Monique Worrell is headed toward becoming the new state’s attorney for Orange and Osceola counties. On primary night, Worrell beat Belvin Perry, former chief judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit that covers the two aforementioned counties. Perry had high name recognition and has been around Central Florida politics for decades.
What he didn’t have, however, was a war chest large enough to compete for governor. Worrell was an upstart candidate unfamiliar with voters in the region. She formerly worked in the state’s attorney (SA) office for soon-to-be former SA Aramis Ayala but not in public facing role. She’s never prosecuted a case and had no name recognition when she entered the race earlier this year.
But Monique ran a grassroots type of campaign in the beginning. She ingratiated herself to the community and her platform was as progressive as it comes. That’s not the entire story for Worrell’s campaign, though, and her victory may be more of an extension of Ayala’s term that begin four years ago than her own.
Worrell, like Ayala, received a flood of money from outside progressive groups funded by billionaire George Soros. While national money being pumped into local races isn’t new due to the Citizens United Supreme Court case, it is something that may unfairly tilt local races in the favor of candidates who aren’t from the communities they want to serve.
Among the other candidates for the state’s attorney office was Deb Barra, a veteran of the office who has served in leadership positions under three SA’s. Barra received the endorsement of Ayala last year and was poised to ride Ayala’s commendation to an election victory. But about a month before primary day, Ayala recalled her endorsement and shifted it to Worrell. Ayala said that Barra moved too far away from her accomplishments as SA and didn’t believe they shared the same vision for the role of SA.
Along with Ayala’s endorsement came millions of dollars for Worrell and an Election Day victory. Barra came in third place as articles spread about Ayala rescinding her endorsement and giving it to Worrell.
With Worrell firmly in place as the Democratic nominee for SA headed into November and the strong support of Ayala, one has to wonder if Worrell’s eventual victory in November will mean four more years of Ayala’s turbulent time as state’s attorney.
For the residents and voters of Orange County, there has to be hope that Worrell carves her own path. If not, she may be just a one-term solution.