Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan slapped Democrats and Hispanics, a crucial Democratic constituency, in the face by endorsing Lui Damiani in the Orange County Commission District 3 race, slated for August 14th. Sheehan’s action is a major snub to the ONLY Democrat in the race, Michael Aviles, who has been endorsed by the Orange County Democratic Party. Aviles is also Hispanic – Damiani is not – and Commission District 3 is seen as the one seat which could provide Hispanic representation at the County level. The community lost out in the redistricting process and a Latino coalition has threatened a lawsuit over the districts, but Aviles is their best chance this year.
“We need to bring our focus back to what makes a community a good community,” said Aviles. “I’m running to do what’s right for our community, not what’s best for big business or the banks. I want to make my community a better place for having kids and raising a family.”
Sheehan’s latest move is a kick to an important part of the Democratic base when they were already down. But the lack of party discipline demands a response from the Democratic Party. Earlier this year, the Florida Democratic Party paid for mailers to support Sheehan and Mayor Dyer in their re-election bids. Democratic Party money was spent on numerous mailers to promote Sheehan over Aretha Olivarez, an African-American Veteran and small business owner. Now Sheehan returns the favor by going against the only Democrat and another minority while little has been said by Democratic leaders against the move.
This action is only made more troubling because Sheehan not only snubbed her party, she has also broken ranks with the Hispanic community, which now makes up almost one-third of the population in Orange County. President Obama and Democrats will need strong Hispanic support and turnout to win in Florida.
Damiani was never elected to the Commission, he was appointed. This is the latest trend as Sheehan continues to follow the direction of Dyer and others controlling the City Council. Dyer breaks ranks often for his own ambition, even endorsing Republican Speaker Dean Cannon who led the attacks on the middle, working and poor classes. Dyer’s endorsement of Cannon in 2010 was a blow to another Hispanic Democratic candidate. Now if you look closely, Mayor Dyer’s donors have been funneling money to Damiani as well – money that could be going to help elect more Democrats like Aviles. The actions of these local Democratic elected officials have been noticed and are causing rifts within the Hispanic and Democratic communities across the county.