Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith is no longer unopposed in his House District 49 re-election bid.

Ben Griffin, a Republican who works as a learning assistant at Valencia College, opened a campaign account Thursday to challenge the freshman lawmaker in the Orange County based seat according to Florida Division of Elections records.

In a Friday press release Griffin outlined his campaign platform, which includes “limited government, stronger education, and Christian values.”

“Our area needs a strong and steady leader that reflects our values in Tallahassee,” Griffin said. “As a lifelong resident of this district, I’m very familiar with both our challenges and our opportunities, and I will work hard every day to represent the best interests of the hardworking taxpayers who call District 49 home.”

“I strongly believe that government that grows too large becomes a threat to our freedom. I will work diligently to make sure our focus remains on the Constitution and the principles of low taxes and limited regulation that keep our economy strong and growing. It’s also imperative that every Florida student has the opportunity to get the very best education possible.”

He has two weeks to make the ballot, either by collecting 1,065 petition signatures or, more likely, paying the $1,782 qualifying fee.

Smith has raised nearly $58,000 for his re-election effort and had more than $37,000 banked. That total includes $10,525 raised by the Progressive Legislative Caucus chair last month, including seven $1,000 checks and a slew of small-dollar donations.

HD 49 covers part of northern Orange County including the main campus of the University of Central Florida — the alma mater of both Smith and Griffin — as well as the communities of Union Park and Rio Pinar.

On paper, the seat is a Democratic stronghold. As of the last book closing report, Democrats made up 41 percent of the electorate compared to a 26 percent share for Republicans.

It voted along those lines in 2016, when Smith was elected in a 70-30 landslide over unaffiliated opponent Shea Silverman. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also carried the seat with 60 percent of the vote.

The 2014 cycle, however, saw Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia knock out former Democratic Rep. Joe Saunders in a low turnout cycle that went down as a Republican wave. Plasencia has since shifted over to House District 50.

About The Author

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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