By: Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board
August 13, 2020

Seminole County Commission: Dallari and Constantine

The two incumbents in this Republican primary stood up against an attempted development incursion into the county’s rural zone. They rejected repeated attempts by the developer of a 669-acre project called River Cross to build a massive project inside the zone that Seminole voters decided long ago should be preserved in its rural state.

District 1 Commissioner Bob Dallari and District 3 Commissioner Lee Constantine came under intense political and legal pressure to cave in, but they didn’t. They honored the voters’ wishes.

Now they’re being challenged in the primary by candidates who say they would do the same.

But would they? Matt Morgan, the Longwood mayor who is running in District 1, and Ben Paris, a Longwood commissioner running in District 3, have each accepted a total of $6,000 in campaign contributions from a half-dozen companies headed by the family that owns the River Cross land.

The Orlando Sentinel also reported a tangled web of political committee money, possibly tied to development efforts, either trying to help the challengers or hurt the incumbents.

Morgan is adamant he wouldn’t have supported River Cross and would protect the rural zone. Paris has been more guarded in his assurances.

The rural zone is a defining local issue for Seminole voters in this election. Get it wrong and the county could end up with a commission that’s more friendly to paving it over. Why chance that, especially considering the contributions Morgan and Paris have been getting?

Dallari and Constantine have shown their willingness to take a punch for the voters. They’ve both earned the voters’ trust, and another term on the commission.

Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board Recommendations

Who is Lee Constantine?

Lee Constantine and his family moved to Seminole County in 1958. His mother and father were the founders of Maryland Fired Chicken and opened the first store in Fern Park. Constantine started at the age of 12 washing dishes and by 16 he had become the store manager of the Sanford restaurant. During his high school years he was the captain of the swim team at Lyman High School, and in college was elected Student Body President, graduating from the University of Central Florida.

Since 2012, Constantine has served as a Seminole County Commissioner, being reelected without opposition in 2016.

Among Constantine’s legislative and governing skills, he has been heralded for his abilities in brokering compromise, his “mastery” of the complicated state budget process, as well as his direction and guidance in areas of education, the environment and economic development. In addition to leadership acumen through governance, Constantine applies his knowledge and perspective through a weekly column he writes in the Orlando Sentinel’s Central Florida 100 Editorial page as one of “Central Florida’s most influential people in government, politics and culture.” Professionally, Constantine serves as a business consultant for high-level corporations on real estate and a wide range of other issues.

Beyond his work as Commissioner, Constantine serves the community in a variety of ways, including through his fifth term as Chairman of the Wekiva River Basin Commission, honoring his commitment to protect the Wekiva River while building the beltway around Central Florida; he currently serves as the Vice-Chairman of the Florida Conservation Coalition; and is active on the Executive Board of 1000 Friends of Florida. His community engagement extends back to when he became the 1st Vice President of the Florida Association of Counties (where he has served as Chairman of the Growth Management, Agriculture, Transportation & Environment Committee and the Water Policy Task Force) and served as Chairman of LYNX (Central Florida’s regional public transit system) in 2019, where he continues to be engaged on the Lynx Board. He is a current member, and recent past Chair, of the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council and is also a recent past Chair of the Florida Regional Planning Council.

One of the most evident examples of Constantine’s passion for community service is seen through his work as Founder and Chairman of Charity Challenge, Inc., established in 1987. Since its inception, Charity Challenge, an all-volunteer organization, has evolved from a small backyard event into the largest independent charity in Central Florida, raising over $6.4 million for hundreds of Florida charities.

Priority issues for Constantine in serving the residents of Seminole County include:

  • Protecting and defending the Rural Boundary
  • Protect quality of life, including recreational and passive parks, the ‘A’ rated school system, high-quality healthcare facilities, and well-planned communities
  • Advocating for and leading through fiscal conservative values, such as not raising property taxes
  • Serving through principled leadership and passion to improve the future of Seminole County

Interview questions and Constantine’s responsesIf re-elected to this position, and if COVID-19 is still going strong, what would you do to make sure your vision for and effectiveness as a leader for and with the community stays on track and makes a difference?

“As a member of your county commission, I voted to provide small business grants (over $11 million) to those businesses in Seminole County who are struggling during these uncertain times. In addition, we directed CARES Act dollars to provide a financial boost to our ‘A’ rated school system and distributed economic assistance to working families in the community. If re-elected, I will continue to look for unique opportunities, such as the ones stated above, to keep Seminole County on track and prospering.”

What have you been doing that is unique to let voters know who you are and what you are about since campaigning during COVID-19 (mid-March to present)?

“With COVID-19 curtailing traditional forms of campaigning this election cycle, I’ve mixed old school methods like telephone calls and mailings with new school tactics like social media, email blasts, and zoom meetings to communicate with voters.”

What has been a highlight during your experience running for this position? 

“I’ve lived in Seminole County for over 50 years and I am passionate about our beautiful home and our unique way of life. I’m honored to have served our community as your county commissioner these last eight years. While campaigning, I love meeting Seminole County residents who enjoy living, playing, and working here just as much as I do!”

What do you see as the greatest challenge facing your district?

“Meeting the economic and public safety challenges as we continue to face the current crisis of COVID-19 – as well as the aftermath of the virus.”

What is your #1 hope for Seminole County that you would love to make a reality if re-elected? 

“I want to continue to protect and defend the Rural Boundary as well as our quality of life in Seminole County, so it remains our “Natural Choice.””

What would you like to say to voters who have not decided who they will vote for yet?

“As your county commissioner, I will wake up every day working for you and provide, as I have throughout my career, principled leadership.  LIKE my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Constantine4Seminole) and FOLLOW me on twitter (https://twitter.com/Lee4Seminole) to stay up-to-date on my campaign and I humbly ask for your vote on (or before) Tuesday, August 18.”

Notable Endorsements

Seminole County Professional Firefighters; Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association; Orlando Regional Realtor Association; Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board; Greater Orlando Builders Association; NAIOP of Florida – Central Florida Chapter; BusinessForce

About the process: The Seminole Source emailed the same six questions to all candidates running in the offices and positions outlined above, if their email address was listed. In cases where no email was provided, we left a voicemail requesting their email, and /or sent a message on Facebook requesting it if no phone number was provided. There were a few candidates that provided no contact information at all. The response deadline was given equally to all candidates. Biographical information and history was pulled from the candidate’s campaign website and / or Facebook page.

The Seminole Source: Lee Constantine Profile

Early Voting in Seminole County for the General Election begins Monday, October 19th and runs through Sunday, November 1st from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (14 days of Early Voting)

Casselberry Library
215 N Oxford Rd
Casselberry, FL 32707

Lake Mary Library
580 Green Way Blvd
Lake Mary, FL 32746

Supervisor of Elections
1500 East Airport Boulevard
Sanford, FL

Oviedo Aquatic Center
148 Oviedo Blvd
Oviedo, FL 32765

Sanford Library
150 N Palmetto Ave
Sanford, FL 32771

Wekiva Library
245 N Hunt Club Blvd
Longwood, FL 32779

Oviedo Library
310 N Division St
Oviedo, FL 32765

Altamonte Springs
1140 E. Altamonte Drive
Suite 1003
Altamonte Springs, Florida 32701

Seminole County Early Voting Locations

By Lee Constantine
July 31, 2020

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Over the past four months, no organizations have worked harder than Florida’s Emergency Operation Centers. For more than 130 days, they have been activated, 24/7, to deal with the health-related complications of COVID-19. Now, these same folks have to shift and add to their assignment preparation for the effects of a possible Category 1 hurricane. As Isaias approaches, sandbag distribution and mobilization of personnel all have to be coordinated while adjusting for social distancing, face-masks and medical staff needed at potential shelter locations. Words are inadequate to appreciate the double-duty of our Emergency Management and Public Safety workers, but let’s try: Thank you!

Central Florida 100 (7/31/20)