This year’s redrawing of Florida’s congressional seats had one of its biggest impacts on District 10 in Orange County.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ map adopted by the Legislature made it more Democratic-leaning, but at the same time diluted the African American vote in what had been considered a Black access seat held by former Orlando police chief Val Demings.
The crowded Democratic primary to succeed Demings, now running for U.S. Senate, has drawn six Black candidates: state Sen. Randolph Bracy, progressive activist Maxwell Frost, the Rev. Terence Gray, civil rights attorney Natalie Jackson, businessman Jeffrey Boone, and, in a surprise move, ex-U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, who was recently released from prison.
It’s also drawn four non-Black candidates, including former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, despite Democratic criticism about the district losing its Black identity.
The new congressional map split the Black community in western Orange, formerly located almost entirely within District 10, right down the middle. So while Black voters once made up around half of all Democratic primary voters in District 10, in the new map white voters now outnumber Black voters 40% to 35%.
Grayson, who is white, was unrepentant about running. “It’s not important, when you’re congressman, how you look. It’s important what you do,” he said.
The elections site FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats a 29-point advantage over Republicans in the district, making the winner of the Aug. 23 Democratic primary a heavy favorite in November.
Nevertheless, there are six Republican candidates on the ballot in the crowded race.
There is no runoff election in the primary, meaning a candidate in either party can win the nomination with far less than 50%-plus-one of the vote.
The biggest campaign account has been raised by Frost, a 25-year-old former ACLU staffer and gun control activist arrested during Orlando’s Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. At one point he had out-raised all of his opponents combined, and as of July had $1.3 million.
Frost has also picked up endorsements from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, state Reps. Anna Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, gun control activist Fred Guttenberg and groups ranging from the Congressional Progressive Caucus to the Florida Education Association.
“We’re in a moment in time where we’re facing our democracy eroding, where people are struggling to pay their bills, where gun violence is ravaging our communities, and the climate crisis is at hand,” Frost said. “I truly believe that we need a new generation of leaders to rise up and help continue the work that the folks before us have done and bring bold energy to Congress.”
Frost added it was important to protect abortion rights and ensure everyone in the country has health care.
“I see all of these issues as being interconnected,” he said. “When we handle rising costs, when we ensure people have health care, they’re less likely to use a gun to solve their problem.”
Bracy, 55, of Orlando, had been based in Ocoee, now outside of the district. He has raised about $500,000.
“I believe I’m called to serve people,” Bracy said. “And that’s why I ran 10 years ago for the statehouse and ultimately, the [state] Senate. I thought I could contribute to helping this community.”
Bracy said that tackling the economy would be his main priority. “We have high inflation, we have high gas prices, high rent, high home prices with not enough housing,” he said.
“I think it’s also important to fight against this aggressive, public Republican agenda that is attacking the LGBTQ community, voting rights, and abortion,” Bracy added. “I have the experience, but also I’m the only one who has fought against this new aggressive Republican regime.”
Bracy is backed by the pro-Israel political committee Democratic Majority for Israel. He has apologized for listing a past endorsement on a mailer from the Florida Education Association teachers union, which has endorsed Frost for Congress.
Terence Gray, 57, of Ocoee, is the pastor of Saint Mark AME Church in Orlando.
“Housing is an issue of importance and significance for me, making sure that people have a decent wage, as well as figuring out ways in which we can partner with home builders,” Gray said.
Gray said he wanted to keep the lines of communication going between Democrats and Republicans. He also acknowledged he doesn’t have as much political experience as some of his opponents, but added “some persons who have gained experience have … brought some embarrassment and shame to all of us in some shape, form or fashion. I’m going to make sure that I maintain an ethical quality.”
Gray has raised almost $307,000.
Natalie Jackson, 53, of Orlando, is a civil rights attorney who represented Trayvon Martin’s family after his shooting death in 2012. She has raised about $112,000.
“I decided to run because after watching January 6,” she said, referring to the attack on the U.S. Capitol. “I felt that America was at a precipice and we were in a struggle for democracy versus autocracy.”
“The rent is skyrocketing, [people] can’t afford to live anywhere, they can’t buy homes, ownership is out of reach,” Jackson said. “Prescription drugs are too expensive. The wealth gap is widening. Education is unaffordable. Those are the things that we need to really work on.
“And so for me, one of the things that I would like to do once I hit the ground running is to toughen up our antitrust laws, because I believe all this stuff is related to corporations squeezing out small businesses,” she added.
Her other priority is strengthening education to create a K-14 model to help all students get at least two years of post-high school education or training.
“I’ve done everything they’ve done,” she said of her opponents. “I am a progressive activist. I’ve changed laws in this [state]. … I was on the front line of Black Lives Matter. So anyone in this race, anything that they are doing, I have already done and continue to do.”
Jeffrey Boone, 58, of Orlando, is a finance executive and former Wall Street banker. He has raised about $42,000, including a $22,000 self-loan.
Boone said he wants to protect abortion rights. He also said guns in Black neighborhoods “are killing Black children … We have to ensure that we have the necessary resources and funding to provide to local law enforcement to have enough feet on the ground to make our neighborhoods safe.”
He criticized Bracy, saying that over the course of his decade in office “there has not been economic development in areas like Pine Hills and Paramore. We have food deserts. It’s about being able to bring some economic development there, and I have the business acumen to do it.”
He also criticized Frost. “I’m also concerned about young politicians trying to pivot from being community activists [and] protesting and marching to be able to pass legislation,” he said.
Brown, 75, of Jacksonville, had represented parts of District 10 in Congress before serving two years in prison on 18 federal convictions of mail and wire fraud, conspiracy and filing false tax returns. Her original conviction was thrown out by an appeals court over an issue with a juror, but she pleaded guilty to a tax fraud charge to avoid more jail time.
Brown said she was running to win, adding she always won by her higher margins in the Orlando part of her district.
Asked whether voters should trust her after her guilty plea, she said “the Lord wanted me to see the criminal justice system. He wanted me to experience this because he knew that I would do something about it.”
A late entry to the race, Brown has raised no money, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Grayson has the highest profile of several non-Black candidates for the seat.
Grayson, 64, represented parts of Central Florida twice in the U.S. House between 2009 and 2017 before unsuccessful bids for U.S. Senate and against U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in the 2018 Democratic primary.
“Orlando needs it,” said Grayson when asked why he was running again. “We need somebody who’s not just going to talk about problems, but actually solve them. … We will, in fact, see lower tolls, lower taxes and lower rent, if I’m successful.”
Both Grayson and Brown cited being able to work with a Republican Congress to help fund the Orlando VA Medical Center and phase 2 of SunRail.
Grayson has raised about $678,000, including a $400,000 self-loan.
Jack Achenbach, 29, who is white, is a dietitian. He states on his website he wants to bring down gas prices, end the war on drugs, and reform the immigration system. “Jack is focused on solutions, not political tribalism,” his website states. He has raised less than $1,000.
Teresa Tachon, 58, who is white, is a teacher at Boone High School. She states on her website that her main focus is education. She called for reallocating funds to public schools and requiring charter schools to meet the same standards as public ones. She has raised about $11,000.
Khalid Muneer, a Pakistani American, is a real estate broker. His platform on his website calls for reducing gun violence, tackling inflation and safeguarding the environment. There is no information listed by the FEC about his campaign finances.
On the Republican side, former candidates Thuy Lowe and Willie Montague are making another run, alongside several businessmen.
Lowe, 56, who was Demings’ first GOP opponent in her first election to Congress in 2016, is making her third run for Congress. Thuy, a Vietnamese American, also served as Regional Engagement Coordinator for Asian Pacific Americans for the 2020 Trump campaign.
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Her website lists energy independence, parental rights and border security as key issues. She has raised about $37,000.
Montague, 34, who is Black, unsuccessfully ran for the GOP nomination in District 10 in 2020 and is the founder of the Orlando nonprofit “House of Timothy.” On his website he attacks “racist critical theories and radical gender ideology… What our country needs is to return to God.”
In April, he joined a protest outside Walt Disney World condemning the Disney company’s stance against the so-called “don’t say gay” law. He has raised the most money out of all Republicans, with nearly $200,000.
Calvin Wimbish, 72, who is Black, is a retired Army Green Beret and calls himself a “fierce America First conservative.” On his website, his stances include “election integrity,” the Second Amendment, and eliminating the U.S. Department of Education. Wimbish has raised about $65,000.
Lateresa Jones, 58, who is Black, does not have a website but states on her Instagram she’s a “small Business-Owner, Christian, Pro-Trump Republican.” She has raised about $14,000.
Peter Weed, 65, who is white, is a businessman. His website says he backs school choice, is against abortion, and wants to control the border. He has raised about $15,000.
Tuan Le, an aerospace engineer and cyber security analyst, was not listed as having raised any funds for his campaign.