Election Preview: Local 2018 races to watch in Orange County

By Alicia Soller, Digital Media Producer
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 07, 2018, 7:28 PM EST

Tuesday, March 13 marks Election Day for several local Orange County municipalities, where some races for mayor, city council seats and commissions are already making a splash. 

Apopka has a packed ballot in 2018, with some candidates vying for reelection, while others are fighting fellow opponents for an open seat.  

Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson is challenging incumbent Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer for his seat in an already contentious battle.

Kilsheimer, who has lived in Apopka for the past 30 years, assumed his role as mayor in April 2014 when he was elected to replace 61-year incumbent John Land. Nelson was elected to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners in 2014 in District 2. He was also previously a state representative for Districts 31 and 38.  

Spectrum News 13 reporter Julie Gargotta spoke exclusively with both of the candidates, who have two unique visions for the city. Kilsheimer views investing in "critical infrastructure" as vital to the city's growth, while Nelson called Kilsheimer's spending as mayor "irresponsible" -- he said he wants to fix the city's financial situation. 

In Apopka City Council, Suzanne Kidd, Gene Knight, Theresa Mott and Alexander Smith are competing against each other to win a currently empty Seat 1.

Incumbent Apopka City Commissioner Diane Velazquez faces three opponents as she vies for a second term in Seat 2. Leroy Bell, Alicia Koutsoulieris and Alice Nolan are challenging Velazquez. Bell has been vocal about his criticisms of the city's government, telling The Apopka Voice that he wants to fix its integrity and apparent deficit.

In Winter Park, incumbent Mayor Steven Leary, elected in 2015, is being challenged by U.S. Navy veteran and former Haines City official Jim Fitch. Fitch is a relative newcomer to Winter Park, moving to the city in 2016, while Leary has been a resident since 2004.

Leary has an edge on Fitch in regards to campaign funds. According to The Orlando Sentinel, Leary has raised $86,700 as of Feb. 23, while Fitch has raised $11,300. 

Belle Isle has a crowded 13 charter amendment questions on the ballot regarding City Council procedures and employment policies, and mayoral duties and powers. 

Ococee District 2 Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen is being challenged by Robert Rivera, while District 4 Commissioner Joel Keller is being challenged by George Oliver III.

Early voting ends Friday, March 9. Registered voters can cast their ballots early at the county's Supervisor of Elections office on 119 W. Kaley Street.  

Regular voting commences March 13 at 7 a.m.  Polls will be open until 7 p.m. Tuesday night. To find your polling location, visit the Orange County Seupervisor of Elections website.