Could Val Demings take on Jacobs in 2014?
Mar 18, 2013 (Orlando Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs telephoned Val Demings last year to ask the former Orlando police chief whether she was going to run against Jacobs in 2014.
"She laughed," Jacobs said. "She said that there wasn't ... I don't remember the exact quote, but there wasn't a chance that she would run. There was absolutely no way that she would run.'"
That might not be the case now, though.
Demings remembers the call a little differently and said she's still considering all her political options, including a possible campaign against Jacobs next year.
When Jacobs called her in mid-October, it was a few weeks before the Nov. 6 congressional election that pitted Democrat Demings against Republican Dan Webster.
"Mayor, I am running for Congress, and I'm running to win," Demings recalls telling Jacobs, adding that at the time she expected to beat Webster and run for re-election to Congress next year.
That didn't happen. Webster, R-Winter Garden, won.
Jacobs said she called at a time when speculation centered on what Demings might do if she lost.
When asked about her plans now, Demings says that, although she hasn't ruled anything out, she's also being recruited hard to take on Webster again.
But Democratic fundraiser Bob Poe said he has urged Demings to take on Jacobs, a Republican.
"She would be a great candidate, and I think she would win," Poe said.
While Jacobs has struggled through several controversies during her first two years, Demings' name is one of the few to emerge as a potential challenger to Jacobs in the nonpartisan election.
Jacobs has taken heat from some Hispanics activists who said she didn't do enough during redistricting to create a stronger Hispanic district. And she alienated some in the gay and lesbian community over a fight for a domestic-partner registry.
In recent months, Jacobs has been involved in the bruising political and legal battle over a sick-time referendum. Commissioners blocked the measure from the ballot -- a move she voted against -- but Jacobs has at times defended the delay, and she favors state lawmakers' blocking local efforts to mandate paid sick time for employees.
The fallout from that has spawned a pair of civil-court fights. One case resulted in a judicial-panel ruling that the County Commission violated its charter by delaying the referendum. The judges ordered it to go on the next ballot, which would be the same August 2014 primary that includes Jacobs' re-election race.
The other civil lawsuit is still pending. It alleges commissioners violated open-meeting and public-record laws in communicating with sick-time foes in the business community and that some officials destroyed public records by deleting cellphone texts with them. That fight, which has come to be a part of a larger "textgate" saga, could drag on and prove costly to county taxpayers.
At the same time, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into whether any open-government laws were broken.
One early prospect to take on Jacobs for county mayor was former state Rep. Scott Randolph, a Democrat attorney who worked closely with the sick-time proponents. But he won the race for Orange County tax collector last fall, and Randolph said he's comfortable in that job.
Florida House Majority Leader Steve Precourt said he's been urged to run for mayor in 2014, but would decide after the legislative session in May. He faces term limits in 2014.
"Orange County appears to be experiencing a crisis of leadership," Precourt said by email. "While some are serving admirably, others in leadership positions do not work well together, are unable to find common ground, and appear to lack a basic foundation of principles, skills, innate vision and the wisdom to lead."
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