Orange County Democrats dismissed complaints that the current party leadership had not done enough and easily re-elected Wes Hodge as chair of the executive committee and the rest of the office holders seeking a second term.
Hodge held off challengers from former state House District 44 candidate Paul Chandler and former Orange County Sheriff candidate Darryl Sheppard to take 75 percent of the votes cast to be elected to a second term.
Vice Chair Nuren Haider and Secretary Deborah Ryan were re-elected by even larger margins, while Treasurer Wanda Fitzgerald and Female Member at-Large Tiffany Namey did not face any challengers.
Former Male Member at-Large Timothy Ayers did not seek re-election, and he was replaced by Mel Lopez, husband of Orange County District 5 County Commissioner Emily Bonilla, who defeated a challenge by Sheppard.
Chandler and Sheppard had challenged after being frustrated that Hodge had not done enough, or anything, to support their campaigns. Chander had run for the HD 44 seat in a 2017 special election but wound up having to drop off the ballot after a lawsuit contended he did not properly qualify for the ballot. Sheppard ran what became an unauthorized candidacy for sheriff, and won the Democratic nomination when he was unopposed in the Aug. 8 primary. However, Sheppard had no experience in law enforcement except for his own arrest record, so Hodge and the Orange County party refused to endorse him. John Mina, a former Orange County police chief who is a registered Democrat but ran as an independent candidate, won.
Otherwise the Orange County Democratic Party saw an impressive year, flipping control of the Orange County Commission for the first time in 20 years, electing a Democratic Orange County Mayor in Jerry Demings, flipping three Florida House seats in Orange County to take a 7-2 advantage in that delegation, and taking three of four congressional seats in Orange County, all in re-elections.
Hodge said, “2018 saw historic numbers for a midterm election here in Orange County. We look forward to bringing even more first-time voters to the polls in 2020. We have the most diverse elected officials in history, and we look forward to building a more inclusive Orange County.”