On June 29, Alan Lowe, one of six candidates for Palm Coast Mayor in the July 27 special election, posted a 60-second campaign message on his Facebook page. The video bears fact-checking as an example of Lowe’s tenuous relationship with facts or truth, because in 168 words, Lowe manages to fit in at least three falsehoods, make four misleading or deceptive statements and violate the state’s campaign rules twice.
Lowe is running in a field of six candidates. One of them can be as hard to follow as the last 30 pages of “Ulysses,” a couple of others tend to speak in technocratic generalities, and none, Lowe included, have the sort of prior government experience they can fall back on to project a commanding grasp of the job ahead. But if all six are sincere–and I have no doubt Lowe is as well–only Lowe makes explicitly false statements, misleading claims, and ideologically-driven pitches that have little to no connection to Palm Coast governance.
Lowe’s difficulties with facts were apparent in his run for the mayorship last year, when a commercial he ran on WNZF drew a cease-and-desist letter against the station to keep it from running it again, as it was making maliciously false accusations–maliciously so, because the accusations had been proven false, but were still repeated by Lowe. (His campaign Svengali, Ed Danko, echoed the accusations again at a Palm Coast City Council meeting Tuesday, dissimulating his allegation behind the claim that he’d spoken with a “senior” law enforcement official whose identity, title, agency or existence he would not disclose.)
Lowe’s campaign videos are numerous. For example, Lowe also issued a video 97 seconds long in early June about a meeting he had with John Walsh, the Palm Coast Observer publisher, who, Lowe claims, told him to drop out of the race. Even that video’s story is incomplete: according to Danko, Lowe’s own campaign adviser-manager, Walsh “spoke to Alan and told Alan to drop out of the race and if he dropped out of the race he [Walsh] would support Alan for City Council” in the next cycle. (Walsh, who makes no secret of candidates he supports financially and with the weight of the Observer behind them–he is supporting David Alfin–nevertheless denied he told Lowe to drop out of the mayoral race. Walsh did so in a huffy email that brooked no further comment.)
Lowe in that video repeats outright falsehoods, such as describing Alfin as a “lifelong Democrat” (our own databases going back seven years show him to have been a Republican throughout in Flagler, well before any campaign for office) “who is actively pandering to the left-wing liberal Democrat party,” which barely exists in Flagler. Lowe, who claims to support local business, then goes on to denigrate the newspaper and its numerous local advertisers as “fake news,” an odd accusation from a candidate inclined to fictions. He then theatrically pitches the newspaper like garbage–littering on a Palm Coast street: he was standing in front of the newspaper’s plaza–a trashing gesture that presumably applies to Lowe’s opinion of the tens of thousands of Observer readers, voters and advertisers.
Here’s a line-by-line fact-checking analysis of the June 29 video. Lowe’s words appear in italics.
I’m Alan Lowe, candidate for Palm Coast mayor. I’m the only real conservative Trump Republican running for mayor.
This is misleading. The claim about being “the only real conservative” is a baseless assumption other candidates would dispute. More gravely: Lowe breaks the law. The mayor and city council positions are non-partisan, the mayoral race is non-partisan. The local parties, voters and indeed candidates often ignore the fact, but candidates are bound by law. In their campaigning messages–not just their paid commercials–they’re prohibited from referring to their party affiliation.
The law is explicit: “‘Nonpartisan office’ means an office for which a candidate is prohibited from campaigning or qualifying for election or retention in office based on party affiliation.” The only exception is when an advertisement or a message refers to a candidate’s “partisan-related experience,” as when, for example, Candidate A workled for this or that Republican or Democratic administration. Lowe has no such experience, and in the pitch makes no such claims, other than to state his Trump-Republican bonafides–which is illegal: “A candidate for nonpartisan office is prohibited from campaigning based on party affiliation.”
Flagler County’s elections supervisor provides easy to use booklets to every candidate outlining all do’s and don’ts of the campaign. The 91-page booklet is written in “Idiot’s Guide”-style language, leaving little to no room for misinterpretation, assuming it is read. The prohibition Lowe violated is explained on page 39, with a hyperlinked reference to the law itself.
Lowe also appears to have violated the law by using City Hall’s actual chambers as a prop for a campaign commercial on May 24, when he announced his run for mayor.
The others in this race are all woke liberal progressives.
This is either misleading or outright false, depending on whom the terms apply in the field. The terms “liberal progressives” barely apply to Doug Courtney, an old-style Democratic liberal. They do not apply to Cornelia Manfre, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat who could easily be mistaken for a pre-Trump (and pre-Gingrich) Republican. To call Kathy Austrino or David Alfin liberal progressives may be wishful thinking among some voters desperate for more centrist or leftist choices, but it is false.
Lowe, in intonation and pitch, spits the word “woke” as a slur, as it’s being used on right-wing talk shows or social media. Dictionary.com defines the slang term “woke” as “having or marked by an active awareness of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights.” The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “alert to injustice in society, especially racism.” Based on their responses in their FlaglerLive interviews, each of the five candidates would fit the definition (Lowe refused to participate). Which raises a valid question: why, by those definitions, would any candidate find “woke” a pejorative term? Lowe does not answer questions.
I’m the only candidate who has pledged not to raise your property taxes.
This is misleading and deceitful. It falsely implies that other candidates have somehow pledged to raise taxes. None of them has, and most consider raising taxes a last resort. Lowe’s “pledge” also doesn’t tell the whole story. Lowe can thank the Biden rescue plan for helping him stick to his pledge this year, as stimulus money is enriching local government coffers more than necessary, along with a surge in local construction. The next two years may not be as luxurious. By then the pledge may be irresponsible, as property taxes, already on the lower side of average for a city of Palm Coast’s size, are the pressure valve of local revenue when less stable revenue sources, such as sales and other use taxes, fall in economic slowdowns. Lowe’s pledge also means that he’d be willing to let city services fail if the choice is between setting the tax rate where it needs to be or rolling it back arbitrarily.
And I’m the only candidate who will put a stop to the endless wasteful spending at City Hall. On day one, I will revoke the ludicrous $30 million pickleball court fiasco.
This is false. There is no “$30 million pickleball court” project. The city council in May approved a $5.75 million expansion of the tennis center off Belle Terre Parkway in what was projected as the first phase of the expansion. But the only $30 million figure associated with the plan is Lowe’s own, when he claimed, on an outlandish claim, that watering the courts would spike costs near those levels. It is also not in Lowe’s power alone to revoke a contracted project. If he is elected, there may be a majority of three votes to abort the contract, but the city might then face lawsuits from contractors who’ve already been awarded the project, running up a different set of costs for the city, at taxpayers’ expense.
… and no other future city manager will ever quit after less than two years on the job, and walk away with a $47,000 golden parachute on my watch.
This is false in part and misleading in part. Lowe is referring to former City Manager Matt Morton’s final paycheck from the city, which totaled $47,141. But over $14,000 of that was the regular salary for his final weeks with the city. The rest was accrued sick and vacation days, which were owed to him as they are to public employees who leave a job without having used them up, though different agencies convert those days differently. State employees, for example, can cash in up to 12 weeks of unused sick leave, but must have at least 10 years on the job. Executive-level employees typically have higher allowances, especially managers, whose tenures are notoriously brief and at the mercy of political winds. It was no golden parachute: Morton, who had moved his family from Washington State, received no severance. (His predecessor cashed in on a nearly quarter-million dollar severance.)
Not one of the other candidates running for mayor has ever attended a single Flagler Trump Club meeting. And I should know. I’m on the Trump Club’s board of directors.
That may be accurate. But it is also true of well over 99 percent of the Palm Coast population. Attending a Trump Club meeting is not a measure of civic involvement, it has little to do with Palm Coast government and the running of the city, and its second mention in the Lowe campaign message echoes the earlier violation of campaign laws.
Lowe posted his video under the tagline, “The Games They Play.”