Maitland election heats up as early voting kicks off

Election kicks off

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  • | 6:58 a.m. March 3, 2016
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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With a dozen days left until Election Day, candidates are entering crunch time while early-bird voters flock to the polls.

In Winter Park, two City Commissioner seats and a high-stakes referendum are up for a vote, while in Maitland, one City Council seat is up for grabs. Those items, of course, are sharing the ballot with the hotly contested presidential primary contest.

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said it’s what’s on the ballot that beckons people out the polls.

“It’s the issues and candidates that cause strong voter turnout,” he said.

In Winter Park, traditionally a Republican stronghold with so much at stake on the ballot, he said, turnout is expected to be high. To alleviate any early voting congestion at the Winter Park Public Library polling place, Orange County opened an early voting polling place in Maitland for the first time at Maitland Community Park, located at 1400 Mayo Ave.

Two days into early voting, more than five times as many voters had cast their ballots in Winter Park than in Maitland – 562 at the Winter Park Public Library and 104 at Maitland Community Park. Early voting in Orange County is open now through Sunday, March 13, and registered voters can cast their votes – or drop off their absentee ballots – at any polling place within the county regardless of location during polling hours between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

In Maitland, candidates are working to bolster turnout in their favor by hitting the streets and spending the last two weekends until the March 15 election day knocking on doors.

Candidates Mike Thomas and Mike Dabby are trying to set themselves apart in voters minds’, getting away from the fact that they have the same first name and both serve on the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission.

Dabby says it’s his two decades of experience serving on various city boards that gives him the edge between the two candidates. Dabby said he’s been observing Maitland city government for his whole 31-year residency here from all sides, as a concerned resident, a city board member and a real estate appraiser working with developers.

“It comes down to who’s better prepared to lead,” Dabby said. “…I’m seeing it from various perspectives… I’m better prepared to come up with a better solution for all of them.”

But Thomas says that his extensive career experience outside of city government is what gives him the upper hand.

“I just don’t think another long-time city insider is what Maitland needs right now,” Thomas said. “…I think we need fresh ideas and a fresh perspective.”

Thomas spent nearly three decades as a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel investigating and writing stories and, later, opinion columns on everything from politics to the environment and education. After leaving the newspaper in 2011, he’s served as a communications manager for Orange County Public Schools, a policy advisor to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, and in the communication department of former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.

The two candidates faced off at a Maitland candidate forum on Wednesday at the Maitland Civic Center – Venue on the Lake at press time. Pick up next week’s issue of The Observer for full coverage of the debate.


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