Karen Castor Dentel smiled early Tuesday night, but it was out of nervousness. But as the election results rolled in and the election was all but called in her favor, the smiles were out of joy. The longtime Maitland teacher had just won her first elected office.
At press time Tuesday night, more than 68,000 voters had cast their ballots and she commanded a 53 percent to 47 percent lead.
“This is all brand new to me,” the presumptive winner of Florida House of Representatives District 30 said. “It’s not real to me yet.”
But the excitement in the room at SoNapa Grille in Maitland seemed to say more than Dentel could. She had just beaten Republican Rep. Scott Plakon in a race where she had been outspent by a five to one margin.
“She built on her friendships,” mother and former Florida Sen. Betty Castor said. “She created her own campaign because people really trust her.”
Plakon’s campaign bus had become an oft-seen eye catcher on the roadways through Orange and Seminole County during the run up to his general election battle against the newcomer Dentel.
The Democrat challenger had drawn on the well-known political name that came from both her mother and her sister Florida Rep. Kathy Castor. Numerous teachers, firefighters and police associations also endorsed her. But it was her family and friends that Betty Castor said supported her from the very start.
“We are just so proud,” Betty Castor said.
Mica cruises to win
The vote quickly pointed to a win for Congressman John Mica as he greeted friends in the Sheraton Orlando Downtown Hotel, victorious over challenger Jason Kendall in the race for the U.S. House of Representatives District 7 congressional seat.
Mica earned 59 percent of the vote to Kendall’s 41 percent, with more than 313,000 ballots cast. At the end of a long day, Mica was already talking about projects he was working on throughout campaign season, including the morning of the election.
“It’s been a hectic day,” he said.
In a year of escalating campaign spending nationwide, Mica had out-raised Kendall in the general election by a factor of nearly 50:1. But Mica credited his experience, and his style of campaigning like he was behind in the polls, for helping him to victory.
“I think it says the people thought I did a good job,” Mica said. “But you’ve got to redouble your efforts to reach out to the voters. Some of them I’ve never represented before.”
Mica was long expected to win the seat, which was redistricted in 2010, placing Mica and fellow incumbent Sandy Adams in the same district for the Republican primary in August. After beating Adams, the election seemed to be a more assured proposition for Mica. But Kendall, banking on an Internet marketing campaign, hoped to become the David to Mica’s Goliath.
“I think I just proved that you can do a lot without a lot of funding,” Kendall said. “I’m glad I kept my integrity and didn’t get touched by any special interest money.”
His campaign already behind him as the screens still glowed with statistics, Mica said he hoped to jumpstart job growth in the area.
“My focus on the next couple months is trying to save jobs in Central Florida,” he said. “We’re looking at cutbacks in the simulation industry, and we need to make sure we don’t lose ground. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”