By Jim Bleyer
Hillsborough County voters have an easy decision Sept. 28 in the Florida House District 62 Democratic primary.
The choice: A Marine veteran whose dedication to improving public education is widely admired or a controversial member of the school board beholden to special interests.
Mike Alvarez, has won endorsements from the Florida Education Association and the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association and is poised to provide superior leadership in the Florida House for the citizens in his district.
His main opponent, Susan Valdes, has barely survived the rockiest of tenures on the Hillsborough County School Board. Valdes has also been caught in a web of lies and deceit as a school board member and during her current Florida House bid.
Observers familiar with her shenanigans on the Hillsborough County School Board label Valdes as “Ms. Chaos.” The thought that she would dilute an already weak Hillsborough delegation in Tallahassee is nauseating to the many familiar with her duplicity.
District 62 covers a portion of Hillsborough County that includes Town ‘n’ Country, Citrus Park and Egypt Lake-Leto. Families with children in public school are gravitating to Alvarez.
Alvarez made education the cornerstone of his campaign platform. He recently pledged to support public education unconditionally and reject money from out of area for-profit education corporations.
In addition to the high-profile education groups, Alvarez has gained endorsements from Congresswoman Kathy Castor, the West Central Florida PBA, the Hillsborough LGBTA Democratic Caucus, Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn, and the AFL-CIO who recognized his strong support for an improved education system and jobs that pay a living wage.
Meanwhile, the unprincipled Valdes, has filled her war chest with contributions from charter school interests despite a pledge not to accept them. The Teacher Voice blog, which focuses on Florida education issues, stamped Ms. Chaos as “an unethical elected official.”
Behind the scenes, Democratic officeholders and party officials are vexed at Valdes’ welshing on a campaign promise. Democrats, both in Tallahassee and the district, uniformly oppose the gutting of public education and sending tax dollars to charter schools.
Valdes has left a trail of lies and cronyism throughout her “public service” that haunts her campaign.
The charter school mole allegedly influenced school administrators to dissolve the district planning and construction department. The reason: so the department staff could not address problems with construction work performed by her friends and campaign donors.
Ms. Chaos did not even possess the capability of filing her school board resignation letter by the prescribed deadline. Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer, who has his own problems, bended the rules and accepted Valdes’ paperwork.
Victor DeMaio, her campaign manager, threw a public fit and made threats over a video of Valdes stumbling over her campaign promises that contrast sharply with reality. The five-minute video seen here continues to go viral and has been reported by several Tampa Bay media outlets. It calls attention to Valdes’ deceit regarding the acceptance of contributions.