The only election that was worth much was an Orlando City Council race where a political newcomer, Bakari Burns, beat Gary Siplin in a runoff where less than 3,000 voters decided to show.
The other big story came before Christmas as Orange County Commissioners passed a controversial road deal that seemingly benefited Universal Orlando. The deal is worth an estimated $325 million and will allow for Kirkman Road to be expanded when the theme park giant opens its latest opus in 2023.
Outside of those two stories, the second half of 2019 was a bit of a whimper. But that may be a good thing as we head into 2020 with so much on the calendar. Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary is in March, each of Orange County’s constitutional officers are up for reelection, and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is in for the political fight of his life as he tries to get a transportation tax passed.
Perhaps the biggest story of the year may turn out to be that of Demings and if he’s able to muscle his tax through. On the surface, it’s not sexy. The tax would generate nearly $600 million annually for the county’s transportation needs, like more Lynx buses and maybe more money for SunRail. But similar measures were attempted in neighboring counties and failed.
Does Demings have enough political capital to get the tax passed? Will voters have the appetite to pay more money to improve Orange County’s transportation options?
Maybe the better question is for Demings and his team: Have they educated the public enough on who will foot the bill? Supposedly 51 percent of the tax will be paid for by tourists, but does that include internal tourists as well?
If Demings is not able to convince the body politic of his plan, then how will this harm his reelection chances in 2022?
Plenty of questions ahead for the first-time mayor, and maybe before November’s election rolls around, we’ll have a few more answers.