Palm Coast City Council member Eddie Branquinho announced today that he will not be running for re-election in November 2022, setting up another council election with three open seats and the potential for a sea change–unless.
“If the crew out there running from my seat are in any way shape or form a bunch of extremists. and I mean left and right, not just right or left,” Branquinho said at the end of this morning’s council meeting, “then I’ll leave the door open to run. But I would like to see first who’s out there. But right now, Edie Brianquinho will not be running for the seat for the fourth district next year.”
In an interview after the meeting he stressed his point about leaving the door open for a run: “I reaffirmed that the people of Palm Coast need to have somebody representing them that is not a crazy of any type of sort,” he said. “And I mean extreme, because there are people that are very good people on the left and very good people on the right.”
Branquinho’s departure alone isn’t what will put the future of the council in question: Barbosa has already announced a run for County Commission in 2022. Council member Nick Klufas hasn’t announced a run for County Commission, but he plans it in 2024, he confirmed to day. (An earlier version of this article reported, based on a text from Klufas, that he was planning a 2022 run. He subsequently corrected it to 2024.) The council is in the midst of a search for a new city manager. Interim Manager Denise Bevan, a long-time fixture in the administration, elected not to apply for the permanent post, likely because of the frayed council today and the uncertainty of 2022.
Branquinho’s primary reason for leaving has nothing to do with the council, its politics or its sulfurous atmosphere. “Absolutely not,” he said. “Let that be clear, absolutely not. The meetings have nothing to do with it, everybody does their own thing. I agree or not agree with it, but you know, that has nothing to do with it now. Not at all. Not at all.”
The announcement today was vintage Branquinho: at once blunt and qualified, and a reflection of the sharply altered conditions of elections for local office, not only in municipalities. The first-term councilman has made his mark as an outspoken and at times emotionally liberated official with no patience for the sort of ideological blinders that have often derailed council discussions or public input into shrill arguments cut and pasted from national talking points. He’s railed against the degradation of council meetings that have had little to nothing to do with local governance–or with the politics of defamation and destruction envenomed by Donald Trump and adopted in turn by Council members Victor Barbosa–as when he attempted to fire ex-Manager Matt Morton on no evidence–and Ed Danko–as when he gratuitously lied from the dais and on the campaign trail about ex-Mayor Milissa Holland. Branquinho could himself slip into attack mode against his fellow-council members, as when he called Danko “councilman corrupt” on Danko’s first day (Danko called him “Councilman full of crap”). Branquinho’s humor could also slip into pits of the unintended.
But Branquinho has also been one of the three centrist voices, along with Mayor David Alfin and Council member Nick Klufas, that have kept the council and the city it represents from a few derailments. He’s not always in lockstep with his colleagues, markedly dissenting on some development issues. Always fully engaged at meetings and workshops, he’s had his difficulties elsewhere.
“Upon speaking with my family and my friends, I made the decision,” he said. “This last year has been tough on me, especially after my son passed. So it’s kind of tough.” Branquinho’s 26-year-old son died in 2020 from complications from a medical procedure. At one point Branquinho, who continues to suffer deeply from the loss, had thought of resigning. That’s no longer a possibility, he said, committing himself to the remainder of his term “one million percent,” he said. ” I want to be there as long as I’m there, I want to be there with my heart and soul,” starting with hiring the next manager. He said he hoped “we could clone Matthew Morton,” the manager he and a majority of the council had hired in 2019, and who resigned last May. But he was not particularly encouraged by the lack of qualifications he saw in a few glances at the list of candidates who have applied.
He was disappointed that Bevan had not. “I’m pretty sure she has two good reasons not to do so. And I wish not to elaborate what those two good reasons are,” Branquinho said, a reference to Barbosa and Danko: Danko had pledged to fire Bevan on “day one” of the election of the new mayor, when Danko assumed that the new mayor would be Alan Lowe, whose campaign he ran.