Over the weekend, Carlos Guillermo Smith won the Democratic nomination for House District 49, leaving just two candidates on the ballot.
District 49 is located in the northern part of Orange County and includes all of UCF.
In a surprising twist, both of the potential Republican candidates withdrew from the race just hours before the candidate qualifying deadline on Friday. Currently, the only two candidates on the ballot are Smith and Shea Silverman, who are both UCF alumni. Silverman does not have a party affiliation but said that Bernie Sanders inspired him to run for office.
Smith, the former Orange County Democratic Party chair and public policy chief for the LGBT rights group Equality Florida, has the endorsement of Joe Saunders, who served as House District 49 representative from 2012 to 2014. One of his top priorities is ensuring that UCF students have access to Bright Futures funding and reinvesting in Bright Futures scholarships.
“The only reason I was able to go to school and put myself through college at UCF was qualifying for the Bright Futures scholarship,” he said. “And since 2009, the legislature has slashed the fund in half ...”
Silverman, worked with Congressman Bill Posey (R), then a Florida senator, during the 2007 legislative session, wants to completely get rid of the excess credit hour surcharge and has plans to file legislation regarding the rising prices of tuition and fees.
“All [students] want to do is finish,” Silverman said. “You know, no matter what school, they want to finish. They want to get that degree. They want to get that paper. They’ve put in their hours; they’re working really hard at this. To just hit them while they’re down and charge even more, it’s not helping them.”
Both Smith and Silverman are adamantaly against guns on campus.
“To get a concealed weapons license in Florida, there are minimal training requirements in Florida,” Smith said. “So, the idea that someone with a concealed weapons permit can be trained enough to be in a volatile, high-stress situation and be trained enough to neutralize the situation, become a hero, is not realistic. The UCF Police Department is very well equipped to handle situations like that, and you know, they have.”
Martin Collins (R) was unable to collect the qualifying fee in time for the deadline, forcing him to leave the race.
Amber Mariano (R), a UCF student and current Student Government Association senator, dropped out of the race for House District 49 and changed her campaign to run for representative of House District 36.
“As a lifelong resident of Pasco County, I know our community, its issues, its challenges, and the overwhelming opportunities we have ahead of us ...” Mariano said in a post on her campaign’s Facebook.
Mariano’s Facebook lists her hometown as Hudson, Florida, in House District 36, even though her voter registration states she lives in Orange County. According to Balletpedia.org, candidates must be 21 years old, have lived in Florida for two years and live in the district they intend to serve in order to run for the Florida House of Representatives.
District 49 has historically been a blue district. It is located in an area that is supported by academia and has a large Hispanic population.
Mariano has not responded to a request for comment at this time.
Jillian James is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alissa Smith is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @thealissasmith or email her at AlissaS@centralfloridafuture.com.