Voters deserve a good fight between Republicans and Democrats in Orange County.
By Jacob Engels
This weekend, Saturday to be specific, Orange County Democrats will hold leadership elections to determine who will helm the party going into 2018.
After an impressive set of wins locally with Congresswoman-elect Stephanie Murphy beating GOP veteran John Mica to Emily Bonilla's election over GOP Commissioner Ted Edwards, Democrats have much to be thankful for. However, those races were large in part determined by massive amounts of outside spending from NY billionaire George Soros.
If Orange Democrats wish to continue their makeover of Orange County's political landscape, they will need a competent leader on the ground who can match the effectiveness of high dollar efforts like Soros'. As someone who has held leadership positions in several local, regional, and statewide Republican groups, it's easy for me to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
In the race for Chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party, one candidate stands out for his decades as a party apparatchik... while the other has a tough time tying his shoes, politically speaking.
Lonnie Thompson, a political consultant who has been active with the Committee since 1996 has both the experience and gravitas to lead local Democrats. Having held numerous leadership positions since the early 2000's, Thompson's True Results Communications has racked up an impressive client base in the political and public relations realms.
His most impressive victory in recent years was the election of State Attorney Jeff Ashton after Ashton failed to convict Casey Anthony in the murder trial of her daughter. Anyone who can successfully convince the electorate to elect a man who received as much bad press as Ashton did over the jury’s tragic decision, deserves credit.
That shows a commanding understanding of how to package a candidate to the public, play up his strengths, and turn out votes. Thompson has the institutional knowledge, can earn a headline with ease, and actually understands the complexities of party procedures and the responsibilities of the local party to regional candidates.
Wes Hodge, a prominent campaign aide to newly elected State Senator Linda Stewart is also running for Chairman. Mr Hodge's resume is not only less impressive, but riddled with elections violations.
As the campaign treasurer for Linda Stewart, Hodge couldn't even turn in campaign finance reports on time, leading to several elections violations for his boss. His experience with the party has existed only in small outreach roles, and many elected Democratic leaders in Orange County are concerned his learning curve would be "too steep."
2018 is a time of re-calibration, retaliation, and revenge for Democrats across the country who are ready to fight back against President Trump's bold vision for America.
That battle starts on the local level. It's hard to make the argument that a person like Hodge, who couldn't even handle the role of leading a Young Democrats club with zero budget, is prepared to lead a political party in the I-4 corridor.
If Orange County Democrats want to be taken seriously going into 2018, they need a veteran at the helm.
Lonnie Thompson can lead them to victory and stability.
Wes Hodge can't even turn paperwork in on time.
If Mr. Hodge wishes to be taken seriously, he should publish a detailed vision of improvements he would make to the Orange County Democratic party and explain why he didn’t do any of those things when he was on the board.
As a Republican I almost want to root for the disaster that would be Hodge, but voters are deserving of competent leaders in the local Republican and Democratic Party.
Orange County Democrats should elect Lonnie Thompson on Saturday and avoid the feckless Wes Hodge.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. His work through these publications has been showcased in hundreds of publications and news outlets in the state of Florida, the United States, and around the globe. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org