney, and Neighborhood Organizer Mike Cantone talked about the usual issues that have been at the forefront of the campaign like the venues, spending, public services, and neighborhood safety.

The debate took an interesting turn when the controversial subject of Trayvon Martin came up. Martin is the young man who was shot in Sanford last week by neighborhood watch person George Zimmerman. The story has gained national attention as politicians, activist, and citizens call for the arrest of Zimmerman after the 911 calls were released.

3 of the 4 candidates said they would have called for the arrest of Zimmerman if Mayor of that community. Phil Diamond didn’t say the words but the tone of his reply implied he might have also.

UPDATE: The Sentinel did a write-up on the responses and give more details here.

All of candidates vowed to increase Hispanic involvement in government, either through appointments or outreach efforts. The DREAM act was one of the topics and the panel either supported the legislation or a similar solution if the federal issue was somehow brought in front of them.

The no-attack rules dulled the intensity of the debate and turned it in to more of a forum. Let’s break it down.

Mayor Buddy Dyer: Dyer looked like he’s had enough of these debates. Since there was a no attack agreement, Dyer had to listen to his rivals pick apart his policies and decisions without getting a rebuttal. They simply didn’t mention Dyer by name.

The Mayor still had a good portion of the crowd on his side and there were Dyer badges on a lot of the attendees.

Phil Diamond: The one thing Commissioner does well is peel off the layers of Dyer’s statistics. He told the crowd that the Dyer’s Amway center profits were only legitimate if certain details were left out and he brought up a Forbes article that didn’t portray the credit ratings the same way the Mayor Does.

Buddy Dyer should be happy that he didn’t have to go one on one with Diamond during the election cycle. He’s the Mayor’s only opponent that can read the same books a different way and reinterpret the Mayor’s fiscal victories.

Ken Mulvaney: Mulvaney finally got a more aggressive this debate. He described his experiences as an immigrant that allowed him to connect with some in attendance. He slammed the City’s deal with the Magic, pushed for a less expensive parking, and more resources for small business.

Mike Cantone: The no attack agreement actually benefited Cantone. He had to reword his responses and that kept him from sounding like a broken record recorded strictly for slamming the Mayor. His answers sounded thoughtful instead of spiteful and his platform resonated well with left leaning audience.

He also drew the loudest applause of the evening when he stood up for the small business locked out of All-Star weekend by the large fence placed in front of the Amway Center.

Who Won?
Well, this was a forum more than a debate and that changes a lot. You can say that Dyers opponents all had their best outing tonight. They all scored points with certain issues while the Mayor kept the course.

This was a terrific event and it’s great to see the Hispanic Community engaged with municipal politics.

Mayor Dyer speaks to supporters after the debate

Commissioner Diamond shaking hands before the debate

Cantone got applause for siding with small business during the Amway All-Star Fence perimeter

Mulvaney hit his stride when talking about his personal experience growing in Orlando.

Those who attended quickly filled the venue

Hispanic involvement in politics will increase as this election year moves on

The event was well attended by local media

Candidates took time to meet with supporters and talk to the media afterwards