Thursday, August 30, 2018

Recap and reflections on the August primaries

The August elections are behind us, and I assume you've seen the results. In this post, I’ll just recap the races and issues that were on Collier voters’ ballots and link to related news articles for color and background. Then I’ll share my thoughts about voter participation and look ahead to the November elections.

The results: Statewide races
  • U.S. Senate, Republican primary: Rick Scott. The increasingly bitter — and expensive — showdown with Bill Nelson could play a decisive role in which party controls the Senate. Herald-Tribune, 8/28/18
  • U.S. House, District 19, Democratic primary: David Holden. He has the “unenviable task” of trying to unseat Francis Rooney. Naples Daily News via News-Press, 8/28/18
  • Governor, Republican primary: Ron DeSantis. A presidential endorsement propelled him to victory, drawing to a close a contest that pitted the Trump-backed candidate against a longtime Florida politician who made his Sunshine State credentials the central part of his campaign. Sun Sentinel, 8/28/18
  • Governor, Democrat primary: Andrew Gillum. He shocked Florida’s political class and became the first black nominee for governor in the nation’s largest swing state, fueled by grassroots energy and big donor dollars. Politico Florida, 8/28/18
  • Attorney General, Republican primary: Ashley Moody. The election was filled with drama and nastiness on both sides. Naples Daily News via News-Press, 8/28/18
  • Attorney General, Democratic primary: Sean Shaw. He captured the Democratic nomination for state Attorney General in a historic fashion — by having his only same-party opponent knocked off the primary ballot. Florida Politics, 8/28/18
  • Commissioner of Agriculture, Republican primary: Matt Caldwell. He has no intention of moderating his conservative, pro-gun, pro-Trump campaign in the race to the November general election. Naples Daily News via News-Press, 8/28/18
  • Commissioner of Agriculture, Democrat primary: Nikki Fried. “Extreme conservatism … is not what the rest of the state of Florida is looking for," Fried said. Naples Daily News via News-Press, 8/28/18
  • State Attorney, 20th Judicial Circuit, Republican primary: Amira Fox. The victory all but assures her of becoming the third state attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit; she faces a write-in candidate in November. News-Press via Naples Daily News, 8/29/18
  • Florida House, District 105, Democratic primary: Javier Estevez. In a District that includes parts of Miami-Dade, Broward and Collier counties, Estevez, with 51.64 percent of the vote, defeated primary opponent Ross Hancock. Florida Politics, 8/29/18
  • Circuit Judge, 20th Judicial Circuit, Group 8, Nonpartisan: John Owen McGowan. He won the open judge seat, beating James Chandler by 15.6 percentage points. Charlotte Sun, 8/29/18
For an insider recap from Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon at Politico Florida, click here — it’s worth the read!

The results: Local races
  • Collier County Commission, District 2, Universal primary: Andy Solis (R). With no opponent, Solis won a four-year term by defeating primary challenger Brad Schiffer. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Collier County Commission, District 4, Republican primary: Penny Taylor. Incumbent Taylor, seeking a second term, will face Democrat Gary Petit-Dor in November. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Collier County Clerk of Courts, Universal primary: Crystal K. Kinzel (R). She “easily defeated” challenger Don Berry to retain the Clerk of Court’s post she was appointed to two months ago. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Collier County School Board, District 3, Nonpartisan: Jen Mitchell. One of her biggest priorities will be to figure out a better way to attract and retain good teachers. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Collier County School Board, District 5, Nonpartisan: Roy M. Terry. He hopes to expand the district’s trade and vocational training programs and increase the school from seven to eight period blocks to allow students to take more elective classes. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Circuit Judge, 20th Judicial Circuit, Group 8, Nonpartisan: John Owen McGowan. The Naples-based defense attorney who focuses primarily on criminal and civil litigation held endorsements from State Attorney Stephen Russell and the sheriffs of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties. Charlotte Sun, 8/29/18
  • Collier County Judge, Group 2, Nonpartisan: Blake Adams and James Moon. The top-two vote-getters face a runoff election in November.

The results: Referenda
  • North Collier Fire Fee: No. Residents of Bentley Village, who rallied against the fee, celebrated a hard-fought victory. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Immokalee Fire Fee: No. Firefighters, the Fire Chief said, are questioning how they can serve a community that doesn't appear to want them anymore. He warns that layoffs and cuts in services won't be far off. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Marco Island EMS: No. Added taxation and uncertainty over the city government’s ability to take on additional responsibility seemed to doom the measure, which proponents said was necessary to ensure a second ambulance stationed on Marco Island at all times. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18

My thoughts about voter participation
For purposes of Sparker's Soapbox, I’m more interested in voter turnout than I am in who wins. And before I dug into the numbers, I was feeling pretty good about the results. The Naples Daily News reported “voters exceed primary turnout predictions,” and statewide turnout was the “highest for a midterm primary since 2002.” (Voter turnout is defined as ballots cast divided by eligible voters as of the bookclosing date.)

But here are the unofficial voter turnout figures as of today: Collier County: 33.6 percent; Florida: 27.4 percent. They may be near-records, and it’s certainly better than 2014, but it’s still pathetic.

In addition to voter turnout, I look at “voter participation,” which I define as ballots cast divided by eligible voters on a race-by-race basis. For example, in a closed Republican primary, I look at the bookclosing number of registered Republicans in the district. Just as I found in 2014 (see Reflections on Tuesday's Elections), voter participation is even more disappointing than voter turnout, because of under-voting.


Under-votes reflect the fact that not everyone who casts a ballot votes in every race on her/his ballot. Reasons might include not wanting to make an uneducated choice, not liking any of the choices, or simply “ballot fatigue” resulting from a lengthy ballot.

As in 2014, Republican turnout is better than that of Democrats, and participation of those who are neither is lower than both, bringing down countywide results. Participation in school board and judge races is among the lowest in the primaries. 

While I am dismayed by these results, it makes me more determined than ever to keep doing what I’m doing in Sparker's Soapbox. I just wish more voters were regular readers.

In the coming days, there will be more analyses of the results of these races, and predictions for November. I’ll share the particularly interesting ones in upcoming Month-in-Review posts.

Looking ahead to November
I wrote previously that, while I understood Vote By Mail voters’ reasons for wanting to mail their ballots as soon as they received them, I cautioned against it. I said there were often last minute developments that might affect how one might vote, and I urged waiting as long as possible.

These were some late-breaking developments that might have affected voters’ decisions in these primary elections:
  • School Board candidate Mary Ellen Cash was fired from Collier district in 2012; job performance, behavior cited. Naples Daily News, 7/25/18
  • State Attorney candidate Chris Crowley turns himself in, accused of violating campaign laws. Naples Daily News, 8/6/18
  • Palm Beach billionaire’s past legal fights haunt bid for governor. Politico Florida, 8/17/18
  • Florida judge orders Democrat Ryan Torrens, candidate for Attorney General, to be removed from ballot. Orlando Sentinel, 8/27/18
On November 6, we'll have the opportunity to vote for a U.S. Senator and Congressmen, Governor and Cabinet, State Senators and State Representatives, State Attorney, Public Defender, County Commissioner, members of Fire District Boards and other local bodies, and judges. We'll also vote on a number of proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution and a County sales surtax. 

Many of the races will be very expensive and in some cases nasty, and a lot of dirt is likely to be dished. As I did this time, I’ll likely hold off on mailing my ballot until the last minute.

Between now and then, I’ll research the races that will be on our ballot. I will again ask: Who are the candidates? What are their educational background, work experience, history of community service, and sources of campaign funds? Most importantly, why are they running, can they win, and what will they do if elected? I'll also research the proposed amendments and sales tax. And I’ll share what I learn on Sparker's Soapbox

Stay tuned -- and help spread the word.