At the Osceola Hob Nob 2016, held Thursday evening at the Osceola Heritage Park Exhibition Hall, people lined up to cast their votes in the straw poll. Then, they went into the exhibition hall and mingled with candidates, enjoying food, drink and a party with those who could very well lead them after this year’s elections.

Later that night, the results were announced. Darren Soto took home a win in the 9th Congressional District’s Democratic primary, leading with 195 votes over his challengers. Wayne Liebnitzky won over Wanda Rentas in the Republican primary with 217 votes.

Bob Healy Jr. won in the poll for State Senate District 15, with 184 votes.

Neil Combee beat his opponent Victor Sims in the House District 39 poll with 256 votes. In House District 42, Mike La Rosa beat his sole opponent Benny Valentin with 313 votes. In House District 43, Sara Shaw took the win in the straw poll with 163 votes.

As the primary draws closer, the candidates brought with them a variety of different ideas of what they’d do if elected or re-elected.

Several of them brought up the new imec sensor facility currently being built right across the street from the Heritage park, which promises to bring new technological jobs to the area and make Central Florida a hub for high-tech research jobs.

La Rosa said the project was unprecedented for the area.

“The ICAMR project is a showstopper,” he said. “The likes of which haven’t been seen since Walt Disney chose to put his theme park here.”

La Rosa said if he’s elected, he can continue bringing high paying jobs and higher quality education to the area.

Shaw evoked her time as Kissimmee’s mayor pro-tem, saying she had spent four years trying to make Central Florida a better place to work, and the imec facility would do that by bringing more diverse job opportunities. She said if elected to the House, she would work to continue to fight for even more such projects to bolster the area’s value in terms of job opportunities.

Valentin said an issue he’d focus on is Homeowners’ Association reform – too often, he said, homeowners’ associations are owned by developers instead of residents who live in the individual communities.

If elected, Valentin said he would work to stop companies from preying on families by foreclosing their homes.

“I don’t believe middle-class families should be kicked out of their homes,” he said. “That’s one reason why 192 has so many homeless people. I’m proposing a new House bill for homeowner protection. We need to have a local ordinance to settle these disputes with homeowners.”

Rentas will focus on a straight list of what she calls “basic Republican values.”

“The deficit is a problem, the national debt,” she said. “Our military – it’s not the strongest defense now. Veterans are a big concern of mine. Family values for sure.”

Healy is running for office now, but his day job is running several funeral homes in Central Florida. He says that makes him uniquely qualified to run for office.

“I think I know a lot about Osceola County,” he said. “I am a small business owner. I’ll take those values to Tallahassee. I want seniors to have more accessible health care. I’ll expand the role of nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. That will increase the capacity for health care. If you call the doctor, they’ll get you an appointment in three weeks. If you go visit the nurse or the physician’s assistant, they’ll see you this week, and if they need to call the doctor in, they will.”

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