Critical Times

"Democracy is not a spectator sport."

INTEGRITY 2020 -- Many Important Elections 
Dan Lobeck, President of Control Growth Now

The voters approved Single Member Districts for Sarasota County Commission elections. This major reform will give principled, grassroots candidates a chance against the big money developer machine. The cost to reach voters is cut by 80% and neighborhoods are empowered.

Next year, we have a shot at upending the developers’ domination of County and City elections and policies, if we find and support good candidates. Control Growth Now is a nonpartisan organization, so we encourage both Republicans and Democrats, Independents and others, who stand for principle and sound policies, to take on the special interests and let the interests of all of us prevail.

This November, 2019 will provide an early showdown as a preview for 2020, with the election of three of the seven members of the Venice City Council. All will be open seats due to term limits, although departing Council member Bob Daniels is switching to run for the seat which also serves as Mayor. All three of the incumbents are very pro-developer, as is the current Council majority, so this election could return Venice to a controlled growth Council for the first time since 2010. A new group, Venice Tax Watch, will be working toward that end, as will Control Growth Now and others.

But 2020 will provide the big battleground.

Two more Venice City Council members will be up for election in November, 2020, sensible growth advocate Mitzie Fiedler and Charles Newsom, who usually sides with the developers.

Three of the five seats on the Sarasota City Commission will also be up (the single member district seats): the very pro-developer Liz Alpert; Willie Shaw, who has voted consistently for the public interest (with the exception of his first Lido Pavilion vote, which he sought to reverse) and Shelli Freeland Eddie, who has voted with the public more often than not but has several key votes before her prior to next year’s election.

Biggest of all will be the three single-member district elections for Sarasota County Commission. We strongly hope incumbent Mike Moran meets his end, having alienated many east County voters with his support for a concrete crushing facility next to the Celery Fields and others with his reliable support for the developers’ political machine. Already two candidates have shown interest, Republican Frank DiCicco, who ran a strong late race against Moran in 2016, and former Sarasota Mayor Fredd Atkins, who is a declared candidate as a Democrat.

Incumbent County Commissioner Nancy Detert (R) will also be up for election, in south County. It is not known whether Developer Interests will put up an opponent due to her popularity and wide name recognition from her many years of public service, which is why they supported her in 2016. However, Commissioner Detert has voted against the big developers on some key votes, so that remains to be seen.

The third County Commission seat, in mid to south County, is being vacated by term-limited Charles Hines, so it is an open seat. Former County Commissioner Jon Thaxton (R), with a history of strong support for the public interest, has expressed a possible interest. The rumored candidate of the development community is Planning Commissioner Ron Cutsinger (R). However, as to this seat and the others, it presently remains to be seen how the races will be affected by redistricting which the Commission has planned, which could be used to cut out some candidates’ residences and include others.

Two more hot contests will be on the Sarasota County School Board. Eric Robinson, an insider who handles dark money PACs for several of the large developers, is up for reelection. So is Caroline Zucker, who will likely be targeted by development interests for defeat if she runs for reelection. Both are Republicans, although it is a nonpartisan election. If candidates beholding to development interests take both seats, they will control the School Board and may eliminate school impact fees, which are already only at 25% of full funding, and there will be no chance of increasing them to meet the demands of rampant growth.

Five of the ten seats on the Sarasota County Charter Review Board will be up for election. Residents throughout the County will be eligible to run in these partisan elections, in which a candidate must reside in a district but is elected countywide. There is no filing fee or petition required to run. All five incumbents are Republicans. One, Donna Barcomb, is leaving the Board to run for State Legislature so at least District 2 will be an open seat. Pat Wayman in District 3 has generally voted with the public interest. While the others are a mixed bag, the worst Charter Review Board members are among the five who will not be up until 2022.

On the North Port City Commission, three seats will be up for election, including very pro-developer incumbent Vanessa Carusone. Three Longboat Key Town Commission seats will be up in March of 2020.

Eight of the eleven Circuit Court Judges will be subject to possible election challenge. Although that has been rare in the past, a challenger upset an incumbent Circuit Court Judge here in 2018 so that could happen again. Also up for election in 2020 is one of the five County Court Judges (David Denkin).

The Sheriff, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections and Clerk of Court will be up, as well as the State Attorney and Public Defender, although history shows incumbents in those seats are often unopposed. All five of the area’s State Legislators are up for election as well as State Senator Joe Gruters.

With the President of the United States also on the ballot, a high turnout can be expected in the general election, as well as perhaps in some primaries.

We hope that 2020 will be the year in which voters will face good choices among candidates for local office, including those who dare to stand for principle and integrity, particularly in the three single member district elections for Sarasota County Commission, as well as others.

Integrity 2020. Let’s make a difference!