Hundreds of politically savvy locals packed the main hall of the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center for the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce Political Mingle on Monday, July 23.
Working his way through the room after racing across town from the City Commission meeting, Mayor Ken Bradley beamed about the packed room in his hometown.
“Isn’t this great?” he said. “So many people participating in the process.”
Despite a torrential downpour during most of the event, the main hall was a close-quarters elbow-rubbing cavalcade of candidates, including some who came from Tallahassee for the event.
“It was a great turnout,” Chamber President Patrick Chapin said. “I applaud the candidates who participated because they draw the crowd. That helps us and they’re really supporting the chamber.
“Some of these candidates know they’re not going to win the straw poll, but it’s great for the community, great for the chamber, so they still come out. It takes a lot of courage to come out there in front of people who aren’t your supporters necessarily.”
Florida District 37 Rep. Scott Plakon, campaigning for District 30, said hi to would-be voters, as did a few other state-level officials.
Florida Senate majority leader Andy Gardiner shook hands with passers by as he campaigned for the new District 13 seat on a business development platform. He’d been out in Brevard County in recent weeks talking to NASA and the possibility of bringing more jobs to the UCF area.
“I just vote on things in Tallahassee,” Gardiner said. “The people in this room, they’re the ones that make it happen.”
Across the room, District 13 candidate Chris Pennington was talking about local business versus international titans and his role in representing the little guy.
When the Mingle’s straw poll numbers came out, there were few surprises in the final tally, but some close races kept things exciting.
Gardiner’s 201 votes beat runner-up Pennington, who had 58. But Pennington said he was happy with the result.
“I thought it was a pretty good showing,” Pennington said. “It was Andy’s hometown, it’s a chamber event, which is conservative.”
Chapin said he liked the style of the event, which brought about more relaxed politicking than the norm.
“I talked with [Gardiner and Pennington], the three of us for 10 minutes,” he said. “It’s a great chance to just mingle, instead of a contentious debate format. It’s low key, it’s fun, it’s festive. The people are relaxed and ready to have an open dialog.”
Some of the straw poll winners (Winners in bold):
U.S. Representative, District 7
Sandra "Sandy" Adams
State Representative, District 30
Karen Castor Dentel
State Senator, District 13
Orange County School Board, District 6
Orange County Commission, District 5
To see the full results, visit http://bit.ly/M7qdcv