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Buying Their Election: Mullins and Hansen Shatter Spending Records for Flagler County Commission Seats

| November 5, 2018

Joe Mullins, left, and Greg Hansen have spent money on their election campaigns as no previous candidate for the Flagler County Commission ever had. (© FlaglerLive)

Joe Mullins, left, and Greg Hansen have spent money on their election campaigns as no previous candidate for the Flagler County Commission ever had. (© FlaglerLive)

There’s never been a Flagler County Commission election like this.

Two candidates–incumbent Greg Hansen and newcomer Joe Mullins–have not only vastly outspent their four opponents in the primary and general election this year. The nearly $200,000 they have spent so far, with thousands more to be tallied in post-election reports, puts them on pace to match or outspend all 26 other county commission candidates in the past three years combined.


Hansen so far has raised $76,438 and spent almost all of it. Mullins so far has raised $154,400 and spent $119,000, according to their latest campaign finance reports, as filed with the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections.

Their four opponents combined have spent just over $46,000. Two-term commissioner Nate McLaughlin raised and spent just $21,700 in his failed bid to hold on to the seat in the Republican primary against Mullins. Jane Gentile Yound, running as an independent, has spent $12,800 so far. In Hansen’s district, Abby Romaine spent just under $10,000 in her failed primary bid. Dennis McDonald, running as an independent, has so far spent just $2,200.

One other characteristic stands out sharply in both Mullins’s and Hansen’s financial reports: In contrast with most serious candidates who have run for the county commission in the past three years, the mass of dollars they have raised and spent is overwhelmingly their own. They are getting relatively few individual contributions (with Hansen well ahead of Mullins in that regard), and many of those are from out of the county.

Mullins is a Flagler County candidate in name only. Based in Augusta, Ga., he’s been claiming on his business card that his Joe Mullins Companies has a “Florida office” at a home he bought on North Pine Street in Bunnell. As with many claims Mullins has made, that’s not accurate: “At this time, the City does not have a business tax receipt issued to Joe Mullins for a business located within the City limits nor for doing business within the City of Bunnell,” Bunnell’s city clerk said today, as she had in September.

Mullins has listed just 78 individual contributions. Almost a quarter of those are from himself, his company or his wife, totaling $129,700, or 84 percent of the treasure chest.

Among the rest, 14 are from out of state (most of those from Georgia), 18 are from  out of the county but within Florida, and just 15 are from Flagler County.

Seven of his out-of-county contributions, totaling $2,400, are from Daytona Beverages Inc. He got a $500 contribution from Mori Hosseini’s ICI Homes, which often has development business before the county commission, a $1,000 contribution from Mike Goodman, owner of Captain’s BBQ at Bing’s Landing, which has business before the commission soon after the election (the county is planning to subsidize a huge renovation of the business), and $500 from John Walsh, the Palm Coast Observer publisher who’d come to feel toward McLaughlin as Ahab did toward Moby Dick whale despite his newspapers’ revelations of Mullins’s scabrous past and fact-challenged interpretations of events, also documented here. Numerous additional individual contributions to Mullins are from developers or real estate brokers.

There is somewhat more variety in Hansen’s campaign-finance reports, and only 45 percent of the $76,400 haul so far is self-funded. Hansen drew on a total of 139 contributions, only two of which are his own. Nine of the contributors are from out of state, a few are from out of the county (most in Volusia). The large majority of contributions are from Palm Coast and the rest of Flagler Beach, and most of those in increments of $75 to $500.

But his single-largest contributor is Hosseini’s ICI Homes, which under its name and that of seven other companies he controls (Venture Development, CC North Central, Prestwick at Plantation Bay and so on), contributed $9,000 at last count. Jay Livingston, the attorney who represents developers, contributed $1,000, as did an Orlando-based realtors’ group.

There is a direct relationship between the sort of contributions candidates accept and the sort of votes they take as commissioners. Hansen also accepted $2,000 from Goodman and another $1,000 from Goodman partner Chris Herrera–and this morning voted to appoint Goodman to the planning board, without mentioning the contributions.

McLaughlin, who received $1,500 from Goodman and Herrera, also voted to appoint Goodman and also did not mention Goodman’s contribution.

Hansen’s largest out-of-state contributions are $1,000 from the Alamo political action committee in Texas, and $1,000 from Joseph Greene in Virginia Beach.

Hansen and Mullins for weeks have projected the assumption that they’ll be victorious, and history and the size of their primary wins suggests they’re right: no independent has ever won a county commission (or a constitutional officer’s) seat in Flagler. On Monday morning, Mullins emailed to local media and others an “Election Night celebration” invitation at European Village for himself, Hansen and House Rep. Paul Renner, an event paid by all three. “Join us as we begin a new direction for Flagler County!” the invitation reads. Asked if he wasn’t getting ahead of himself, Mullins wrote “It’s a win lose or draw” event. “We want the community rallying together,” he wrote in an email, “although I feel pretty confident with my work in my race.”

Comparing the Mullins-Hansen reports with other local races, the school board’s five candidates for two races have spent a combined $31,000. Melissa Moore-Stens, the county judge, raised $63,000 for her re-election this year, but ended up running unopposed.

Regional races for state House, the state Senate and the congressional seat always draw much larger contributions: Nancy Soderberg, the Democratic candidate for the 6th Congressional District, which includes all of Flagler, raised $2.8 million so far, compared to GOP candidate Michael Waltz’s $1.7 million. In 2016, Ron DeSantis raised $4.7 million even though he was facing little opposition, but he was preparing his run for governor, when he could shift his congressional haul over to that race.

In the Flagler-related only legislative race on the ballot this year, the GOP’s Paul Renner, the House member, raised nearly $300,000 at last report, compared to the Democrats’ Adam Morley’s $23,400.

The Mullins-Hansen spending sprees are the largest for all local government offices and certainly for the county commission, the school board and municipal seats. There was one exception, for a constitutional office: the 2016 race for Flagler County Sheriff, when Rick Staly raised $188,000 and spent all but $3,500 of it. Staly had contributed $57,500 of his own, with the rest coming from some 385 individual contributions, most of them local–and including $1,500 from Mullins.

 

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30 Responses for “Buying Their Election: Mullins and Hansen Shatter Spending Records for Flagler County Commission Seats”

  1. Keep Flagler Beautiful says:

    You’ve got to be kidding me! Why is Joe Mullins even on the ballot??? Out-of-stater, loads of baggage, cozy with developers who fund his campaign. There is no way on earth that this man could vote in an unbiased way in matters affecting Flagler County development, especially residential development. So glad I read this story, as I now have NO FAITH in Mullins, and it’s an insult that he’s even trying to pick the taxpayers’ pockets in a county where he doesn’t even live and would not be impacted by the votes he would be casting as a commissioner. Sham! He should be pulled from the ballot immediately.

  2. KMedley says:

    I suppose better late than never is how I should feel as I read this “media coverage” of Joe Mullins.

    On October 29th, I had to laugh as I read the article by Flagler Live, “Interference In the County’s Elections”? Not So Fast: How 2 Illegal Political Signs Seeded a Phony Controversy.

    First, let me underscore the importance of a free press, especially during an election cycle. For example, the article, “Palm Coast’s Shocking Electric Tax Scheme”, posted by Flagler Live, in my opinion was not only well-researched, I believe it led to the postponement by City Council. That’s what a free press is supposed to do.

    The sign article, coupled with this article, appropriately title, “Buying Their Election…”, falls as flat as those signs that were removed given the numerous opportunities to inform voters, particularly with regards to Mullins.

    A total of 1,919 words, including the title, were devoted to sign nonsense, and 1109 words are used to tell us that which many already know. Yet, when given multiple opportunities to provide in-depth information about Joe Mullins, our collective press, including; but, not limited to Flagler Live, Daytona Beach News-Journal, and Palm Coast Observer, chose to remain silent and declare it is not one outlet’s responsibility to be the only media that exposes this candidate.

    How many articles were run about Nate McLaughlin and his bankruptcy? As I recall at least 3 and it remained an issue in each election. Has Dennis McDonald paid the State of Florida his $59,000.00 fine??

    Sad that our media can seemingly be bought for a hope and a prayer; hoping for a large check and praying it doesn’t bounce. By the way, has Joe Mullins written a check for court-mandated health insurance coverage for his children?

    Shaking my damn head!

  3. County employee says:

    We do not need a carpet bagger in Mullins who seems poised to buy his way into county government. Jane Gentile Yound would be the better choice despite her limited war chest. I am very proud of Flagler County and hate seeing someone like Mullins walk in here without a care for it’s history or way of life.

  4. tulip says:

    If Mullins and Hansen win, all you people who voted for those two wealthy scoundrels will have it on your heads that, due to their connections and their obligations to those big donors, they will be able to cater to all those people’s wishes and give them whatever they want at our expense and with the possible help of Renner. One has already been appointed to the planning board, according to this article. They have already gleefully hired European Village for their victory party and are probably snickering amongst themselves about how confident they are they will win. Sickening

  5. Trailer Bob says:

    Talk to Mullins opponent for 5 minutes and you will certainly vote for Mullins. I spoke with her at a recent event, and she is pretty weird. Kept telling her husband to shut up during a conversation, and seems to be hell bent on restrictive building codes…because she doesn’t want any businesses near her home. A little to weird for me.

  6. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    A special message today to Flagler County Florida registered voters who have not yet voted and who may still be undecided on their choice for County Commission races Please keep in mind that the responsibilities of the commission have no party differences, unlike state and federal offices. Example: How much your property tax is and where is it going? Is your money being misused? Have the candidates demonstrated they can manage money carefully? Remember always that no local issues have a color. NONE

    Do we have sufficient qualified public safety personnel? Is our EMS stocked with the most up to date equipment? How do you know you can rely on your chosen commissioner? Have they ever been awarded for civic service? If yes, what specifically for? More than once? How many times ? Have they previously served the public in an official capacity? Have they been voluntarily involved in important issues ? If so, can they list achievements or accomplishments? ( Keep in mind using Google can help zoom you to many answers).
    These examples should be the real important considerations.

    Last but not least : Try to understand objectively that IT IS NOT how many doors a candidate has knocked on; nor how many hands they shake nor parties with food they provide, nor how many Santa Claus promises they make. A commissioner needs 2 other commissioners to agree to make their ‘promise’ a reality. Pledges can be honest – promises are not honest. And please please whatever you do -do not base your vote on ‘how many signs’ the candidate has around town.

    Thank you for your time. I thank Flaglerlve for this opportunity and I thank everyone who uses the most important tool we have to guarantee our precious freedom and democracy. OUR VOTE

  7. Facts says:

    Mullins is going to destroy our single family communities. He is in bed with Senator Hutson. They are both involved in shady real estate deals. Funneling money into their protects while using their public positions. They will not protect Home rule. Hutson showed his true colors the last legislative session. Voting against his constituents and local government officials. I would not be surprise if he attempted to repeal the county ordinance that regulates these transient public lodging establishment busniess. I voted against this corrupt politician from GA. I urge all your readers to vote NPA.

  8. carol says:

    Public office for sale!! And nobody does anything thing about it!!!

  9. Rich says:

    Who ever wrote this? Your may be the savior to Flagler! Finally a very small shed of light spread on Mullins. We all know he is fake! Show Mullins #Flagler is not dumb! Go Vote!
    BTW : Mullins also donated $5000 to Stalys Gala at the Hammock this year. He was awarded a Sheriff’s star and a photo opp with Staly. Joe Trolls the Sherriff? Joe is creepy if you ever spend any time with him.
    He will divide the county I assure you.

  10. Agkistrodon says:

    What I find funny is I am inundated daily with flyer from both Reps and Dems, stacks of them, same thing EVERY day, like EVERY other house. Problem I have is I always hear how environmental the DEMS claim to be. What’s up with all that wasteful paper advertising that I keep getting from them DAILY…….I guess THEY don’t walk the walk, that THEY talk……..AGAIN.

  11. Concerned Voter says:

    Anyone have an idea as to why Mullins didn’t answer Flaglerlive’s last question regarding any civil or legal action against him?

  12. Flabbergasted says:

    Wish this article appeared sooner…..

    Hansen is obliviously an appointed political hack coming from a 16 year Washington lobbyist firm and it appears Mullins is not even an established resident of Flagler county. Need to give him credit for pulling this off… or is it simply nobody else with any real credentials is willing to run for office. Our political climate is dismal.

    The future of Flagler County, especially the 18,000 citizens n the unincorporated county is bleak with the type of leadership that we appear to soon be anointing … Add them to the inept Coffey regime and our County will simply continue to stagnant.

    McDonald appears to be the only legitimate choice to represent the taxpayers (who pay their salaries) and not the special interest groups that are obvious by the contribution records.

  13. Pamela I Andrews says:

    If they cared anything about the people, that money could have been better spent…
    I can name at least 10 things right now…
    Disgusting…

  14. tulip says:

    To Flabbergasted, I,too wish this article had been posted sooner. I did not vote for either mullin or hansen. The fact that a lot of people have already voted for them shows the danger of voting too early in the early voting process, because a lot of hidden info can come to light, such as this article, after many people have already voted. I waited until the end of early voting.We got rid of one weasel in the primaries, however, we potentially gained two more, plus Renner. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the two muskateers who think they are going to run the Bocc and Flagler county might not win. Hopefully at least one will lose.

  15. palmcoaster says:

    In this county and our quality of life and the taxes we pay for our services will be further channeled to developers first with Mullins -Hansen. We vote McDonald -Youd!

  16. Beachbum says:

    How can anyone even consider McDonald with the fines he owes the county – even after his failed appeal – still go unpaid? Between his smug arrogance and his “I’m better than all of you and certainly above the law” attitude, he makes me sick. PLEASE Flagler voters, do not put this creep in office. You will regret it I’m certain. Just ask the folks from Roxbury, CT

  17. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    To Flabbergasted: Don’t forget you do have a choice for District 4 : that’s me -Jane!

  18. Concerned voter says:

    Gotta love how Joe changed his name to Jeff when he was outted on Airbnb for renting out a property

  19. Simon says:

    Follow the money. Are developers providing most of the funds for their political campaigns? I wouldn’t be surprised. Hansen voted against his own constituents and FOR the interests of developers at Matanzas Shores. Now we know why.

  20. Randy Jones says:

    Many years ago, and not too long after Florida passed the workplace “no-smoking” law, I walked into a small back office in the Flagler County Courthouse. There sat two “good old boy” county commissioners, feet up on the desk puffing away. Back then many residents of Flagler County complained about the red necks running “things.” Today, many are complaining about carpet baggers buying a seat on the BoCC. I wonder what the “complaint” will be 16 years from now?

  21. anony says:

    Corrupt “Mullins is a Flagler County candidate in name only. Based in Augusta, Ga., he’s been claiming on his business card that his Joe Mullins Companies has a “Florida office” at a home he bought on North Pine Street in Bunnell. As with many claims Mullins has made, that’s not accurate: “At this time, the City does not have a business tax receipt issued to Joe Mullins for a business located within the City limits nor for doing business within the City of Bunnell,” Bunnell’s city clerk said today, as she had in September.” He’s bought off several businesses around Palm Coast and Flagler County.

    He is a GEORGIAN, NOT a Floridian. NO to Mullins! Vote for his opponent, even though she used to be a republican too.
    At least she is REAL.

  22. Rich says:

    It’s incredible that this amount of money is being spent by these two rich fat cats. What’s behind their motives? And who are their secret backers?

  23. Blade says:

    NOPE!!!!!!!

  24. Ramone says:

    The funny thing is, most of the people complaining about Joe Mullins being in the race, probably voted for Gillum. A guys that’s taking bribes from FBI agents and is going to bankrupt Florida. Trust me, Mullins is the least of your worries.

  25. mark101 says:

    Well I dam sure ain’t voting for Dennis McDonald

  26. Simon says:

    Real estate developers. Certainly. A no brainer.

  27. Simon says:

    They both worry me! Party doesn’t matter!

  28. Mermaidangie says:

    Why in the world would these men spend this much to win this seat? Are they hoping to sell their votes after they’re elected? I hope not, we all lose.

  29. Facts says:

    Mullins has already planned his win at European Village. A vote for him is a vote for developers. Vote NPA! Send him back to GA.

  30. Mark richter jr says:

    Should have voted for Richter when you had the chance.

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