Lee Constantine was defending the environment as a Republican long before his party thought it politically beneficial to finally take up the cause.

His record has been nearly impeccable through the years as an Altamonte city commissioner, a Florida legislator and, most recently, as a Seminole County commissioner.

So we were not surprised when Constantine led the charge to halt the hated River Cross project that threatened the eastern rural zone that Seminole voters decided to protect more than 15 years ago.

The project would have been a dagger in the county’s rural heart, and Constantine deserves the largest share of credit for making sure it didn’t happen.

For that leadership, and for his steadfast devotion to protecting the environment and managing growth, Seminole voters should give Constantine another four years in office.

Constantine is facing a challenge from Democrat Kim Buchheit, a land surveyor who is running on a platform that seems to largely track Constantine’s core beliefs. She’s a sharp business owner who has built a solid resume of environmental activism.

In an interview with the Sentinel Editorial Board, she lamented the poor development decisions Seminole has made but struggled to articulate exactly what those were. Constantine answered with several recent examples where he opposed projects he thought represented irresponsible growth.

She and Constantine also departed on the value of SunRail. While Buchheit did some of the survey work for SunRail, she now questions the commuter rail line’s value. We understand it hasn’t lived up to its potential, most recently because of the pandemic, but without SunRail portions of Central Florida are back to commuting in cars or relying on an inadequate bus system.

Constantine is a vocal advocate for the rail line, which he helped shepherd through the state Legislature. He understands public transportation isn’t a money maker, just like roads aren’t. It’s basic infrastructure that requires government support.

In another commission seat, Buchheit might be an opportunity for Seminole voters to trade up for a better steward of the land and a better manager of growth.

Not in District 3, where Constantine has demonstrated those qualities as he has in a variety of elected positions. Even today he serves as a board member for 1000 Friends of Florida, a respected organization that advocates for responsible growth management.

Buchheit’s the right candidate in the wrong race. Seminole County voters would be crazy to get rid of Constantine, their strongest voice for the environment. He should be reelected to the Seminole County Commission.

Election endorsements are the opinion of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board, which consists of Opinion Editor Mike Lafferty, Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio, Jay Reddick, David Whitley and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Sentinel Columnist Scott Maxwell participates in interviews and deliberations. To watch the candidate interviews, go to www.OrlandoSentinel.com/interviews.

Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board Endorses Lee Constantine For Seminole County Commission, District 3

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

July 29, 2020

The COVID-19 virus is testing our resolve, and the numbers here in Florida tell an extremely concerning story.

By every key metric, our state has recently been reaching record levels on an almost daily basis. These include the number of new COVID-19 cases, and the percentage of those tested for COVID-19 who are positive. Our hospitalization rates are alarming. Since March 1, Florida has reported more than 400,000 COVID-19 total cases and over 5,500 deaths.

As leaders serving Florida, we are urgently asking our community to join us in renewing our commitment to following safety guidelines, recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent more people from getting infected, becoming sick or unfortunately even dying. We all need to take personal responsibility to do the right thing for ourselves and one another to avoid our community experiencing an even more severe impact from COVID-19 like we have seen in other parts of our country.

The most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed in the first place. There are simple steps we can take to effectively reduce the risk of transmission and turn the tide in our community.

1. Wear a mask when you’re outside of your home. Wearing masks should not be a controversial or a divisive issue. Masks can help save lives, just like seatbelts, traffic lights and life vests. Multiple studiesincluding a recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine, show that individuals with no symptoms or mild symptoms can transmit the virus to others. But wearing simple cloth masks can stop more than 90% of the droplets that transmit the virus.

2. Practice social distancing. Where possible, keep at least 6 feet between you and other people outside your home. Remember, even people who do not appear sick can still spread the virus to you if you are too close. Avoiding close proximity to other people will help to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

3. Wash hands frequently. Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in public or blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, can help stem the spread. If soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands.

4. Avoid the Three Cs. The World Health Organization has recommended avoiding “Crowded” places with many people nearby, “Close” contact settings where people have close-range conversations, and “Confined,” enclosed places with poor ventilation. If you do make the decision to gather with others, it is much safer to do so outdoors rather than indoors.

Full Commentary: Dozens of Florida leaders urge: Be safe to stop the spread of COVID-19 | Commentary

Dirty Election Money

Voters constantly complain about dirty elections – and they should. The overwhelming perpetrators of this evil are the Dark Money, hidden contributor Political Committees that, unlike candidates, have no contribution limit and can conceal donors from the public. These committees shuffle money from one to another, attack candidates with lies & innuendos and hide behind pretty-sounding names like “Sunshine State Forever.” I, and many other candidates, have felt the sting of these shameful tactics. While in the Legislature, I pushed to make the process more transparent but was opposed by both political parties. Voters should be aware of this insidious practice and reject their hidden motives.

Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board Endorses Lee Constantine For Seminole County Commission, District 3

Constantine in District 3

The argument for Republicans to select incumbent Lee Constantine is much the same as the argument for Dallari. If anything Constantine was even more outspoken in his opposition to River Cross and his defense of the voters will to keep eastern Seminole County rural.

Constantine’s passion for land preservation is consistent with his long record of advocating for environmental protection. He’s been on the front lines for years in trying to protect Seminole’s waterways, including his early support for rules to stop fertilizer from polluting waterways.

Like Dallari, he’s supported policies that have made Seminole County a place where people want to live, not a place to avoid.

The two also supported the county’s decision — a wise but difficult decision — to require that residents wear face coverings in public places to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Constantine’s opponent isn’t so sure. Ben Paris, a Longwood city commissioner who seems well versed on some of the issues, says there should have been more public input, raising the possibility of more delays and more community spread.

Paris said he would have voted against the River Cross project “as presented” but begged off committing to how he would have voted on the land swap, saying he didn’t have much information on it. That’s quite a statement, considering how much information was available and how passionately Seminole residents felt about it. He either wasn’t paying attention or didn’t want to answer the question.

Republican voters have zero reason to doubt where Constantine comes down on protecting the rural zone, and whose side he’s on. They should pick him as their candidate to run in the fall.

Orlando Sentinel Endorses Lee Constantine for Seminole County Commission, District 3

By Lee Constantine
July 2, 2020

Thank you, Gov. DeSantis! Once again, by vetoing Senate Bill 410 you have elevated yourself above the gamesmanship of the Tallahassee insiders. With a stroke of your pen, you took those shady special interests who want to usurp the state Constitution for their own gain to the woodshed. Well done, sir. You have sent a clear message that a last minute amendment to destroy Seminole County’s pristine rural boundary will not be tolerated. Hopefully, every lobbyist and politician who feels that local government is their personal ATM heard you. Local officials and the citizens they represent have the right to control their own destiny.

Central Florida 100 (7/2/20)