Friday, May 25, 2012

Money, money, money, MON-ey

If you’re like me, you’ve been barraged lately with emails and phone calls asking for money for one political campaign or another.  At an Organizing for America training session in Naples two weekends ago, a volunteer asked, “How do you decide who to give money to?”

A very good question – especially since we’ll no doubt continue to be inundated with requests until Election Day.  Obviously, who to give to and how much to give is a personal decision, but I thought it might be helpful to list the major Democratic fundraising organizations for the federal elections and provide a web-link for each:

·        Obama for America (OFA) - the national fundraising organization for President Obama’s re-election campaign.  When you buy t-shirts, hats, buttons, etc., from the Obama Store, the money goes to OFA, too. 

·        Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) - the official campaign arm of the House Democrats.  It is not an affiliate of and does not receive regular funding from the DNC.  Representative Steve Israel (D – NY) is the current DCCC Chair.

·        Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) – the official campaign arm of the Senate Democrats.  It is not an affiliate of and does not receive regular funding from the DNC.  Senator Patty Murray (D – WA) is the current DSCC Chair.

In addition, if you're a Floridian like me, you might want to contribute to Senator Bill Nelson’s re-election campaign (D-FL) as he is in a tough fight, probably against Connie Mack IV, to retain his Senate seat.  

You might also want to contribute to the CollierCounty Democratic Executive Committee (Collier DEMS) to help them maintain an office and a presence here in Collier County.  The CCDEC has made their office available to the Obama campaign staff and volunteers, and continues to be extremely helpful and supportive.  

Once you've decided which organizations to give to, how much to give to each? Here's what I do: every three months, I decide how much I can contribute in total to political campaigns.  Then I allocate that amount to my chosen organizations and make my contributions online.  (If you click on the name of any of the organizations mentioned above, the  web-link will take you to the related website.)  

I try very hard not to respond impulsively to fundraising calls and emails – although I admit: I gave a little for a chance to attend George Clooney’s fundraiser earlier this month (I didn't win), and to attend the Clinton/Obama and Sarah Jessica Parker/Obama events next month (hope springs eternal).  Those contributions just come out of my “budget” for OFA.

Hopefully this information will be helpful to some of my readers.  If you use another approach, or think I’ve left something important off my list, please let me know! 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Make an informed choice for County Commissioner

In last week’s post, I explained how to find out if your County Commissioner is running in the August 14 primary election.  This week, I’ll walk you through two steps I've taken to help me make an informed choice between District 3 incumbent Tom Henning (R) and his challenger Bill McDaniel (R):

  1. Research candidate bios
  2. Set up and monitor Google alerts
I've tried to provide enough guidance so you can follow a similar process regardless of where you live.

1a.  Research candidate bios - Henning
Since Henning is an incumbent, I knew where to look for his bio: the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) website.  I learned he has been a resident of Collier County since 1973 and is a graduate of Lely High School. There’s no mention of any post-secondary education.  He “sold his business of 19 years, Golden Gate Auto Repair, to devote himself full-time to his Commissioner’s duties.” 

The BCC bio says he has been active in the Golden Gate Civic Association since 1992, and is currently a member of its board of directors.  A quick Google search confirms what I already knew: Golden Gate is quite different from the part of the county I live in, which suggests that Henning’s interests may not be aligned with mine.  Something to keep an eye on.

The BCC bio also says Henning served as an elected Fire Commissioner for the Golden Gate Fire and Rescue District for 4 years.  Consolidation of fire districts and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has been a hot issue in Collier County for years, so it’s useful to know Henning has some sort of interest here.  A quick Google search told me that Commissioners voted 4-1 last week to bring back the possibility of putting fire consolidation on the August primary ballot, and that Henning was the lone dissenter.  (For more on this issue, click here.) 

A Google search for “Tom Henning commission” identified an ethics complaint filed last month concerning potential discrepancies in Henning’s financial disclosure forms (more here).  It also reminded me that Henning had abstained from voting on the Immokalee Master Plan in December, citing a conflict of interest (more here). 

I also looked at Henning’s own campaign website  His tag-line is “Proven Leadership.” 

One more thing to check out is who is financing Henning’s campaign (click here).  Clearly more time spent Googling would turn up additional information relevant to making an informed voting decision.   

1b.  Research candidate bios - McDaniel
Knowing nothing about Bill McDaniel, a Google search is my first stop.  At, the pitch is “jobs, jobs, jobs”:  “If your [sic] looking to bring jobs and bring new businesses to Collier County, vote Bill McDaniel!”  Another McDaniel website proclaims he cares about “Family” and “Environment.”  It also displays a rotating list of “supporters,” some of whose names I recognize (and also Googled): Earl and Thelma Hodges (Naples); Dave Farmer (Golden Gate City); Fred Thomas (Immokalee); Ski Oleski (Lake Trafford Marina); Frank Halas (former County Commissioner – Naples)

That second website links to a detailed bio.  In part it says “Education: Clarion State University, PA; majors in accounting and computer programming; minor in economics.”  (The suggestion is that he is a graduate, but McDaniel was upfront in telling me that he didn't finish his college degree.)  He’s lived Florida since 1981, and lists his religious affiliation as Protestant.  (I wonder why he thinks that’s important.)  His previous work experience included carpentry, real estate and banking; he is now the owner of Big Island Excavating, Inc

The website lists past community involvements including Kiwanis Club; the Masonic Organization including Cypress Lodge #295 and the Grand Lodge of Florida.  He is currently active with Goodwill of Southwest Florida, Goodwill L.I.F.E. Academy School, and the Corkscrew Island Neighborhood Association.  As an appointee of the BCC, he served on the East of 951 Horizon Study Committee until 2008 and on the Rural Land Stewardship Committee from 2008-2009.

A quick search on the Naples Daily News website reveals that “McDaniel was delinquent on his business property taxes for two years in a row, but said recently he's doing whatever it takes to get them paid.”

I’m almost out of time, but this hour of research has given me a bare-bones start on both candidates.

2.  Set up and monitor Google alerts
Next, I went to  I created one alert with the query “bill mcdaniel” collier county and one with the query “tom henning” collier county, asking for “everything,” with “all results” delivered to my email address “once a week.”

Next steps
I’m pretty confident that with this little bit of background, and a careful monitoring of the weekly Google alerts, I’ll be pretty well-informed come the August election.

I hope you’ll take an hour and do some similar research.  Then let me know what you find that’s interesting, something relevant that you didn’t know, and/or something that will be helpful to you in making your decision.  I’m really interested!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Should you be voting for a County Commissioner in August?

Three of the five Collier County Commission seats are up for election this year, and in each case, there are enough people running that there will be a primary election on August 14th. 

Do you live in one of those districts, as I do? If so, its time to begin to inform ourselves about the candidates and the issues.  (It’s also time to request a Vote-By-Mail ballot from the Supervisor of Elections.)

So how do you know?  Just go to the Collier County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) Homepage and click on “Find Your Commissioner District” on the left side of the page.  Enter your street address to find out the number of your district and the name of your commissioner.  I live in District 3 and my commissioner is Tom Henning.

Once you know who your commissioner is, how do you find out if (s)he is running for reelection?  Visit the Collier County Supervisor of Elections website at, click on “Candidates” on the left side of the page, then click on “Local Candidates.”  Wow - there are 43 positions for which candidates are running for election in Collier County.

Commission seats representing Districts 1, 3 and 5 are at stake this year.  The incumbents (all Republican) want to keep their seats, and all three have challengers. 
·        District 1 - Donna Fiala is being challenged by Steve Kosgrove (Republican) and Russell Kish (No Party Affiliation).
·        District 3 - Tom Henning is being challenged by Bill McDaniel (Republican). 
·        District 5 - Jim Coletta is being challenged by Tim Nance (Republican) and John Lundin (Democrat). 

Return to the BCC Homepage and read your commissioner’s bio by clicking his/her name next to their picture. 

At this point, I’d like to get some feedback from my readers about the helpfulness of this post.  Did you visit the recommended websites, or did you already know who your commissioner is and if the seat is up for election?  Did you know that August 14 was Primary Election Day?  Do you want to vote-by-mail, and if so, had you already requested your VBM ballot? 

Please let me know.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Redistricting – an update

This Miami Herald editorial of 5/1/12 is a good summary of an issue important to Florida voters. 
Redistricting — legal, but flawed
In a matter of days two hurdles to holding an orderly election in November in Florida disappeared, clearing the way for candidates for 27 congressional districts, 40 state Senate seats and 120 state House seats to fire up their campaigns. Both hurdles involved the Legislature’s redistricting process, which for the first time was guided by two anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendments overwhelmingly approved by Florida voters in 2010. 
It took the state Senate two tries to draw a redistricting map that met the state’s new Fair Districts standards, according to the Florida Supreme Court, which on Friday approved the second effort. The justices rejected a challenge by the Democratic Party and several voter groups. That doesn’t mean the new Senate districts are as fair as they could be. It just means that they meet constitutional requirements this time around. The new map still contains protection for some incumbents. 
The justices might have explored those protective lines further but, as Justice Barbara Pariente pointed out in a separate, concurring opinion, there wasn’t enough time to deliberate any longer without disrupting the election cycle. After lamenting the time constraints put on the court to review new maps, she added, “If it is this court’s role to be the guardian of the constitution’s intent, I believe that changes must be made to the process to ensure that the purpose of the [redistricting] amendment — to take politics out of the apportionment equation — can be fully realized.” 
Her recommendation? The state should establish an independent commission to do the mandated redistricting every 10 years. Justice Pariente is dead on. Having state lawmakers redraw their own and their fellow party members’ districts is like ushering the fox straight into the chicken coop. While the new redistricting standards have made it impossible to be blatantly partisan and self-serving, they can’t completely put an end to the political protectionism in carving out safe districts. 
The second election hurdle fell Monday when the U.S. Justice Department said the new state and congressional district maps do not appear to violate the federal Voting Rights Act in the five counties with a history of violating minority voters’ rights: Monroe, Hendry, Hillsborough, Collier and Hardee. 
That’s an important nod of approval, but questions remain at Justice about new rules guiding voter registration imposed by the Legislature, and rightly so. Groups such as the League of Women Voters say the new rules impinge on impartial groups seeking to increase participation, particularly minority voters. 
Also on Monday a Leon County judge rejected the Democratic Party’s argument that the congressional map should be put on hold while it contests several districts’ boundaries. The case will go forward, but congressional candidates will run in the districts approved by the Supreme Court. 
The quick succession of opinions are good for voters as well as candidates. That avoids a long, hot summer of confusion about where state and congressional representatives’ boundaries begin and end. 
The first reapportionment process under Fair Districts guidelines was far from perfect, but it was much better than previous remapping processes. One thing is clear, however: Legislators should heed Justice Pariente’s advice and take themselves out of the process by creating an independent commission to redraw political maps. The next test for the new maps comes in November, when voters get to make their choices.
The League of Women Voters of Florida, which has be fighting for fair districts for many years, had this to say in an email to members:

Although the League is not entirely pleased with the resulting maps, in the words of LWVF Redistricting Chair Pam Goodman, "we believe this is justice delayed, not justice denied, and we will continue to explore all legal options to impact these maps beyond the 2012 election cycle." ....
Our efforts have been the culmination of over 70 years of diligence on the part of the Florida League -- in fact, political gerrymandering was the very first issue that LWV members identified as a problem when they organized in Florida in 1939. ...
Even though we believe that the final maps could be better, LWVF President Deirdre Macnab reminds us that our work has made a difference: "Florida League members should take satisfaction in knowing that, because of our hard work in support of the FairDistricts amendments, the political playing field will be more level than it was before, more cities and counties will remain whole within districts, and more districts will be geographically compact." That is a real accomplishment!
So, while there is still work ahead, and perhaps more litigation between now and 2014, we are proud of what we've done and we will continue to preserve the League's legacy of fighting for fairness.
As a League member, I couldn't agree more.
Editorial © 2012 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.