Rep. Joe Saunders

With less than a week to go until the general election, candidates are making their final pitches to voters. In Central Florida, one race appears to be coming down to the wire.

“My race is very competitive,” said Florida Rep. Joe Saunders (D-Orlando) in a telephone interview with SFGN Monday morning. “We’re running a very strong campaign. This race is close and we’re doing everything we can to win.”

Saunders, 31, is seeking re-election in House District 49, which covers eastern Orlando. He is campaigning on a platform of funding for public education and higher education with an emphasis on fine arts and protecting jobs.

“My district has a lot of young voters and progressive voters,” Saunders said.

As the Democratic Party’s Deputy Whip in Tallahassee, Saunders has demonstrated an ability to not only rally his party faithful, but also work across the aisle to get Republicans to sign on to legislation he sponsored. The Competitive Workforce Act, a bill that provided workplace protections for the LGBT community, is an example of Saunders’ leadership.

Saunders is one of two openly gay representatives in the Florida House. The other, Rep. David Richardson (D-Miami Beach) is unchallenged and will return for another two-year term.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Florida is targeting District 49 as a pickup and dumping thousands of dollars in the race to help high school teacher Rene “Coach P” Plasencia. Radio ads attacking Saunders are currently airing on Orlando stations.

Saunders said his election team has been canvassing door-to-door in the district for months and he feels good, but added there needs to be “a spike” in Democratic votes on Election Day.