Jerry Demings seeks re-election after crisis management mandate

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Instead of spending his entire first term preparing Florida’s fastest growing urban county for a new era as he envisioned, the Orange County mayor Jerry demings found himself running a crisis management operation for 20 long months.

His strong suit – the former chief of police, sheriff and director of public safety for Orange County offered on Thursday, as he launched his re-election campaign.

“Over the past three years, I’ve spent at least half of it focusing on our response and recovery from the pandemic,” Demings said Thursday evening at a rally in downtown Orlando. “Yes, we had to suspend our efforts to put a transportation sales tax on the ballot in 2020. We had to suspend our efforts to expand the Orange County Convention Center. But, sometimes things happen for a reason.

“I truly believe that because of my faith, because of the experiences I had during my 40-year career, I was uniquely qualified to guide the ship during the unprecedented period of this pandemic,” said Demings continued. “I don’t know if you are going to find anyone else with the breadth of crisis management that I have been involved in over the years.”

Demings had other things to brag about on Thursday night, including raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour for county employees, launching affordable housing programs, and putting in high-profile tech programs. and climate sustainability. But he also shelved his biggest planned initiatives, in particular a comprehensive transportation upgrade backed by a one-cent sales tax.

On Thursday, he vowed to bring back the sales tax proposal and push for it in front of Orange County voters in the 2022 general election ballot, to create a dedicated long-term funding source for buses, trains, roads and highways.

“Fixing our faulty transportation system is one of my immediate priorities,” said Demings.

Demings launched his re-election campaign in the same restaurantAce Cafe Orlando – where the republican government. Ron DeSantis kicked off his general election campaign with his running mate, now the lieutenant governor. Jeanette Nunez, in 2018.

After Demings, a Democrat, and DeSantis both took office following their 2018 election, the two often worked well together, at first. But that changed and became bitter, from the summer of 2020, when the two radically diverged on COVID-19 response philosophies. Demings aggressive implementation policies regarding mask warrants and vaccine warrants, while DeSantis has pursued aggressive minimalist responses. The governor threatened to punish Orange County for going his own way.

There is little love there now.

“There have been many suggestions that we would be fined – Orange County – for the steps we have taken to keep our employees and residents safe. And what did I say to that? Bring it on! ”Demings said Thursday.

As of now, Demings has no competition for the 2022 municipal elections. He might not have, or at least no serious competition. The county’s electoral base has turned pretty blue in recent years. Today, Democrats have 43% of registered voters in the county, compared to 25% for Republicans.

When Demings was elected in 2018, he was the first elected Democratic mayor of Orange County in 18 years. His election coincided with the overthrow of control of the county committee by the Democrats for the first time in 18 years. Democrats now hold six of those seven seats.

Demings’ longer-term ambitions for an even higher position have been widely speculated. For a while, that had included speculation about a race against DeSantis next year. Demings rejected this speech, get re-elected. He is married to the Democratic representative of the United States. Val Demings, who is racing his own statewide in 2022, challenging Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

However, already, Thursday, the mayor has rekindled speculation on what could follow. Orange County has term limits for mayor, so if Demings is re-elected he would get his second and final term.

“We will see what God has for me after this,” he said Thursday.

Demings was elected mayor in the August 2018 election, strongly beating a popular county commissioner and business leader with close ties to the Orlando Chamber of Commerce. He became the county’s first African-American mayor. Earlier in his career, he became the county’s first African-American sheriff, and before that, he had become the city of Orlando’s first African-American police chief.


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