It’s been an entertaining campaign and the candidates for Orlando Mayor have been pounding the pavement meeting voters and getting their message out for the big day on April 3rd.
We’ve had debates, press conferences, name calling, and TV commercials and we’ve gotten to know these candidates pretty well. The one thing we’re absolutely sure of?
The personalities of these candidates are as different as communities in the city their trying to lead.
It’s time for a prediction and I’ve got one. Let’s break it down by each candidate.
Businessman Ken Mulvaney:
Strengths: A proven business record. He came to the country years ago and grew his success with only a vision. It’s a non partisan race but if you vote the party line regardless, he’s the only Republican running. His real estate assets have served him well in his GOTV efforts. It doesn’t hurt have the building next to the Supervisor of Elections with your campaign’s presence.
Weaknesses: Late entry. He jumped in shortly before the deadline. He’s too soft spoken during the debates and while trying to sound humble doesn’t always get his points across.
Memorable Campaign Moment: His joint press conference with fellow candidate Mike Cantone and others calling for the investigation of Buddy Dyer’s absentee ballot operations.
Projected Finish 3rd: His late start and the absence of specifics in his message will hurt his chances.
Community Organizer Mike Cantone:
Strengths: The guy is a gifted public speaker and has turned what could have been a snoozer of an election into an entertaining race. It was his idea to push a full term pledge against Buddy Dyer when his name started popping as a gubernatorial challenge to Rick Scott in 2014, and he’s the only candidate that has been using Social Media to his advantage.
Weaknesses: At times he’s very partisan, modeling his platform after the some of the President’s programs. With unemployment high this could turn away some voters. He’s also a natural attacker which has gotten the best of him at some of the debates and thrown him off message. He’s the only candidate that voters haven’t seen on a ballot before.
Memorable Campaign Moment: There have been many. I would have to say it was during his Orlando Sentinel Op-Ed interview. A lot of candidates buckle in the pressure cooker, he sounded pretty strong.
Projected Finish 4th: The lack of name ID will hurt him and his campaign presence downtown is almost non-existant He’s only 28. He’ll be back and giving future opponents headaches for a long time to come. He’s got a bright future.
Commissioner Phil Diamond.
Strengths: He’s Dyer’s strongest challenger. His knowledge from his time on the City Commission gives him the knowledge to challenge the Mayor at every turn. It’s also the advantage that lets him add substance and credibility to his attacks on the Buddys’ policies. He’s ran a great campaign and he’ll have the biggest presence on the lawns of Orlando voters heading into Tuesday.
Weaknesses:It’s not a deal breaker with voters but it’s identity. I say this because no one knows Diamond’s party affiliation. He’s often confused as being Republican because of the conservative alternatives he presents but, Diamond is a Democrat. Other than that Phil Diamond is a very solid alternative to Buddy Dyer.
Most Memorable Campaign Moment: The College Park Forum when he declared he liked the Mayor but then went through the city’s big expenditures like a wrecking ball.
Projected Finish 2nd: If this was a one on one contest, I might have leaned Diamond’s way but, I think the anti-buddy vote gets split and Diamond narrowly misses.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer:
Strengths: Money… Dollar, Dollar bill. Mayor Dyer has plenty of it and along with all of the other resources an incumbent has at their disposal. He’s got connections with all of the power brokers in the city and this is when advocating for big development downtown will pay off. He’s got a Super-pac and he’s been able to recycle a strong State of the City address into a friendly campaign message. He was endorsed by the Orlando Sentinel and it did take a lot of discipline not to lash out at one of his critics during the debates. Then there are the TV ads.
Weaknesses: Having three guys attack you at once during a debate. A group of fiscally conservative voters that didn’t like the Amway Center deal with the Orlando Magic or Sunrail. He still doesn’t have an answer for the homelessness problem in the city and voters did elect a cautious, number cruncher as Orange County Mayor in 2010.
Most Memorable Campaign Moment: At the Florida Forward Debate “I’m flattered all of my opponents think I’ve done such a great job that I should run for Governor”
Projected Finish 1st: He’s got the money, the message, and operations in place for victory. The other three candidates will divide the anti-buddy vote and Mayor Dyer will be re-elected. The only question is by how much?
So, there you have it. We’ll see how it all plays out on Tuesday. It’s a great race to kick off the election cycle.