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First McDonald, Now Abby Romaine Will Challenge Hansen For County Commission

| June 21, 2018

Abby Romaine during her first run for county commission in 2012. (© FlaglerLive)

Abby Romaine during her first run for county commission in 2012. (© FlaglerLive)

One day after Dennis McDonald filed to run as an independent against Flagler County Commissioner Greg Hansen, Abby Romaine on Thursday filed to run against Hansen in the Republican primary.

Romaine and McDonald were both candidates for that seat in 2012, in reverse roles: McDonald contested it as a Republican, losing to Frank Meeker, and Romaine contested it in the general election as an independent, winning 45 percent of the vote against Meeker’s 56. Meeker died in 2016. Gov. Rick Scott appointed Hansen to the seat in January.

“A number of people in the community have been approaching me over the last month, asking me to run,” Romaine, a patient advocate at Florida Hospital Flagler, said. “I thought about it long and hard, prayed about it, and this week it solidified in my head it’s what I needed to do. I have a servant’s heart, I’m hard-wired that way, I need to give back to the community. I loved doing it at the hospital.”

With less than 24 hours left in the qualifying period Romaine had to pay the $3,100 qualifying fee–”the little bit of funds that I have”–banking on pledges from supporters who have said they would be contributing to what promises to be one of the year’s more expensive race in Flagler: Hansen has raised $35,000 so far ($25,000 of it his own contribution), McDonald has assets exceeding $1 million. Romaine opened a campaign account only today but said contributors “have got my back.” In 2012, her campaign raised a total of $14,200 to Meeker’s $17,000.

In 2012, Romaine said, she ran a bi-partisan campaign, drawing support from both parties and independents. By switching to Republican this year she’s followed in the steps of other candidates who have found it either impossible or undesirable to continue as Democrats or independents and expect to win, among them Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, a close friend of Romaine’s, and Nick Klufas, a Palm Coast council member.

Dennis McDonald and Abby Romaine crossed paths in 2012 when he was the Republican and she was the independent. (© FlaglerLive)

Dennis McDonald and Abby Romaine crossed paths in 2012 when he was the Republican and she was the independent. (© FlaglerLive)

But Romaine has hewed to the center for much of her career when she hosted a radio show on WNZF before her 2012 run and as a political analyst on America’s Radio News network. She doesn’t want to discuss national Republicans, preferring to stick to local politics. Recalling her first run, she says “it became very clear that my vision and message resonated with the Republicanism of days of yore where you need to have your very strategic action plan for how you’re going to be be spending funds, watching those funds like a hawk.”

She’s held leadership roles at the Hammock Conservation Coalition and was among the originators of what was Flagler County’s Safe Haven program before it became Sally’s Safe Haven, the supervised visitation center in Bunnell for families with split-custody children of abusive parents. The center was eventually named for Sally Sherman, the deputy county administrator who saw its realization.

Today Romaine cited an issue involving Sherman as one of the reasons she decided to run: the county re-hiring her as a “consultant” immediately after she retired through the Florida Retirement System’s Deferred Retirement Option Program, at greater cost to the county–and taxpayers than when she’d been a regular employee. “It’s not appropriate that someone enters the DROP program with the very prescribed intention of coming immediately back and using these legal maneuvering loopholes in order to get around the requirements of it,” Romaine said.  “This is not personal. Sally Sherman is an extremely capable, professional person and a lovely human being.”

The issue with Sherman, Romaine said, should have been flagged by commissioners but wasn’t because they were aware of her re-hiring, but not of the details. “We need more of an eye on what’s happening within the walls of our government,” Romaine said. “We should take a look at that consent agenda and make sure we’re not approving things without drilling down.”

Romaine also cited the issues with the Sheriff’s Operations Center, potentially sick building that led to the evacuation of its employees last week, as a concern, without differing from how the county and the sheriff have contended with the issue so far. Hansen did not respond to a request for comment about Romaine’s run, though his wife Linda had, near the time when Romaine filed, forwarded an email announcing his selection by the Florida Association of Counties as a “presidential advocate,” recognition for an honoree’s partnership with the association in advancing its legislative agenda.

Interviewed briefly Thursday evening, McDonald welcomed Romaine’s cadidacy. “She’s a good friend, couldn’t have a better opponent,” he said. “She plays heads-up ball, she’s a very nice, straight-forward gal.”

Disclosure: Abby Romaine served as a member of the FlaglerLive board of directors since 2016. Romaine resigned her position today.

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15 Responses for “First McDonald, Now Abby Romaine Will Challenge Hansen For County Commission”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Very nice and honest Lady, but not commissioner material.

  2. County Employee says:

    We have two more hopefuls for the ineffective team of ineffectual commissioners. As a county employee I am embarrassed about all of the negative publicity that this county administration continues to draw. For too many years, commissioners have came and went, but the root of all of the county’s problems continues to reign…Craig Coffey. Wake up Flagler County! Instead of electing a new commissioner to replace Greg Hansen, demand more accountability from the existing commissioners. After all Craig Coffey works for the commissioners not the other way around.

    Craig Coffey is killing the moral among many Flagler County employees which in turn leads to a less productive work force that is trying to effectively serve the community of Flagler County. It’s time for a change but only the citizens of Flagler County can pressure the commissioners to make that change. From a concerned Flagler County employee, demand more from our commissioners and ask the commissioners to replace Craig Coffey. Our organization deserves better leadership.

  3. PC Citizen says:

    Who ?

  4. Just the facts says:

    Good. Let’s hear them on the issues.

  5. lena marshall says:

    Conflict of interest if McDonald wins with his wife on the School Board? A lot of issues involving money ?

  6. Lena Marshall says:

    Duh? he is an employee, and does not get a vote so a spot still needs to be filled.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I agree

  8. knightwatch says:

    Anonymous…kindly explain why “nice and honest” is not commissioner material.

  9. Anonymous says:

    No conflict of issue with the McDonalds—Peggy Border was SOE and her then husband was property appraiser and then county commissioner—-she married Seay after working for him in the Property Appraisers office and never took his name and he was instrumental in getting her appointed to SOE after the death of Etta Peterson.

    Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston worked under Seay in the Property Appraisers office and her husband Albert was County Commissioner.

    The McDonalds are upstanding successful people who truly care about this community. It would be an asset if both held public office. School Boatd is totally separate from County Commission.

  10. JB says:

    Anonymous, Albert Tucker was a county commissioner (not to be co fused with Elbert Tucker, Hubbell Commssioner) not Suzanne’s husband, Albert Johnston.

  11. JB says:

    Anonymous, I stand corrected, Albert Johnston was a commissioner back in the late 70’s to mid 80’s. So long ago, I forgot, however, his position has nothing to do with, not pose a conflict, Suzanne being elected to Tax Collector so that comparison to the McDonald’s is a moot point.

  12. Anonymous says:

    To Knightwatch, That was my opinion. Just attend the forums watch, listen, and form your own opinion.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Albert Johnson and Suzanne Johnson were and are husband and wife and both were in county leadership positions at the same time, although Suzanne was not an elected official while Albert was a commissioner. Elbert Tucker was never a county commissioner, his father Alfred Tucker was. The John Seay/ Peggy Border statement by anonymous was correct; however I’m not sure if Peggy took the Seay name legally or not. I do know she ran for S.O.E. under Border not Seay which quite a few people in the county at the time looked down on or frowned at and thought it was a bit sneaky on their part.

  14. A Dedicated American says:

    TAX PAYERS WAKE UP. For the primary in August, you all should vote for Abby Romaine. So she can win the primary and then the race will be Romaine and McDonald. Romaine is far more qualified and if you read what Flaglerlive wrote back in 2012 regarding questions asked her as to how she would handle issues in our county, she is the commissioner we need in 2018. Tax payers

  15. Can't believe it says:

    Commissioner Hansen needs to be replaced, period. He, along with the other commissioners, had a chance to non-renew Coffey’s contract in April. But instead, they gave him an “open-ended” new contract. This is completely unacceptable. They are the ones responsible for allowing Coffey’s continued ineptness. He needs to go and we need to elect commissioners who are willing to get the job done. So, since they non-renewed Coffey’s contract, I am non-renewing their contracts in this month’s election. I’m asking everyone to join me.

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