A special election for a Florida House of Representatives district puts growing southwest Orange County in the spotlight.
- Special election for Florida House District 44, southwest Orange County
- Four candidates in Republican primary, happening Aug. 15
- Winner faces Democrat Paul Chandler in October
- FLORIDA DECIDES: Political news | Election information
- RELATED: See if you're in Florida House District 44
Voters will choose a replacement in October for FL Rep. Eric Eisenaugle, R-House District 44, who is leaving for a state judicial appointment.
But first, Republican voters will choose a nominee from their party on Tuesday, Aug. 15 to face Democrat Paul Chandler.
The district, Florida House District 44, includes Oakland, Winter Garden and Ocoee south of State Road 50, the town of Windermere, and the communities of Gotha, Dr. Phillips, Bay Hill, Lake Buena Vista and Horizon West, a growing community that will ultimately include 45,000 homes.
Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m. To find your polling place, head to the Orange County Elections website.
Here are the four Republican candidates running for the primary Tuesday:
Dr. Usha Jain -- Campaign website
Medical director, Emergi Care Medical Center in Windermere
Dr. Jain says she considers this campaign a mission. "I think this mission is given from God, believe it or not," Jain said. "I need to make a difference. Whether I win or not is immaterial."
Jain says she is running to help the community. She is financing the campaign herself, and not taking donations, because she doesn't want to be obligated to do favors for donors.
On her campaign website, Jain says she and her husband are life-long supporters of conservative values, and she supports more tax credits for job creation and other options to help small business owners. She also wants to see liability reform, with an end to fee-driven lawsuits.
Jain says she is against increasing Medicaid funding. “Medicaid funding is for the people who are not working," she told anchor Ybeth Bruzual on "Political Connections." "And I am not for the people who are not working. I am for the people who are working. And yes, we need to give care to everybody.”
She would prefer to see one hospital created just for people who don't have health insurance.
Jain also believes Orange County can handle the explosion of growth in the west part of the county, provided planners are smart.
“Infrastructure can handle the explosion of homes," Jain said. "If everyone does it properly, with common sense, it can be done.”
John Newstreet -- Campaign website
CEO, Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce
Newstreet was a financial planner who served in the U.S. Coast Guard. He also worked for Sens. Mel Martinez and Marco Rubio.
Newstreet feels that experience, along with his conservative beliefs, make him qualified to be state representative.
"I think I have the experience -- I’ve worked in the process," Newstreet said. "I think I have the passion -- I do it every day -- to get to Tallahasssee and make good decisions for our businesses."
Newstreet says growth is one of the big things he hears about when canvassing voters, and he says the county is playing "catch-up" when it comes to infrastructure.
“We don’t want to spend hours waiting at a traffic light, we want to be home with our families," Newstreet told Ybeth Bruzual. "So we’ve got to get in front of that. A lot of it happens at the local level, but the state certainly plays a role and where it does I want to be helpful."
Newstreet supports school choice and charter schools, but he also thinks the state needs to back off a bit on local school districts.
"When I worked for a few of our U.S. senators, I asked our superintendents around the state, what’s one thing the senator can do for you?" Newstreet said. "And without any variations they all said less regulations, let me run my school districts for how my students learn."
Newstreet does also not support expanding Medicaid, saying the program does not lower costs or improve care. “Some of the things the legislature is looking at that I’m generally supportive of, is direct primary care, improving the relationship with the doctor and the patient and making sure the patient is engaged, telemedicine, and of course wellness and preventative programs."
Robert "Bobby O" Olszewski -- Campaign Website
Robert "Bobby O" Olszewski was a commissioner in Winter Garden before he ran unsuccessfully for Orange County commissioner. Olszewski runs Emerson Management and Consulting Group and sits on a number of community boards.
He has lives in Orange County since he was two. His parents worked for Orange County Public Schools, and his wife is currently a teacher.
As a result, education is very important to Olszewski. He says school choice is important, but school accountability is a frustrating issue, be they public schools or charter schools.
"We need to make sure the standards and the rules are being applied equally," Olszewski said. "And so if you’re going to be holding public schools, private schools, home schools and charter schools, they have to be held to the same standards, and I think that’s where the frustration comes into play."
He thinks there should also be more investment in vocational schools.
Schools are one area where growth is a concern, especially in southwest Orange County. Olszewski says residents prefer the unique charm and feel of a community like Winter Garden, and all the stakeholders need to do a better job of coming together.
"It’s having that long term vision and not having that short term solution, to say, yes build it, but let's think about having the infrastructure, let's think about all the other amenities to make it a community where one we can be proud of," he said.,"And fits that unique feel and culture of the community we all share and love."
Bruno Portigliatti -- Campaign Website
Bruno Portigliatti is young (only 29), but he has several irons in the fire. He's the chief executive officer of Excellence Senior Living, which creates luxury assisted living facilities, executive vice president at Florida Christian University, president of New Beginnings Global Outreach and a realtor at AmeriTeam Realty.
Portigliatti's campaign site plays up his conservative beliefs, like the other candidates. One area where he diverges from conservative leaders in the Florida Legislature is regarding Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. This past session House Speaker Richard Corcoran tried to strip the two quasi-public entities of public funding, calling them corporate welfare. Portiglatti disagrees.
"We have benefited from Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida," he said. "We have seen a return on investment, we have seen how much it has stimulated economic growth. I am for that, I think we need to continue to retain that funding, don’t fix what’s not broken."
He does also believe in a limited government and only collecting enough taxes to meet core functions, according to its website.
Portigliatti also believes in expanding salaries and benefits for teachers, but also believes government needs to support school choice and home schooling programs, including charter schools.
"We need to do whatever works," he said. "We have been trying a lot of different things for a long time, and we have not seen the improvement that we wanted to see in different aspects of education."
He also thinks Orange County needs to take a closer look at how much growth is happening. "One of the main things we’re advocating for is to reduce traffic and improve the roads, and we cannot do that if we continue to grow so much."