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Election season revs up

Winter Park Commissioner Karen Diebel, right, rubs elbows with Seminole County Commissioner Mike McLean, who's running for re-election. Diebel is challenging freshman democrat Suzanne Kosmas for the U.S. House District 24 seat.

Winter Park Commissioner Karen Diebel, right, rubs elbows with Seminole County Commissioner Mike McLean, who's running for re-election. Diebel is challenging freshman democrat Suzanne Kosmas for the U.S. House District 24 seat.

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When Mayra Uribe first started her campaign for Orange County Commission in 2009, she started knocking on doors on the weekends, collecting maybe 20 or 30 signatures to put her on the ballot.

That wasn't enough. So Uribe began spending three hours a day, seven days a week, trying to reach voters. Since then, she's knocked on more than 10,500 doors in Orange County, talked about 1,400 voters into signing a petition, and, incidentally, lost 25 pounds.

But in the end, it paid off — Uribe got the necessary amount of signature to get on the ballot without paying a fee. So did County Commission candidate Jennifer Thompson.

"I'm very proud of that," Uribe said. "I decided money is going to be challenging in this election cycle. I said if I'm going to do this, I'm going to earn it."

It's election season, and in Orange and Seminole counties, local and state issues could have a pretty big impact on how the ballot looks during the Aug. 24 primary. The question on everyone's mind is whether or not Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will run as a Republican against Marco Rubio or change to an NPA candidate for Florida's Senate seat.

Believe it or not, that decision could affect how every race in Orange and Seminole counties is decided. If Crist drops out, the turnout figures for the Republican primary will decrease, said Mike Ertel, the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections.

But if he stays and the turnout is higher, Ertel said some of the other candidates could start trying to appeal to the more conservative bloc that tends to come out in numbers for the primary.

"If one of them is not in the race, then the turnout's going to be depressed," Ertel said. "So the message points that Rubio would be driving home and sending in mailers and on TV won't also be used by the down-ballot races. The tone of the entire ballot will change because the tone of the top race on the ballot will be different."

County Commissioner Bill Segal and County Commissioner Mildred Fernandez have both thrown their names in the hat for county mayor — and both are the fundraising leaders, with Segal topping out near $600,000 and Fernandez near $140,000.

On June 18, both of them will have to make a decision: Stay in the county mayor's race and resign from the board (effective January of next year) or back out of the mayor's race and finish out the remainder of their term. If either or both decide to go full force for the mayor's position, there will be a special election to fill the seat.

Already, Maitland Mayor Doug Kinson and former County Commissioner Ted Edwards are in line to take Segal's seat (Edwards has raised more than $130,000; Kinson, more than $21,135). Reinaldo Vazquez and Peter Vivaldi are also in line to replace Fernandez if she resigns, but neither candidate has raised money.

"For the Winter Park, Maitland audience, that's going to create a special election that will be unique on their ballot for county commission, District 5," said Bill Cowles, the Orange County Supervisor of Elections.

And the final monkey wrench — if a third candidate were to enter in either contest, that ballot would have to be decided Aug. 24. In Orange County, if there are more than two candidates on the ballot, that race has a primary contest Aug. 24.

Unless one of the candidates can earn more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates are then moved to the Nov. 2 general election. The largest race, candidates-wise, is that mayor's race, with nine candidates so far — although some of them won't make it that far.

"It's very difficult when there are five or more (candidates) trying to win that somebody will get 50 percent plus one," Cowles said.

He said there has been a school board race in which a candidate won outright in the primary over five candidates.

"So it has been done. But I think as competitive as this Orange County mayor race is gonna be, it will be very difficult."