The Iguana Guide To The Aug. 14 Election

by joe courter

There’s Election Day, when all should cast an informed vote, and then there is the Process and all the varied ways one can participate in the build-up to the day(s) when votes are cast.

Those who don’t vote because of their disappointment in the national races hurt all those local candidates whose term in office will affect you directly and for whom your vote is significantly more powerful. Like I said last month, people died for their right to vote; it is not too much to ask for you to participate.

So on the big scale, where are we? On Nov. 6 there will be a Democrat and a Republican. We know them. There will be the Green party and the Libertarian Party, both small, principled and, as usual, ignored by the media. The proposed other third party effort – one Dem and one Repub in an online-determined primary ballot called “America Elects” – quietly collapsed in mid-May. That kind of killed the idea of a major third voice getting into the D&R party-controlled debates.

What we will have is a pretty sharp contrast between the disappointing but eloquent Obama and the less articulate and tied to a hard right party Romney. And a tsunami of right-wing money unleashed by Citizens United muddying the discussion to a point of potential disgust for most sane people.

It will be a long 18 weeks from press time in July to the vote. Money and greed have us in a bad mess. Military Madness has the world hating us.

Locally we have City and County governments hamstrung from Tallahassee budget cuts, trying to deal with the shortfall amid much squealing about paying taxes to make up for it by the Republicans (whose own party did all the cutting in Tallahassee in the first place). Add to that the poisoned political climate fostered by hate radio and the corporate media, which focuses on the simplistic and sensational.

We are in trouble as a nation. But, please, put the gloom aside, and let’s try to keep our progressive little city rolling along with a sensible County Commission and School Board. There’s voting to be done on Aug. 14.

That Aug. 14 primary will arrive soon, with early voting in the two weeks before.

Here’s a quick rundown on Alachua County now that the candidate-filing period has ended. Candidate background and contact info can be found on the Supervisor of Elections website.

County Commission, District One

Mike Byerly has a Democratic opponent, Roberta Lopez. She’s good, but Mike is the best Commissioner we have. He has three Repubs wanting to run against him in what will be a pretty rough primary election, though they will probably all trash Mike more than beat each other up. Mike is grassroots, and he could use help against the mountain of money and meanness he’ll face in the fall.

County Commission, District Three

Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson can raise funds and will run a creative campaign and be a great commissioner if elected to the position he served well in previously. He faces Democrat Ken Cornell, a strong newcomer who will have a lot of conservative money backing him in the primary, trying to make Hutch face, in effect, two strong campaigns. That money will probably desert him and back the Republican who awaits Hutch (or Ken) in the fall, Jean Calderwood, who has no primary opponent. Another really rough race for November.

County Commission, District Five

Though not on the August ballot, this race is worth a mention. Democrat and really good guy Chuck Chestnut will face an extremely well-funded opponent in the November election, Dean Cheshire, who has signs all over town already. When you see those signs, just put a line down the “S” and make it a “$”… mentally of course. Chuck has been a City Commissioner and a Representative in Tallahassee, and we need his perspective on the Commission.

School Board, District Four

We encourage strong support for newcomer Leanetta McNealy to unseat Barbara Sharpe. This three-way race, open to all voters, also has Tea Party-backed Jodi Wood on the ballot. The winner will need 50 percent plus one to win outright; otherwise a run-off election will occur for the top two in November. The Iguana had supported Sharpe before, but she cozied up to the conservatives on the Board as soon as she got there. McNealy has Iguana support as well as that of the Labor Party and the Democratic Party, but getting past 50 percent will be hard.

Popular School Board member Eileen Roy is re-elected with no opposition this time around; if you are a fan of Eileen, get with Leanetta!

There will be other regional races, but we will just talk about one more.

Florida State Senate, District 20

Marihelen Wheeler will face Clovis Watson in the Democratic primary, with the winner facing only a write-in candidate in November. No Republican is running. Watson is a former City Manager and Police Chief in the City of Alachua, and he was a principle actor in the shady politics and the harassment of citizen activist Charlie Grapski in that city a couple years ago. He fell under the spell of Republican operatives during this time, and prominently published an angry renunciation of the Democratic Party and expressed his newfound Republicanism. Watson now plaintively says he regrets this period, but to send a person with this record to the snake pit of Tallahassee seems like a really bad idea. Wheeler is a career educator with experience going to Tallahassee to fight for school funding. The Iguana solidly supports her in what is going to be a tough race, especially for as nice a person as she is. District 20 is a sprawling, somewhat redrawn district that was Chuck Chestnut’s District 23.

Being a candidate is hard work. They need your support, so do what you can.

The last day to register to vote for the August 14 primaries will be July 16. You can also change your party affiliation before July 16, as those registered Independent, Green or whatever do not get a voice in some important Democratic Party races.

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