Despite his low profile, he has made his mark on this election. Without paying $1 or collecting one voter petition, McNeeley entered this race, as a write-in candidate, forcing a closed primary and excluding 78,211 St Johns County voters of their right to vote for their next county commissioner.
Our editorial review board does not condone this practice. It smacks of dirty politics and corrupt manipulation of the outcome of the election. It takes money to put on a campaign, but it takes even more money to put on a crooked one.
One candidate, Jerry Cameron, raised $154,475 — far more money than it takes to put on a local campaign. His “consultants” are Tallahassee influence brokers Brett and Matt Doster of Front Line Strategies. Six weeks ago, Doster was named in a Tampa Bay Times report, “Phantom write-in candidates bar more than a million voters from Florida elections”. His opponent, Paul Waldron, has raised a total of $63,804.
Cameron’s funding comes from political special interest groups like the Committee for Better Government, Realtors Political Advocacy, and Advocates for Business Growth; from the gambling industry that is lobbying the commission for slot machines, Bayard Raceways, Inc., The Best Bet, and St. Johns Racing, Inc., as well as a host of regulars on the lists of political fundraisers and host committees like Gate Petroleum Company, Herb H. Peyton, David W. Hutson, Nancy A. Hutson, and Roger M. O’Steen, local government officials, past and present, Joseph L. Boles, Jr., Ronald W. Brown, John H. (Jay) Morris, Jr., political schmoozers like St. Augustine Distillery Co., The Fiorentino Group and T. Martin Firorentino Jr., The Bailey Group, Thompsonbaker Agency. Inc., and other heavy hitters in construction and development like The PARC Group, Inc., Parc Place-Southside, Inc., Durbin Creek Investments, LLC, Durbin Crossing North, LLC, and Ring Power Corporation.
Generally, Jerry Cameron’s pluses, having served as Assistant County Administrator, worked for the veterans to prevent complete closure of the local veterans community clinic, and life in bureaucratic government service, are offset by where his money comes from and the political debts that will have to be repaid if he’s elected. We feel as though he has too closely involved himself in the “sticky” side of politics, and has shown that he can be manipulated by more experienced political juggernauts. We were split in our first vote, as Cameron does have some strengths; we would like to think, if he is elected, he will be able to withstand the pressures and temptations that the land developers and other special interests will throw his way. Cameron is an interesting man, can be fun to be around, always has a joke for any occasion, and performs a remarkable interpretation of Patrick Henry.
We have decided, however, that we can endorse Paul Waldron without fear that he would turn his back on the community where he has lived his entire life and the legacy of his father who served, with distinction, as chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.
Cameron’s experience in government has always been on the receiving end of a paycheck. Waldron’s experience includes having to write a few. We appreciate the latter, particularly from a man who will have to reason through a sizeable, multi-million dollar budget of other people’s money. Waldron does not live a life beyond his means. He has the support and respect of the community where he lives, has raised his family, and is well known to be a friend in need. He is a man of integrity, honor and can square his decisions to his moral compass. We are proud to know him, and proud to support him, as he has been generous in his support of us and all the communities of St Johns County. With that, we will offer Paul Waldron our endorsement.