Environmental activist group Save Orange County has endorsed a number of candidates on the 2016 election ticket, including Emily Bonilla for Orange County Commission District 5 and Bobby Olszewski for District 1.

They said Bonilla “actually listens” to citizen concerns, isn’t beholden to urban sprawl or developers’ interests and has “demonstrated strengths as a community advocate and willingness to be responsive to residents.”

Bonilla was happy for the endorsement and used it to say that her opponent, Ted Edwards, was beholden only to the developers, not listening to the citizens at all.

“The quote from JFK comes to mind, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,’ when I hear District 5 residents complain that their commissioner isn’t listening to them and only represents the developers because he works for them,” she said. “Save Orange County, Inc and other ‘citizen’ groups across District 5 have gathered and have been proactive to gaining their commissioner’s attention. This is their responsibility as citizens. I am running for commissioner because I am one of those citizens who organized and fought to be heard.”

Edwards called Bonilla’s statements “an absolute lie,” and said he “really resented” them.

“I’ve never represented any of the developers involved with these projects,” he said. “[Bonilla] thinks if you repeat a lie enough times, then it’s not a lie. She needs to say who it is she means — she’s never done that. She just makes these bold-faced false statements. In the six years I’ve been on this board, no one has ever questioned my ethics or integrity.”

Olszewski said the endorsement was another step toward moving the county in a positive direction if he wins.

“I am proud to be endorsed by Save Orange County as together we can put residents and community first back in Orange County,” he wrote to FloridaPolitics.com in an email.

Save Orange County also endorsed Maria Bolton-Joubert for Soil & Water District 1, Dean Asher in Senate District 13, John Mica in Congressional District 7, Carlos Guillermo Smith in House District 49, and Rene Plasencia in House District 50.

In addition, they recommended voting “no” on both Orange County’s Charter Amendment 1 — which would reform the process for citizens to add amendments to the charter — saying it would “make it more difficult for the citizens to bring change to Orange County government,” and the Florida Constitution Amendment 1 regarding solar energy, which they said would only hinder residents’ access to solar power.

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