Republican congressional nominee Wayne Liebnitzky may be an Osceola County resident, but he’s hoping for surprisingly strong showings in Orange and Polk counties to carry him to what would be an upset win over Democratic state Sen. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Liebnitzky, a St. Cloud businessman who decisively won the Republican primary last week, faces several disadvantages in the general election race against Soto, but said Thursday that a business perspective to issues, hard work, and voters in Polk and Orange could make a difference.

The district has a strong Democratic lean. It has a large base of Latino voters, particularly of Puerto Rican descent, and Soto has pushed his Puerto Rican roots. Soto has tons of endorsements and campaign money, while Liebnitzky does not. Soto has a seasoned, professional campaign team, while Liebnitzky relies on what he calls his “kitchen cabinet.” Soto, who’s served three terms in the Florida House and one in the Florida Senate, has a decade of experience campaigning in the area and broad name recognition. Liebnitzky does not.

But Liebnitzky says he expects to have the upper hand in the more Republican region of east Polk, while Soto’s dominance of very-Democratic Osceola will be huge. Liebnitzky thinks he could outscore Soto in Orange and grab some Osceola precincts by pushing a platform that combines business acumen he said provides solid insights into everything from imports to Zika, wage increases to treatment of veterans, to the environment.

“Can I win? In my mind, yes, I can,” he said, adding that he’s going to keep his game plan to himself.

Liebnitzky, 59, is a retired data systems engineer from St. Cloud who got into the automotive tool business and now has several MAC Tools franchises. He’s a Navy veteran from the 1970s and dedicates the first plank of his campaign to improving the lives of and services for veterans.

His platform follows many basic Republican planks, including eliminating Common Core, strengthening the military and American resolve overseas and fostering a free-market economy. But on the campaign trail and in debates he’s expressed more moderate views on social issues, including the prospect of some gun law reforms, though he is a gun owner and professes a strong commitment to the 2nd Amendment.

Liebnitzky doesn’t tout it in his campaign, but technically he’s half Latino, a fact that could help in a district in which Hispanics make up almost 40 percent of the voter base and who gave Soto a big boost in the primary. Liebnitzky’s mother’s father was Brazilian-Portuguese. His mother’s mother was a Spaniard. His father’s side of the family is German.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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