Thursday, June 28, 2018

Who’s Running for County Commissioner in the August Primaries?

Collier’s five-member Board of County Commissioners (BCC) is elected by voters in their districts (find yours here) in partisan elections. Commissioners serve staggered four-year terms with no term limits. The post’s salary for 2017-18 is $83,345, set by state law taking into consideration the county’s population.

In 2018, the District 2 and 4 seats are on the ballot, and both incumbents are being challenged for reelection. But even if you don’t live in one of those districts, read on. The decisions of the Board as a whole affect us all!

District 2 - Republicans Brad Schiffer vs. incumbent Andy Solis; open primary
Since there is no Democrat challenger, the winner will be decided by the August primary, which will be open to all District 2 voters.

Brad Schiffer
Brad Schiffer ( is an architect and planner who has practiced in Florida since 1976. He has served since 2012 on the Florida Building Commission, a technical body responsible for the development, maintenance and interpretation of the state Building Code. Previously, he served on the County’s Planning Commission, Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, Development Services Advisory Committee and Building Board of Adjustments and Appeals; he resigned from the latter two to run for this office.

Schiffer says “citizens deserve a Commissioner who can help manage [the County’s] growth so that people living in the District can continue to enjoy their special lifestyle and thrive…. [and] right now we do not have that representation.” He says he “wants to help control the out-of-scale developments that are taking away our green space, over taxing our utilities and infrastructure and crowding our roads.”

He is a single-issue candidate; his website mentions no other.

Andy Solis
Incumbent Andy Solis ( is Commissioner for District 2 and this year’s Board Chairman. He was elected in 2016 to complete the term of Georgia Hiller, who had resigned to run for Clerk. Among his most recognized contributions as Commissioner is his leadership of and advocacy for development of a county-wide strategic plan to address mental health and addiction. More here and here.

Solis is a Director with the Cohen & Grigsby law firm and has practiced law in Collier County for 25 years. According to his firm’s website, he concentrates his practice in land use, site planning, permitting and related representation of clients before municipal and county boards and agencies. More here.

Prior to being elected, Solis served on the County Planning Commission and as President of the Council of Hispanic Business Professionals. He also participated in a number of economic development efforts and currently serves on the Opportunity Naples Committee charged with implementing the Strategic Plan. More here.

Solis is running on a platform of responsible county growth; addressing mental health and addiction; a diversified and sustainable economy; and protecting our natural resources.

Stephen Jaron
District 4 - Republicans Stephen Jaron vs. incumbent Penny Taylor; closed primary

Unlike in District 2, there is a Democrat running in District 4, so only registered Republicans can vote in the primary. The winner will face challenger Gary Petit-Dor in November.

Stephen Jaron ( is a state certified general contractor and 2001 founder/owner of Renovate and Restore, LLC, specializing in residential and commercial renovations and alterations. He held corporate positions in marketing, sales and operations before making a full-time commitment to real estate acquisitions, real estate investing and general contracting.

Jaron is Chairman of the Bayshore Beautification MSTU Advisory Committee, which assists in the implementation of the redevelopment plan for the Bayshore/Gateway Triangle area. He also serves on the Board of the Southwest Florida Land Preservation Trust/Gordon River Greenway and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council - Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, an nonprofit volunteer organization “striving for sustainable communities and green buildings.”

Jaron’s website lists as platform issues “environment; economy; housing; and development.”

Penny Taylor
Incumbent Penny Taylor ( is Commissioner for District 4. She was first elected in 2014 and served as Chairman in 2017. Prior to her election to County Commission, Taylor served for ten years on the Naples City Council including two years as Vice-Mayor.

During her years as an elected official, Taylor has chaired the Collier Metropolitan Planning Organization, a federally-mandated and -funded transportation policy-making organization, and the Tourist Development Council. In addition, she co-chaired the county’s first City of Naples/Collier County Sea Level Rise panel discussion in 2017.

According to her Candidate Statement, programs she initiated as a commissioner include:
  • Re-establishment of the 1996 Ethics Ordinance;
  • A post-Hurricane Irma program that resulted in a concert raising $82,000 for housing in Everglades City;
  • A process establishing formal input from and ongoing communications with Native American tribal interests through the MPO;
  • An annual solidarity walk during Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parades in which community leaders of all faiths and ethnicities walk together;
  • The annual Mock Commission Meetings event for middle school civics class students; and
  • Re-establishment of the Summer Intern Program for high school students, requested by the NAACP.

Medical marijuana in Collier County — an issue at stake

In 2016, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana, but local government’s ability to limit where dispensaries can be located is severely limited by state law. The current Board has been unable to gain the necessary supermajority (four out of five members) support of the change to the Land Development Code (LDC) needed to allow them in the County. Most recently last month, Commissioners McDaniel, Saunders and Solis voted for the proposed changes; Fiala and Taylor voted no.

This year’s elections could change the result. Here’s (verbatim) how the candidates responded to my email asking for their position on the issue:

District 2 - Brad Schiffer - “Since the citizens voted to approve medical marijuana I don’t believe I should second guess them, thus I would support the few dispensaries in buildings that are in zoning that would allow pharmacies. Maybe the State should have required the medical marijuana to be sold by pharmacies.”

District 2 - Andy Solis - “The voters across the State and Collier County voted in favor of the Constitutional Amendment legalizing medical marijuana. I believe it is improper for Collier County or any local government to deny the residents the right of access to medical marijuana. In my opinion, a right guaranteed by the Florida Constitution cannot be arbitrarily denied by a local government, regardless of what the statute says.”

District 4 - Stephen Jaron - “I believe the people of FL (71%) and Collier County (65%) have spoken quite clearly..... I support amending the LDC to allow Medical Marijuana Dispensaries within Collier County. There is a large group of voter's of various ages and backgrounds in favor of Medical Marijuana. Many of these people need MM to survive on a daily basis, their right to MM shall not be denied.”

District 4 - Penny Taylor - “Medical marijuana has been legalized within the State of Florida and I support the right of a patient to use this medicine. What I do not support is the creation of a dispensary in Collier County at this time. Medical marijuana can be obtained from a dispensary in Bonita Springs and through mail order. If and when marijuana is legalized in the State of Florida, these dispensaries could become a place where recreational marijuana is sold. As long as the County has an option to ‘say no’ as currently authorized by State statute and medical marijuana is available to Collier County patients, I support the ban on dispensaries.”

County staff is expected to bring the matter back in November, presumably after the election.


There are significant differences between the candidates running in these primaries. I highlighted the issue of the marijuana dispensaries because it will likely be one of the first to face the newly-elected commissioners, but be alert to opportunities to learn more.

Seek out opportunities to speak with the candidates one-on-one; they are ALL approachable and would welcome your invitation. Pay attention to endorsements — they, too, say a lot.

Finally, be sure to catch at least one of the upcoming candidate forums and debates. The first is on July 9 from 6 - 7:30 p.m. at the Headquarters Library, Sugden Theater, 2385 Orange Blossom Drive. I’ll be posting them on my website’s Events Calendar and if you learn of any, let me know.

For more on the August primaries, stay tuned for my next "Get Ready to Vote" post, and catch up on what you missed:


Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Who's Running for State Legislature in the August Primaries?

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August 28, 2018
Primary Elections in Florida
In 2018, 20 of the Florida Senate’s 40 seats and all 120 State House seats are up for election. The salary for the part-time positions is $29,697/year.

Collier voters’ State Senator will be chosen in November because only one candidate per party qualified to run in that race. The same is true for voters who live in State House Districts 80 and 106. But registered Democrats in House District 105 will have a primary because two Democrats filed to run for the seat being vacated by term-limited Rep. Carlos Trujillo.

In this post, I’ll briefly review who’s running to be Collier’s next State Senator and Representatives and how much money each has raised so far, to familiarize you with the candidates’ names and, importantly, the disparities in funding to-date. In the fall, I’ll do a deeper dive into the candidates who will be on the ballot in November.

Florida Senate

All Collier County voters live in Florida Senate District 28. Incumbent Republican Kathleen Passidomo is running for reelection. She is being challenged by Democrat Annisa Karim. They will face off in November.

     Karim                   Passidomo

Florida House
Collier voters live in one of three state House districts: 80, 105 or 106. Find your district here.

District 80 includes Hendry County and about a third of Collier voters. Republican incumbent Byron Donalds is being challenged by Democrat Jennifer Boddicker and NPA Dustin Alexander Lapolla. There will be a three-way face-off in November.

District 106, western Collier County, includes just over half of Collier voters. Republican incumbent Bob Rommel is being challenged by Democrat Sara McFadden. They will face off in November.

McFadden                Rommel

District 105 includes parts of Collier, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Dominated by east coast residents, the gerrymandered district has only 14% of Collier’s voters, generally those living east of Collier Blvd., north of US 41 and south of I-75. As mentioned above, registered Democrats will choose between two candidates in August:

Javier Estevez is a native Miami millennial whose parents are Cuban immigrants. His website provides no other biographical information. He believes “it is time that we had a representative that speaks for us and stands alongside the community.” His issues are education, the economy, public safety, healthcare and the environment.

Ross Hancock works for a manufacturer of “energy-saving, sea-turtle safe” lighting products. He believes Florida needs to add clean manufacturing to its economy, and needs to invest in education to support it. He has a bachelor’s degree from USF and is an accredited Florida Master Naturalist. His campaign priority is “fighting for Florida’s environment.”

The winner will face Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez in November.

Rodriguez ----- Estevez ----- Hancock

Expect lots of campaigning between now and November in the State Legislative races. Watch your mailbox for campaign literature, and pay attention to who’s paid for it; disclosure on the document is required by law. Ask yourself what the photos on the mailers are intended to convey. Notice if they honor or demonize government, and if they use words like Constitution, gun, immigrant, sanctuary city, second amendment, etc., to send “red meat” or “dog-whistle” messages.

Even if your state legislative seats are not on the August ballot, it’s not too soon to start paying attention.


For more on the August primaries, stay tuned for my next "Get Ready to Vote" post, and catch up on what you missed:

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Who’s Running for State Cabinet in the August Primaries?

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August 28, 2018
Primary Elections in Florida
In August, Florida Republicans will hold primary elections for Attorney General (AG), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Commissioner of Agriculture (COA); Democrats will hold primaries for two of those positions. The official qualifying period ends June 22, so the ultimate line-up may change.

Why should you care?

In a unique-to-Florida power-sharing relationship, the Governor and independently-elected Cabinet members oversee and hire the directors of several state agencies including those responsible for taxation, law enforcement, highway safety and bond finance.

Importantly, as the State Board of Executive Clemency, they decide the process by which voting and other rights are restored to former felons and others who have had them taken away.
See “Florida: An Outlier in Denying Voting Rights,” Brennan Center for Justice, 12/16/16

In addition to their shared responsibilities, each Cabinet member is also the Chief Executive of his/her Executive Branch department, which gives her/him individually significant power.

The current salary of a Cabinet member is $128, 972.

In this post, I’ll summarize the responsibilities of each office and the backgrounds and priorities of the likely candidates for each. Since money plays such an important role in elections, I’ll also share the latest campaign finance figures.

Attorney General

As chief legal officer of the state and head of the Department of Legal Affairs, the AG pursues criminal law and antitrust law violations; prosecutes cases of criminal racketeering, Medicaid fraud and civil rights violations; defends the state when it is sued and general laws when they are challenged; and represents the state when sentences for criminal convictions are appealed. There are over 400 lawyers on staff.

Registered Republicans will choose among four candidates and registered Democrats will choose between two Democrats in the August primaries. The winners will face off in a general election in November.

For Attorney General - The Republicans

Jay Fant (R)
Jay Fant (50) is a State Representative from Jacksonville (Duval County); sponsored bills here. He lists his occupation as “Chairman, Caroline Family Office," which his campaign describes as a “fiduciary services” firm but was unwilling to say who the firm’s clients are. Fant’s grandfather founded the once-prosperous First Guaranty Bank and Trust, which Fant took over as chairman and CEO in 2003. The bank failed in 2012, costing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. $82 million. Fant blamed "government overreach."

Fant’s issues are: secure our borders; eliminate sanctuary cities; protect religious liberty; restore the 2nd amendment; preserve the sanctity of life; defend free enterprise; strengthen law enforcement; protect consumer rights; and stop opioid abuse.

His website lists endorsements by the Trump Florida Campaign Co-Chairman and 38 Trump County Chairs, 13 (of 76) Republican state representatives and one (of 23) state senator.

Ashley Moody (R)
Ashley Moody (50) was a Hillsborough County Circuit judge for more than ten years before resigning to run for this office. In that capacity, she founded an Attorney Ad Litem program recruiting volunteer attorneys and developed a mentoring program for at-risk children within the juvenile delinquency system. According to her website, she has “the experience we need to keep Florida safe and protect our communities.”

Moody’s issues are: our flag; our constitution; the rule of law; Florida taxpayers; a healthy Florida (fight the opioid epidemic); law enforcement; our communities; religious freedom; our seniors; and our economy.

Her website lists endorsements by current Attorney General Pam Bondi, 12 state attorneys and 37 sheriffs from across the state.

Ross Spano (51) is a State Representative from Hillsborough County; sponsored bills here. While listed as an active candidate on the Florida Department of State website, he has qualified to run for Congress and is unlikely to appear as an AG candidate on the August ballot.

Frank White (R)
Frank White (39) is a State Representative from Pensacola representing parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties; sponsored bills here. After practicing law in Texas and Florida for over 15 years, he is now CFO/General Counsel for the Sansing Dealer Group of auto dealerships with stores in three states and over 600 employees. In 2015, he was appointed by Governor Scott to the Board of the Florida Development Finance Corporation, where he served as chair, and to the Pensacola State College System Board of Trustees.

According to his website, White’s issues are: defend the constitution; stand against government overreach; protect families and consumers with free market solutions; protect the unborn, 100% pro-life; protect the second amendment; defend taxpayers; prevent the spread and harm of Obamacare; and protect our borders and end sanctuary cities.

White leads the campaign money race, but see the Tampa Bay Times re: his $2.75 million personal contributions.

A web search found endorsements by two Florida sheriffs.

For Attorney General - The Democrats

Sean Shaw (D)
Sean Shaw (39) is a State Representative from Tampa (Hillsborough County); sponsored bills here. An attorney and former state insurance consumer advocate, he is the son of Leander Shaw, the first black chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.

Shaw’s priorities are: protect children and families; crack down on corruption and fraud; lead the fight against opioids; advocate for consumers and ratepayers; and defend civil rights and equal rights.

His endorsements include 33 (of 41) House Democrats, 12 (of 16) Senate Democrats, three state attorneys and former Attorney General Bob Butterworth. Of note: the Florida Professional Firefighters crossed party lines in endorsing Shaw, having endorsed Republicans Adam Putnam for Governor and Denise Grimsley for Commissioner of Agriculture.

Ryan Torrens (D)
Ryan Torrens (32) is a Tampa attorney whose Torrens Law Group, P.A. focuses on foreclosure defense and consumer protection litigation. Prior to starting his practice in 2012, Torrens reviewed toxic mortgage loans as an independent consultant on the federal government-mandated Independent Foreclosure Review Project.

Torrens’ priories are: consumer protection and standing up to big banks; fighting for seniors; protecting Florida families; and tackling the addiction crisis.

His endorsements include two local labor unions and a state Representative.

Chief Financial Officer

The CFO oversees the Florida Department of Financial Services, which is comprised of the former state departments of insurance, treasury, fire marshal, and banking and finance. It is made up of 13 divisions, several specialized offices and 2,000 employees.

While there are four candidates running for CFO, only incumbent Scott-appointee Jimmy Patronis (R) and former State Senator Jeremy Ring (D) are considered to be serious candidates.

For Chief Financial Officer - The Republican

Jimmy Patronis (R)
Jimmy Patronis (46) is a former State Representative from Panama City (Bay County). Governor Scott appointed him CFO a year ago when Jeff Atwater resigned to accept another post. Scott had previously appointed Patronis to positions on the state’s Public Service Commission and the Constitution Revision Commission. In addition to his public service career, Patronis is a partner in his family’s generations-old seafood restaurant in Panama City.

His current priorities as CFO and State Fire Marshall are: supporting our first responders; protecting your identity; and fiscal accountability.

His endorsements include Florida Family Action President John Stemberger, Senate President-Designate Bill Galvano, Attorney General Pam Bondi, five former speakers of the Florida House and the Florida Chamber of Commerce

Jeremy Ring (D)
For Chief Financial Officer - The Democrat 

Jeremy Ring (47) is a former State Senator from Broward County. One of the earliest employees at Yahoo!, he became its director of sales in early 1996 and stayed until mid-2001, becoming personally wealthy. He moved to Florida to raise his family. During his ten years in the Florida Senate, according to his website, he worked to “craft major bipartisan legislation aimed at planting the seeds of an innovation ecosystem” in Florida. He recently published “We Were Yahoo!”, an insider look at the rapid rise and spectacular fall of Yahoo!.

His priorities are: protecting Florida’s retirement system; keeping insurance rates stable; and growing the innovation economy.

His endorsements include many federal, state and local elected officials, the International Association of Fire Fighters, and the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Commissioner of Agriculture

Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture oversees the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. That organization supports and promotes Florida agriculture, protects the environment, safeguards consumers, and ensures the safety and wholesomeness of food. Through its Division of Licensing, it issues concealed weapon licenses.

Registered Republicans will choose among four candidates and registered Democrats will choose among three candidates in the August primaries.

For Commissioner of Agriculture - The Republicans

Matt Caldwell (R)
Matt Caldwell (36) is a term-limited State Representative from North Fort Myers (Lee County) and a real estate appraiser; sponsored bills here.

According to his website, “Matt has always been a champion of issues that impact our environment and the agriculture community. He sponsored an expansion of the Everglades Forever Act, which will complete Everglades restoration in the area south of Lake Okeechobee, as well as Legacy Florida, which will permanently fund restoration of the greater Everglades; and fighting Numeric Nutrient Criteria.”

His priorities are to protect Floridians’ 2nd Amendment rights, natural resources, and property.

His endorsements include U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, 47 (of 76) state representatives including Collier Reps. Byron Donalds and Bob Rommel, one state senator, several sheriffs, other constitutional officers and county and city elected officials.

Denise Grimsley (R)
Denise Grimsley (58) is a State Senator who previously served four terms in the Florida House; sponsored bills here. She is also a registered nurse, citrus grower and hospital administrator. Grimsley spent most of her career as a nurse. When her father became ill, she left nursing to run her family’s Grimsley Oil Company and “experienced the frustrations of government red tape and bureaucracy firsthand,” which she says led her to run for office.

Her issue priorities, according to her new (May 2018) Let’s Grow Florida PAC, are: strengthening the Florida agriculture industry; improving and limiting government; lowering tax burdens; protecting Florida consumers; and improving the quality of life in all Florida communities for all Floridians.

Her endorsements include Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and 27 Florida sheriffs.

Mike McCalister (R)
Mike McCalister is a retired United States Army Colonel, 2010 Republican candidate for Governor, and 2012 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

According to his website, the “former National Spokesman for Citizens for Trump” “has travelled the state protecting our Second Amendment rights and a fierce advocate for saving our monuments that the establishment elites and New World Liberals want taken down to erase the heritage from the sights of our future generations.” He is “committed to protecting Florida’s Families’ Food, Water, Freedom and Animals.”

He is not considered to be a serious candidate in this big-money race.

Baxter Troutman (R)
Baxter Troutman (51) is a former State Representative who served four terms in the Florida House (2003-2010). He is currently General Manager of his family’s Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch, LLC, and President of Chop-N-Block Custom Meat Processing, as well as CEO of Labor Solutions, a personnel services company with 5 locations in Central Florida.

According to his website, “With a lifetime of experience in farming, Baxter will ensure that future generations of Floridians understand the important role the agriculture industry plays in Florida’s economic security by growing food that feeds the world.”

Troutman’s issue priorities are: water quality and supply; the second amendment; land availability; citrus greening; and NAFTA.

Neither his website nor a web search identified any endorsements.

For Commissioner of Agriculture - The Democrats

Nikki Fried (D)
Nikki Fried (40) is an attorney and former public defender. As a lawyer-lobbyist, she “played an integral role during Florida’s 2016 legislative session in the passage of HB 307, relating to the usage of medical marijuana for those who are terminally ill.” She subsequently formed a one-woman lobbying firm, Igniting Florida, which according to News Service of Florida, “most people consider a tongue-in-cheek reference to her work in the marijuana arena.”

According to Igniting Florida, Fried is “one of the most visible faces and key activists in Florida’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry.”

Having just filed to run last week, she has yet to create a website and has reported no campaign contributions or endorsements.

Jeff Porter (D)
Jeff Porter (58) is former City Councilman and Mayor of Homestead (Miami-Dade County). He resigned to run for this position.

“This area of the country, inside our borders, is the only place where we can grow produce in the winter to feed the nation, yet we’ve become totally reliant on food that comes from foreign countries,” Porter said. “It’s almost like a national security issue.”

Speaking about damage after Hurricane Irma, Porter said he wants the state to establish a separate emergency relief fund for farmers and ranchers, separate from one typically opened for all businesses affected by natural disasters.

Having just filed to run, Porter has yet to create a website or report any endorsements.

David Walker (D)
David Walker (26) is a marine biologist and fifth-generation Floridian. A former researcher with United States Geological Survey, National Park Service, and Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, he has researched and explored the impact of climate change, invasive species in the Everglades, and has advocated for air, land, and water conversation. He is currently president of South Florida Audubon, a volunteer firefighter, and member of the Everglades Regional Conservation Committee.

According to his website, Walker was ”driven to run” by “recent disturbing policy changes that are detrimental to our environment and … will lead to pollution, discourage renewable energy, and accelerate climate change in order to benefit big businesses and the fossil fuel industry.”

He is the only Agriculture Commissioner candidate who voiced straight opposition to withdrawal from NAFTA. The others have cited produce dumping from Mexico in criticizing the pact (Sun-Sentinel, 5/29/18).

Walker’s “Vision for Florida” includes positions on: conservation; consumer services; agriculture; food and nutrition; gun rights; renewable energy; and water.


As you can see, there is much similarity among each party’s candidates for office. In many cases, the issues they mention and the positions they take align them clearly along the national partisan divide. That said, differences can perhaps be discerned from the things they do not mention.

In the ten weeks between now and Election Day, there will be opportunities to learn more about the candidates and attend candidate forums and meet-and-greets. I will post these events as I see them on the Sparker's Soapbox Event Calendar, and share who I'll vote for in August.

Meanwhile, for more on the August primaries, stay tuned for future "Get Ready to Vote" posts, and catch up on what you missed:

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Monday, June 11, 2018

New Events Calendar for Collier voters

Dear friends,

Our 2018 ballots will be among the longest we've seen in a very long time. In August, there will be nonpartisan school board elections and local referenda, and political parties will choose their candidates for federal, state and county offices. In November, there will be the general elections for those and other offices as well as thirteen proposed constitutional amendments and a local sales tax referendum.

Fortunately, there will be opportunities for us to become informed, meet the candidates, and hear the pros and cons of proposed amendments and referenda before we vote.

But I haven’t found any one place where those opportunities are/will be posted.

So I created an event calendar at

The calendar has three types of listings:
  • dates and deadlines related to the primary and general elections themselves (in green), 
  • dates and details of candidate forums and information sessions (in blue), and
  • dates and details of "Vote Smart!” talks and classes I’ll be giving in the coming months (in red). 
For each calendar listing, you can click the name of the event for more details.

You can also view the calendar as a list:

As of today, the calendar lists ten forums and information sessions including:
  • County commissioner and school board candidate forums
  • a forum on the sales tax referendum
  • Town Hall information sessions re: North Collier Fire Control & Rescue District non-ad valorem assessment referendum 
I’ll be adding events as I become aware of them, and if you learn of one that should be listed, please email the specifics to me at

I hope you find it helpful. And if you do, please share!


Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

State News in Review - May 2018

With the Legislature out of session and campaign season underway, May’s news was full of stories about how state government is not serving Florida residents well. This post highlights examples in the areas of elections and election security, public education, healthcare, hurricane preparedness and more.

As you read these paragraphs and the linked articles, consider the role your elected officials played in the various stories. This year, the seat of each one of them will be on the ballot. Election Day is your opportunity to hold them accountable.

Elections and election security
  • Democrats and independents out of luck, only Republicans can vote for region's next state attorney. Fort Myers attorney Joseph Hoffman qualified as a last-minute write-in candidate to close the Aug. 28 primary to only registered Republicans. News-Press, 5/4/18
    • Related Editorial: Disenfranchising state attorney voters is shameful. The Florida Constitution Revision Commission and Collier County's entire legislative delegation are among those to blame. Naples Daily News, 5/12/18
  • Florida’s early voting ban on campus challenged in court. Gov. Scott calls the lawsuit by the League of Women Voters of Florida 'frivolous' and 'an election year gimmick to distort the facts.' Tampa Bay Times, 5/22/18
  • Gov. Scott orders hiring of election security consultants, despite state legislators’ rejection of similar request earlier this year. APNews, 5/3/18
  • Scott orders Florida to use federal cybersecurity money for 2018 elections, over-ruling Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Sun Sentinel, 5/23/18

  • Florida Supreme Court to consider school funding lawsuit that charges the state is ignoring the 1998 constitutional amendment that says a “high quality system of free public schools” is a “paramount duty” of the state., 5/1/18
    • Related: ‘Framers’ of 1998 schools amendment side with the plaintiffs, seek role in court battle. News Service of Florida via Florida Politics, 5/22/18
  • Florida House says per-student bump of 47 cents is a myth. Fact-checkers say Mostly False. PolitiFact Florida, 5/30/18

  • Cuts to prison drug programs in the midst of opioid crisis draw criticism. The Department of Corrections shifted the money to cover a shortfall in its health care program. News Service of Florida via The Ledger, 5/3/18
  • With Scott on defense, reports show Florida woes for not expanding Medicaid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Florida has the third-highest percentage of uninsured adults in the country, and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that women’s mental health is declining while their suicide rates are going up. Politico Florida, 5/22/18

Hurricane preparedness
  • Florida officials make few changes for upcoming storm season. After promising a dizzying array of fixes following the devastation of last year’s hurricanes, the state has enacted only a few — the largest aimed at protecting seniors in nursing homes., 5/31/18
  • How does an inexperienced 30-year-old become hurricane chief? With early forecasts suggesting a near-normal or above-normal storm season, the state’s disaster preparedness lies in the hands of a political newcomer whose first official job experience with emergency management began two years ago. Miami-Herald, 5/25/18
  • State catastrophe fund seeks to expand bonding capacity. While there are enough reserves to cover the “maximum potential liability” from Hurricane Irma, there may not be enough should Florida experience another massive storm or series of hurricanes., 5/20/18

In the courts
  • Judicial resignations: Subverting democracy? A recent spate of resignations has allowed Scott to reshape the 12th Circuit, appointing nearly 40 percent of the circuit judges. Critics see the move as a blatant attempt to bypass voters and allow the governor and local supporters to put their hand-picked people in control of the judicial system. Herald-Tribune, 5/27/18
  • Florida's ban on smokable medical marijuana ruled unconstitutional by a Leon County Circuit Court Judge. A Florida Department of Health appeal has imposed an automatic stay. Associated Press via Orlando Sentinel, 5/25/18
    • Related: Attorney John Morgan, who formed People United for Medical Marijuana, implored Gov. Scott to drop the state’s opposition. Associated Press via Miami-Herald, 5/29/18

Other news of note
  • Florida lawmakers shortchange affordable housing as demand soars. Since 2001, the Legislature has swept $2.2 billion out of two trust funds created to pay for affordable housing, including $182 million in the 2018-19 state budget. News-Journal, 5/13/18

That does it for May. Stay tuned in the coming days for my next "Get Ready for the 2018 Elections" post.

Catch up on previous posts! 

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.