State Rep. Amy Mercado, D-Orlando, is doing something that isn’t seen very often and which is highly discouraged by political parties: taking on a sitting incumbent from her own party.
After four years serving in the Legislature representing Orlando, Mercado announced she is running for Orange County Property Appraiser in the August primary.
“I love the work I do legislatively,” Mercado told Florida Daily. “I love the policy work. I love the nurturing of relationships and the bipartisan work that I’ve done for the last four years, but this opportunity within the county is intriguing to me and it is the closest to thing to my actual professional career.”
Holding the office now is Rick Singh, a two-term incumbent who is running for reelection. During the past two years, Singh has seen more than his share of controversy–which helps explain why Mercado decided to try and swap jobs.
“It’s complicated. He’s done very good things, but he has also created some chaos that has given the position, that office a black eye so to speak,” Mercado said.
According to multiple news reports, Singh has been under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for a series of alleged missteps. There is also a federal lawsuit filed against him by two former employees who allege Singh hid public records from an audit, misused taxpayer money and even had strippers in his office. All of these reports led Mercado to enter the race.
“When the community doesn’t respect the position or loses respect for the position, it is a problem. People need to feel like they are taken care of equitably and justly,” Mercado said.
Singh has repeatedly denied accusations of wrongdoing though he will have to do more of that as Mercado plans to make an issue of them. However, she would not do a deep dive into the lawsuits or the investigation, noting she is not a law enforcement officer.
“The position in and of itself is up for election and he is running for office in his current seat. He has to define and defend it on the merits of the job, and then the deal that he has with a potential case, he has to handle,” Mercado said.
Noting that prominent Democrats have support both her and Singh over the years, Mercado said “it’ll be interesting to watch and see” who they back this year.
As for the office itself, Singh made some waves and garnered some applause for taking on leading companies in Orange County, including raising property evaluations of Walt Disney World and Sea World. Those theme park companies have sued the Property Appraiser’s Office repeatedly in an effort to lower their property valuations and have had mixed success.
Florida Daily asked Mercado if she intends to continue these tough evaluations if she is elected.
“That depends on the facts at hand. As long as the valuations are just and equitable, they all need to deal,” she said, adding that Singh has done his job when it comes to the parks.
Mercado said the office itself needs more credibility after eight years with Singh at the helm.
“The crisis is not over. We don’t know how long Covid is going to affect. We have no idea if we are going to be in a recession for a little while or a depression for the long term and folks that are property owners need to understand and feel that they are going to have just values in their property quickly,” Mercado said before taking aim at Singh. “The rest of it becomes a distraction when you have the problems he has created for himself.”
For example, Singh got new hybrid vehicles for his office and then prominently displayed his name all over those vehicles–something Mercado pledged not to do. “It’s not a thing for me. I’m not that narcissistic,” she said.
Florida Daily also spoke with Singh. He said he does not comment on candidates that have not even qualified for office yet.
Other candidates running in the Democratic primary include Jasi Baron, Matt McDonald and Khalid Muneer.
Reach Mike Synan at firstname.lastname@example.org.