Election advice from DK Roberts
ELECTIONS GUIDE 2010
By DK Roberts
Read it and weepâ€“then go vote.*
* you may vote early at the Court House downtown or at various other locationsâ€“see www.leoncountyfl.gov/elect/
U.S. Senate, Democrats: Kendrick Meekâ€™s mama, former Congresswoman Carrie Meek, took 90 grand in â€œconsulting feesâ€ from a sleazy developer. But that doesnâ€™t seem to have had much effect on how Meek has voted. Heâ€™s a solid progressive with a genuine interest in minority and poverty issues.
Meekâ€™s opponent, Jeff Greene, made approximately 300 zillion dollars in Florida real estate: foreclosures, a lot of it, plus speculative building ventures. Heâ€™s a real charmer: evidently he hired Ukrainian strippers to â€œcrewâ€ his yacht on a pilgrimage to historic Jewish sites along the Baltic. He also took his rabbi, so thatâ€™s OK. Mike Tyson is Greeneâ€™s best friend. Rehabutante Lindsay Lohan is his little buddy. Greene doesnâ€™t seem to have actual policies, but he does have a ton of money to spend on hisÂ campaign.
Republicans: There are a couple of guys running who sound like minor characters in â€œMad Men:â€ William Escoffery III and William Kagut. The one youâ€™ve heard of is Tea Party fave and Sarah Palin pin-up Marco Rubio (Mama Grizzly said she â€œlovesâ€ him). If you teach at a university or even at a kindergarten, all you need to know about Rubio is that when he was Speaker of the Florida House, he said he would make Floridaâ€™s education system â€œthe best in the world.â€ Howâ€™s that working out for you?
Independents: Heâ€™s tanned, heâ€™s rested, heâ€™s probably writing a thank-you note at this very moment. Charlie Crist abandoned the party of George W. Bush when it became clear that Rubio would beat him. So yes, Charlieâ€™s an opportunist. But heâ€™s also a good environmentalist. He vetoed that stupid bill that would destroy teacher tenure. He vetoed a bill to force women wanting an abortion to pay for and view an ultrasound test, too. And SO polite.
Congress, Democrats: Allen Boyd is a Blue Dawg, but, after a little arm-twisting, he did vote for healthcare reform. He ainâ€™t exactly progressive. His opponent, Al Lawson, isnâ€™t either. Lawson disappointed many of us who thought heâ€™d be a refreshing alternative to Boyd, but he sided with the weasels in charge of the state legislature in the fight over redistricting. Lawson thinks itâ€™s OK for the Republicans to keep drawing districts to suit themselves as long as they throw a couple of bones to minority candidates. Now the Repubs pray Lawson wins in the primary because they think itâ€™ll be easier to beat an African-American: remember, the district runs from the wacky retired military and foot-washing Baptist netherworld of West Florida to over past Monticello.
Republicans: There are five of them, Eddie Hendry, Ron McNeil, Barbara Olschner, David Scholl and Steve Southerland. Olschner is the pick of this litter: sheâ€™s a lawyer who doesnâ€™t think drilling in the Gulf is a great idea. Hendry comes from Taylor County. You know, the place where all the Confederate battle flags fly proudly from the house trailers. Perhaps it is wrong to tar him with the Perry brush, but there you go. Scholl says he wants to lower taxes, especially for rich folks. The rest of them concur. McNeil says he should be elected because heâ€™s a patriotic American. The other day he told a group of students in West Florida that if an Islamic Center has to be built in lower Manhattan, â€œmake them build it nine stories underground, so we can walk above it as citizens and Christians.â€ Southerland is a funeral director Panama City who alsoâ€“surprise, surprise– hates taxes and foreigners. Heâ€™s the likely front-runner.
Governor, Democrats: Thereâ€™s some guy named Brian Moore runningâ€“ignore him. The only rational choice is Alex Sink, state CFO (or Comptroller, as it was called before Jeb Bush took over and found Norman French too hard). Sheâ€™s smart. Sheâ€™s sane. Sheâ€™s the great-granddaughter of Chang and Eng, the original â€œSiamese Twins,â€ a circus exhibit who later became North Carolina plantation owners (weird, but true).
Republicans: Sheer bliss, this primary contest. So edifying. In the Insider Corner, Howdy Doody look-alike Bill McCollum, former congressman and â€œmanagerâ€ of Bill Clintonâ€™s impeachment. McCollum, who has the personality of a dung beetle, has been trying to shore up his rightwing bona fides by coming out not merely against gay marriage, but gay parentingâ€“even foster parenting! Heâ€™s also concocted a draft â€œyour papers, please!â€ law like the one in Arizona. Donâ€™t want no brown people â€˜round here. As if thatâ€™s not enough, heâ€™s suing the federal government to protect your right to be ripped-off by your health insurance. Thatâ€™s if you even have health insurance.
Loudly occupying the Outsider Corner we have one Rick Scott, formerly of Columbia HCA, the hospital corporation which defrauded Medicaid and Medicare of a couple of billion bucks. Nevertheless, he wants to run government â€œlike a business.â€ Scott boasts that 1. Heâ€™s funding his own campaign so he wonâ€™t be beholden to anyone. Except himself. And 2. Heâ€™s so pro-life he forced one of his hospitals to keep a severely-impaired premature baby alive, despite the wishes of her parents. Indeed, sheâ€™s still alive, 20 years later: she canâ€™t see, speak, walk or feed herself. Her parents sued the hospital for $43 million and won.
Attorney General, Democrats: There are two smart lawyers running, both state legislators, both from South Florida, both insisting they are committed to consumer protection and civil rights first and foremost. Dan Gelber, to my mind, has the edge over Dave Aronberg, if only because Aronberg tried a silly campaign trick trying to tie Gelberâ€™s former law firm (a firm with about 500 lawyers, mind you) with BP. Either one of these guys would be an advance on Bill McCollum (see above) or any of the possibilities below.
Republicans: An unedifying spectacle. Current Lt. Gov Jeff Kottkamp is a lightweight best known for his endless personal tripsâ€“including one to a Kenny Loggins concert in Atlanta– billed to the state. He should be disqualified on grounds of musical taste alone. Then thereâ€™s Holly Benson, a bond lawyer and former state legislator from Pensacola, and Pam Bondi, a former prosecutor from Tampa. Sarah Palin loves Bondi, calling her â€œbold,â€ a tough patriot who fill fight the federal government tooth and nail (oh, good . . .) They all love guns and hate immigrants.
State Senate 6th District, Democrats: Curtis Richardson, a former school psychologist, has served this area well in the House of Representatives, esp. if you care about education. Heâ€™s young, energetic and progressive. Bill Montford also has extensive education experience as head of the local school board. Heâ€™s more conservative than Richardson, but by no means a disaster.
Republicans: Non-existent. Iâ€™m not being funny. There ainâ€™t none.
State House, 9th District, Democrats: Two decent candidates here: one, Rick Minor, former head of the Leon County Democratic Party, got in the race because his opponent, Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, initially supported drilling for oil in Floridaâ€™s waters. Ruh-roh, as Scooby Doo would say. Now Vasilinda is aginâ€™ drilling. And good luck finding substantive policy differences between these two. Whatâ€™s important is that one of them win.
Republicans: A pitiful slate. Ann Yarko is about 12 years old and lists â€œconservative activistâ€ as her occupation. The other, one Kirk Headley-Perdue has been anointed by the state Republican Party. Neither of them can put an English sentence together. Check out WFSU-FMâ€™s â€œPerspectivesâ€ program: www.wfsu.org/radio/perspectives.php.
Judiciary, 2nd Circuit. Eddie Evans and Barbara Hobbs ranked lowest amongst their peers in the Tallahassee Bar Association, if you care about such things. Bruce Leinback, J. Layne Smith and Karen Gievers did better. Gievers has the approval of the Florida Education Association. The cops like Smith (not a good sign). Republicans like Smith, too. Leinback and Hobbs belong to the NAACP and have done a lot of pro-bono work. Evans, well, heâ€™s from Wakulla County.
County Commission, District 5: Two, count â€˜em, two progressives in this race, Kristen Dozier and Bob Rackleff. Dozier is a young pup, a feminist and FSU grad, raised on the Miccosukee Land Co-op, now a â€œgreenâ€ developer. Sheâ€™s OK, but should have waited till Rackleff retired. Heâ€™s a former Jimmy Carter speechwriter and Newsweek journalist whoâ€™s as feisty as hell. And smart. He has protected the eastern end of the county from a number of bad, bad developments (not, alas, FallsChase, but he
did try . . .). Some guy named David Ward is running on the letâ€™s-lower-taxes-and-slash-services ticket. Ignore him.
District 1: No matter what kind of crap he pulls, Bill Proctor is going to win this seat. Again. Even though he spouts homophobic craziness in county commission meetings, even though he doesnâ€™t even live in the district and wonâ€™t pay the fines assessed against him for, er, â€œirregularities.â€ Opponent John Corrie Byrne sounds like a smart guy, but heâ€™s toast.
At-Large Seat: Got some prize piggies here: former FSU football player Nick Maddox has never cast a vote in his life. Heâ€™s cute, but thatâ€™s not quite enough, is it? Scott Matteo used to work for the Army Corps of Engineers, you know: the people who brought you Hurricane Katrina. Rick Malphurs runs a septic-tank business (which he says brings him much â€œpersonal knowledgeâ€ of peopleâ€“I am not making this up) and wants to represent â€œconservatives.â€ Cliff Thaell is the incumbent. Heâ€™s been a serious environmentalist (Miccosukee Greenway, Fred George Wetlands and Greenway), a leader in equality issues (the same-sex partner benefit the county just instituted), and generally looked after progressive causes. I see no need to replace him.
Mayor of Tallahassee: This contest has been whupped with the ugly stick. Incumbent John Marks is a bit of a bozo and had to be educated on why a coal-fired power plant is a baaaaaad idea. But he hasnâ€™t done a terrible job keeping Tallahasseeâ€™s fiscal body and soul together. His most plausible opponent is a Republican called Steve Stewart, yet another, cut-taxes-and-services dude. Larry Hendricks, campaigning with a war chest of about $4.56, makes a lot of sense: less growth, tougher environmental regulations, but he comes across as one of the Clampett cousins come up to the Big City to git him some of them french fried potaters.
City Commission, Seat 5: Gil Ziffer is a PR guy, but Iâ€™m trying not to hold that against him. Because really, heâ€™s the best of the bunch hereâ€“very interested in Tallahasseeâ€™s cultural and artistic life. His chief opponent is Erwin Jackson, a professional gadfly and something of a slumlord. Jacksonâ€™s big issue is, you guessed it, overweening gummint that needs to be smacked into shape, and excessive property taxes for crap like education and parks. James Moran seems a totally decent guy, works at FAMU, does a lot for charities. Pity he doesnâ€™t have much hope in this race.
City Commission, Seat 3: Nancy Miller! Nancy Miller! OK, Iâ€™m really partial here, but sheâ€™s terrific. So terrific I actually gave her cash money. The woman is an urban planner (imagineâ€“planning on a city commission! a first!) and a notable environmentalist. Sheâ€™s also smart, personable and as far from Good Old Boyhood as it is possible to get and not be Susan Sontag. Her chief opponent is a fellow with the unfortunate name of Stephen Hogge, a neighborhood association activist. Thereâ€™s also a Bill Rollins, about whom little seems to be known.
School Board, District 5: Two plausible candidates. Georgia â€œJoyâ€ Bowen is by far the more experienced, but Laymon Hicks, a young spark, sounds very keen. In contrast to
School Board, District 1: this race, which is quite uninspiring. The incumbent, longtime member and educational consultant Forrest Van Camp, rightly worries over whether students are learning enough science. But heâ€™s been around forever and what has he done about this? His opponent, Donna Campanella Allocco, is also pretty vague: she thinks when cuts are made (as they will be) the â€œclassroom should be held harmless.â€ Duh. Good luck figuring out what these two really stand for.
Diane “DK” Roberts is an author, journalist, NPR commentator and documentary producer. This article was first distributed on local email lists and is published with Ms Roberts kind permission.