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Joe Saunders Draws a Republican Opponent in Orange County

August 8, 2013 - 6:00pm

Freshman Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, drew an opponent this week in Edward Nelson Rodriguez, a retired law enforcement officer who has been active in business and with the Orange County GOP.

While he has been in the Florida House for barely more than half a year, Saunders has risen quickly in Tallahassee and now serves as deputy whip for the Democrats. Saunders has been very politically active, serving as statewide field director of Equality Florida, which is active on LGBT community issues, for more than half a decade. A veteran Orange County Democrat, Saunders served on the board of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando. He has also been active in the community as the founder of the Florida Safe Schools Coalition.

Despite a failed bid for the Orange County Soil and Water Board in 2010, Rodriguez told Sunshine State News he was looking forward to hitting the campaign trail as he runs for the Florida House. Rodriguez thinks he has a chance for an open shot at Saunders. I expect it to be one on one and thats the way I want it, he said.

An Army veteran and a staunch defender of Second Amendment rights and Floridas Stand Your Ground law, Rodriguez believes his blunt style will help him connect to voters and let them know what he believes in. I am what I am, I do what I do, he said.

Rodriguez promises to fight for job creation if elected. Businesses are the lifeline of all people, he insisted. Businesses are the ones who create jobs. Without that, I expect us to sink more and more.

With Hispanics continuing to grow in Central Florida, Rodriguez says he can appeal to them and hopes to let them know about the merits of the GOP. Looking at the results of the 2012 presidential election, Rodriguez insists it shows why Republicans need to win over Hispanics.

Rodriguez told Sunshine State News he hopes to make the case that, with the GOP firmly in control of the Florida House, the district should elect a Republican. He also jabbed Saunders as ineffective in Tallahassee.

Check out his track record, Rodriguez said about Saunders. Theres nothing in there to substantiate his re-election.

Sunshine State News called Saunders district office on Friday and left a message but the call was not returned.

Having filed his paperwork to run for a second term in January, Saunders has a head start on Rodriguez. In the first half of the year, he raised $14,280 and spent less than $875. Rodriguez filed his paperwork to run on Tuesday.

The district has a clear Democratic lean, with 40 percent of voters there registered in that party while 31 percent are in the GOP. Alex Sink beat out Rick Scott in this Orange County district by 11 percent back in 2010.

Reach Kevin Derby at

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