St Johns County Commission candidate, Merrill Roland, told local Historic City News reporters in an interview that Dr. Patricia Gill and the St Johns County League of Women Voters “are liars” because they are not allowing him and August primary winners an opportunity to debate in the County Auditorium before the General Election.
On July 26, 2012, Historic City News reported that Gill and St Augustine Record editor Pete Ellis denied Roland the right to participate in a candidate forum being held in the public auditorium and broadcast on the Comcast Government TV channel, because he faced no opposition in the Primary Election.
Roland says Gill and Ellis, whose organization and company sponsor the moderated, pre-election forums each election cycle, assured him that they would hold a General Election forum; but now, he told reporters they say “there is not enough time before the election” to make good on that promise.
Roland believes that citizens need to hear from all candidates for public office prior to Election Day if they are properly qualified and have paid the appropriate qualifying fees to appear on the ballot.
The citizens wanting to make informed decisions before voting are being disadvantaged, Roland says; and, candidates legitimately participating in the election process are being discriminated against — going on to say that this is not Gill or Ellis’ first offense.
Roland, dressed in a black-and-white striped chain-gang costume, held a sign in protest of being prohibited from speaking and answering the same questions posed to his opponent, Cyndi Stevenson, who prevailed over Brian Iannucci in the Republican Primary.
Roland and Randy Brunson are each registered Republicans whose names will appear on the November ballot but did not appear in August because they are running without party affiliation. Each paid $2,580.48 in fees to the Supervisor of Elections to qualify.
Brunson told Historic City News that he is not part of Roland’s complaint; even though, he said, he would have appreciated the same opportunity to speak during the candidate forum that was afforded his opponent, Rachael Bennett.
Roland also said that in pursuit of making Dr. Gill, the League of Women Voters, and The Record to honor their promise to him, he was shocked to learn that there will be time to schedule a pre-election forum in the County Auditorium — just for the Mosquito Control Board seats.
Since Roland is running for county commission, he will not be invited or allowed to participate in that candidate forum.