In a show of party unity, St. Johns County Republican leaders, voters and other dignitaries converged on the St. Augustine Shrine Club yesterday afternoon to rally support for next year’s election season — which, for many races, campaigning has already started.
Michael Gold, a member of the Republican Executive Committee and editor of Historic City News, covered the three hour political rally; learning from what many elected officials had to say.
“It was time well spent socializing with other members from St. Johns County’ Young Republicans, Federated Republican Women, and three area clubs including the Republican Club of St. Augustine, Northwest Republican Club and Ponte Vedra Republican Club,” Gold said.
Gold interviewed State Representative candidate Kim Kendall who says her candidacy has been mischaracterized in other local media. “You are the first reporter to actually talk to me about my positions before you wrote your article,” Kendall told Historic City News. “I’ve found myself quoted in local newspapers by reporters who I have never met.”
An example cited by Kendall has to do with her bid for House District 19. It has been reported that Kendall has no intention of running in that district against incumbent Mike Weinstein. “That’s not true,” Kendall said. “I live in District 19 and I am running for that seat; if it turns out that reapportionment or redistricting reassigns me to a different district, so be it.”
Kendall chose not to comment on her opinions of Weinstein’s performance in Tallahassee, clarifying for our readers that Weinstein is not the reason she is running for office.
Every ten years, the redistricting occurs as updated census figures give legislators better information on where Florida’s voters are located. Through the process of public hearings and workshops, voting districts are apportioned based on the numbers of residents located in definable geographic areas.
When Gold interviewed Weinstein, who was also in attendance at the rally, he pointed out that neither the political parties, legislature nor residents exclusively make the final decision — “the Supreme Court can step in alter or abolish any districting plans, so we could be close to next year’s qualifying date before we are certain where we are running.”
Weinstein is a prosecutor in Jacksonville, employed by State Attorney Angela Corey. Kendall is married and has two children. She was formerly employed as an air traffic controller. “It was also published that I was going to move, if necessary, to compete in what is currently House District 20,” Kendall added. District 20 is the seat being relinquished by Bill Proctor due to term limits. “I’d like to see our community along SR-210 and west of I-95 remain intact. My family and I love our home and, even though it is likely that our voting district may change, it will be the district that moves, not me.”
We also learned from school board member Carla Wright that she will not seek re-election. Wright said that she had already communicated her decision to Superintendent Joe Joyner. She did take an opportunity to thank her past supporters and told Historic City News that she hopes a Republican is elected to her seat.
Gold took a moment to ask if she had given thought to who she might like to see follow her on the School Board; she said she had not. Wright said that she probably would not endorse anyone who might decide to run. School Board seats are non-partisan.
All constitutional officers of the county will stand for re-election in 2012. Clerk of Circuit Court, Cheryl Strickland; Property Appraiser, Sharon Outland; and Tax Collector, Dennis Hollingsworth have already announced that they will seek re-election. Hollingsworth did not attend yesterday’s event.
Strickland has loaned her campaign $400 and Outland contributed $500 to her campaign. Both candidates hope to qualify by petition and avoid several thousand dollars in qualifying fees in the process. Almost all candidates who attended yesterday, including Strickland and Outland, were eagerly circulating ballot petition cards.
Newly appointed Supervisor of Elections, Vicky Oakes, took the opportunity to explain changes in the election process, training of precinct workers and new procedures for soliciting voters to register before the election.
After being coaxed, Oakes confirmed her intention to stand for election next November, as did District 3 County Commissioner Mark Miner and District 1 County Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson. Until a candidate actually files for a seat, whether or not it is to be elected or re-elected, they are prohibited from collecting petition cards or soliciting campaign contributions. In the last election, Miner qualified to appear on the ballot by paying the qualifying fee rather than collecting voter signatures.
Two county commission seats are already contested. Brian Iannucci has filed to run for the District 1 seat held by Stevenson and Alan Kelso has filed to run for the District 5 seat held by Ken Bryan. Although Stevenson attended, Bryan did not show.
Iannucci explained that this is his “hometown”, he graduated from Nease High School and lives in his district. He was accompanied at the event by his wife and kids, who, Iannucci says is the reason he is running — a sentiment echoed by many candidates yesterday. His comments followed a theme; he explained, with several examples, how he feels that he has “stood up” for St. Johns County voters and now, he asks them to “stand up” for him.
Stevenson cautioned voters and campaign supporters in all races next year to “make sure what’s on the inside” as she reminded the audience that just because a candidate says one thing at election time, that may not be how perform if they are elected. Stevenson, the former Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, echoed another sentiment that was common among candidates and elected officials who spoke to the audience of about one hundred — the 2012 elections are critical throughout the nation.
Alan Kelso agreed, saying that Republican values need to be supported in Washington, D.C., as well as in our state, county and on the local level. Kelso said that his experience is in business — not politics. He also repeated Stevenson’s warning to “make sure what’s on the inside” when evaluating conservative candidates.
“Just because they now have an (R) behind their name, does not mean that they are truly and honestly conservative,” Kelso warned. His opponent, Ken Bryan, ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat soon after moving to St. Augustine. During the County Commission race for District 2 in 2006, Bryan lost to Republican candidate Ron Sanchez. Bryan switched parties, and voting districts; then, two years later, was elected when he ran as a Republican in a four-way race in District 5.
Bryan has been at odds with some in the Republican Party since that election. Some have said that Bryan “is the poster boy” for improper affiliation with the Republican Party; citing his open endorsement and support of Democrat candidates in races contested by Republicans; actions which the Republican State Committeeman has charged violate Bryan’s loyalty oath to the Republican Party. “He is the embodiment of a RINO,” one speaker told Historic City News; referring to the acronym for “Republican — In Name Only”.
Sanchez, who is not running for re-election for two more years, addressed the group as they enjoyed temperate breezes off the Moultrie Bluff and a complimentary picnic lunch. Members of the St. Augustine Shrine Club who volunteered to come in on Saturday to help, including Gus Craig, Harry Waldron, and Ralph Wolfe — who made a few comments to explain the Shriners mission to raise money for the Shriner’s Hospitals. Wolfe thanked the Republican Party for renting their facility and for helping make the lives of children with serious problems better. Shrine Hospitals will not refuse treatment to children because of their family’s inability to pay.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer