Palm Coast Candidates Ask: When’s the Election? City: We’ll Get Back To You
FlaglerLive | July 15, 2011
This election season has not been Palm Coast’s finest hour. The city’s redistricting exercise devolved into an embarrassing circus before the city council recognized–and rectified–the situation last month. And now the city, which is running the election for city council and mayor in September and November, cannot tell most candidates when they’ll actually be running in the election.
Three seats are up: mayor and two council seats. Only the mayor’s race has more than two candidates–incumbent Jon Netts and challengers Charlie Ericksen Jr. and Joe Cunnane. That race will have a primary. It’s scheduled for Sept. 13. If one of the three candidates wins one vote more than 50 percent, that individual will be the mayor, removing the need for another election on Nov. 8.
The city hasn’t yet figured out when to schedule the other two races, which so far have drawn two candidates each: in District 3, an open seat (Mary DiStefano is term-limited), Jason DeLorenzo is running against Dennis Cross. In District 2, incumbent Holsey Moorman is running against Bill McGuire.
But the candidates don’t know if their election will be held on Sept. 13 or on Nov. 8. They’ve inquired with the city. City officials told them they’d be getting back to them with an answer Monday (July 18). The city clerk has been on vacation this week, though she still has been involved in working with the city attorney, Bill Reischmann, who’s figuring out the answer.
“When I find out I will let you know,” Moorman said Friday. “There is some confusion as to what the Plam Coast charter has said, and the attorney is researching that and will get back to me next week. It was interpreted that the original charter read two or more would be in the primary, and Mayor Netts said that there was a change made to the charter back in 2001, which said three or more candidates could be in the primary, so Mr. Reischmann is going back, pulling the charter, all the written amendments, and he said he’ll let us know next week.”
The unambiguous answer is, in fact, in section 8 (4) of the city charter: “If there are more than two candidates who qualify for any office, a primary city election shall be held on the first Tuesday after the second Monday in September.”
For the moment, there aren’t. But official qualifying isn’t until Aug. 1-9, when more candidates could jump in the race. It is unlikely that more candidates will do so (they would have to pay a steep qualifying fee, as opposed to qualifying by petition, as other candidates have). Going by the charter’s language, the city would have to hold the two council-seat election on Nov. 8, not on Sept. 13. But the city is studying the possibility of moving those two elections to Sept. 13. There’s a chance that the mayor’s race, whose first round has to be held on Sept. 13 regardless, may be decided that day. If it is, and the council-seat elections are held on the same day, then there’ll be no need for a November election, and the city can save tens of thousands of dollars.
The logical move is to hold the city-council seat elections along with the mayor’s election in September. But if the city follows the letter of the charter, that would be a violation. It would also narrow the window of time for the four candidates to campaign, though turnout won’t be an issue, whatever the date: neither on the Sept. 13 nor on Nov. 8 will the election involve other races, so turnout is expected to be very low on either day.
Meanwhile, candidates wait.
“We’re preparing for a primary because qualifying doesn’t close until Aug. 9 and anyone else can join the race,” DeLorenzo, one of the candidates for district 3, said. “We were always preparing for a primary anyway.”
That district’s race had started as a three-way race, with Charles Ballard, Cross and DeLorenzo. Cross appeared to have been disqualified by the city’s redistricting, until the manner in which the redistricting commission did its work compelled the city council to reverse the commission’s decision, bringing Cross back into contention, only for Ballard, a member of the city’s Leisure Services Advisory Committee, reportedly to drop out.