This week: get informed

The August 14 elections are relevant to ALL Collier voters – regardless of party affiliation, or if they have none at all.  That was one of the messages in last week’s post (“Why EVEN YOU should vote on August 14th”), and this comment from a reader was exactly the response I’d hoped for:
I always assumed, as a Democrat, I could NEVER vote in the Republican primary…now I know better and getting my ballot sent to me for a mail-in by going to the online link you provided was a breeze!
This week, there are some great opportunities for you to learn about the candidates and the issues: candidate forums moderated by the League of Women Voters of Collier County, and “Politics in the Park.”  I highly recommend both events.
League of Women Voters’ Candidate Forums
Monday, June 25, 2012                                     Wednesday, June 27
5:30PM                                                              5:30PM
·        Property Appraiser – Abe Skinner vs Kevin Lilly – 5:30
·        Clerk of Court – Dwight Brock vs John Barlow – 6:30
·        Tax Collector- Larry Ray vs Steve Wagner – 7:15
·        Sheriff – Kevin Rambosk vs Victor Ortino – 8:00
Board of County Commissioners
·        District 1: Donna Fiala vs Steve Cosgrove
·        District 3: Tom Henning vs Bill McDaniel
·        District 5: Jim Coletta vs Tim Nance

The public is invited to attend the forums in person at the County Commission Chambers, County Administration Building, 3301 Tamiami Trail East (get directions).  You can also can watch it live on Channel 97, the County Government Comcast channel.

“Politics in the Park”
Thursday, June 28
4:00 PM
At this informal event, you can meet and greet candidates for Property Appraiser, Clerk of Court, Tax Collector, Sheriff, County Commission, US Congress – District 19, County Judge, Circuit Court Judge and local Fire District.    
A “Straw Ballot” will be taken for the County Commission, Sheriff, Clerk of Courts, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, and District 80 and 106 State Representatives. Winners will be announced at the end of the evening, and food and beverages will be available for purchase.
“Politics in the Park” is sponsored by The Collier Building Industry Association in association with the Naples Daily News, NABOR, The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Waste Management and A/C Electric.  It will take place at St. John the Evangelist Life Center, 625 111th Avenue (get directions).
These events are an easy way to get an introduction to the candidates and the issues you will be voting on in August.  I hope you’ll make time to attend.
I also encourage you to take a few minutes to read “Loads of voters are out of the game – and those are the rules,” by Jeff Lytle, Editorial Page Editor, from last Sunday’s Naples Daily News.  It provides the “glass is half empty” side of the “half full” case I made in my post last week.  “Consider,” Lytle writes:
The race for Collier County Commission in Districts 1 and 5 are effectively Republicans-only contests even though there are other candidates on the ballot.  The winner of the Jim Coletta–Tim Nance GOP primary will go on to face a Democrat, John Lundin, whose nickname, on the ballot, is “Robinhood.”
In District 1, the winner of the Donna Fiala–Steve Cosgrove primary will go on to face a No Party Affiliation (NPA) candidate, Russell Kish, who disdains campaigning.
Without those marginal candidates in the mix, the real decision-making that will take place in the Aug. 14 primaries would be open to all voters — Republicans, Democrats, Independents, you name it.
That means the decisions will be made by the 19,500 registered Republicans — less than half of the voter total — in District 1, and the 10,500 Republicans — again, less than half of the voter total — in District 5. …
Countywide, non-Republicans take a hit in the sheriff’s race. Thanks to the presence of perennial challenger Vinny Angiolio, an NPA who is not a viable candidate, about 80,000 voters will be out of the real decision-making left to 89,000 Republicans on Aug. 14 when incumbent Kevin Rambosk faces Victor Ortino. …
So, there you have it. A state law that was supposed to open up primaries when all candidates are from the same party is so easily spoiled by dreamers or manipulated by partisans.
Lytle is absolutely right.  Closed primaries in Collier County are all too often the “main event.”  That’s why I changed my voter registration to Republican despite being a Democrat at heart.  (See my December 2011 post “AnUnorthodox Suggestion” in which I made that case.)
The opportunity for ALL Collier voters to have a say in the Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, Clerk of Courts and (for District 3 votes) County Commissioner elections doesn’t come along very often.  That’s all the more reason to get out and vote on August 14.  

Important correction of last week’s post: early voting in Collier Country is July 30 – August 11, excluding Sundays, not through August 12 as originally posted.

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