The results are all but official, and the losing candidates have conceded: Bill McGuire and Jason DeLorenzo are the new members of the Palm Coast City Council. Neither Dennis Cross nor Holsey Moorman said they’d contest the results, and there is no recount in the works from the supervisor of elections’ perspective or the city’s.
Some of the city’s rules are followed in this election. City Clerk Virginia Smith shortly after 1 p.m. said the city attorney checked with the city charter, the city code, state statutes and state election rules and confirmed that “there is no entitlement for a recount” despite the close tally. The city charter is silent on recounts.
State law calls for a recount if the margin is less than half a percent. That’s not the case in either race. McGuire won with 2,872 votes, or 50.47 percent, to Moorman’s 2,818, or 49.53 percent, a difference of 0.94 percent. DeLorenzo won with 2,765 votes, or 50.34 percent, to Cross’s 2,728, or 49.66 percent, a difference of 0.68 percent.
The results will be certified Thursday afternoon at the Supervisor of Elections’ office, after the provisional ballots are counted. There are only five provisional ballots to be counted, so the results of the election won’t change. “All that’s left to make the results official is for her to certify the election on Thursday, so in my mind, numerically speaking, it’s a done deal,” McGuire said.
There is an audit on Nov. 16 when a sample of ballots–from one race, cast at just one of the six voting locations–will be recounted by hand in order to see whether the number matches the machine count. That recount, routinely done after every election, is also not expected to change the results.
“It’s basically it for me, I’m not going to drag this out too long, I’ll go as far as I can, but I’m not going to drag it out, create a lot of controversy,” Moorman said, after speaking with the supervisor. Shortly after, he congratulated and shook hands with McGuire, who put an arm around Moorman’s shoulder just outside the supervisor of elections’ office. Still, Moorman said he would not officially concede until after the votes are certified.
“I’m not challenging anything,” Cross said. “From day one I didn’t think I’d ever block the chamber of commerce block of votes, and I was correct,” he said, returning to a common theme in his campaign–that he was running uphill against a candidate with heavy support from the chamber of commerce. He hadn’t called DeLorenzo Tuesday, but had expected to see him at the supervisor’s office to congratulate him in person.
McGuire and DeLorenzo will be sworn in next Tuesday at a meeting of the council at the Palm Coast Community Center. That meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Both candidates will have an orientation session with City Manager Jim Landon and City Clerk Virginia Smith in the meantime.
The two new members represent a significant shift on the council. In McGuire and DeLorenzo, the council is gaining two outspoken, active, opinionated members less interested in playing nice than in representing particular ideas or interests. McGuire unapologetically forthright, sometimes blunt and even, by his own admission, confrontational when need be. “I didn’t get where I am today or I wasn’t successful as a business manager without being confrontational,” McGuire says. “But you can be confrontational without being obnoxious.” He is the opposite of Moorman, who says he’d “rather do things in harmony and walk away if things get contentious,” as he did in his years on the council. Former council member Mary DiStefano, too, while more often vocal than Moorman, was essentially the council’s head cheerleader for all things city and Landon.
The council’s change will be particularly consequential for Landon, who lost two close allies in Moorman and DiStefano, who was term-limited. Mayor Jon Netts is now the only member on the council who was part of the vote that hired Landon in November 2006, when Landon was hired after he’d held a similar post in Lancaster, Texas. Neither McGuire nor DeLorenzo has been known to be a big fan of Landon.
“He should be nervous because,” McGuire said of Landon. “Forget about me and DeLorenzo, he should be nervous because the public, the rank and file voter out here see him as the problem and not the solution, and as I said in one of my answer to one of your questions, him and Jon Netts need a major PR do-over, because the public’s perception of Jon Nets and Jim Landon is in the first place is not entirely accurate. They’re not pompous, arrogant idiots. I’ve talked to them one-on-one, both of them have been just as nice to me as you or anyone else, but in a meeting they come across as, I’m better than you are and your opinions don’t count, and this is the general public’s perception of them.” Between that and Landon’s pay, McGuire continued, he was “having a hard time finding anybody that has a kind word to say about him.”
He added: “I mean if I can get a guy to do that job for $100,000, why should I pay you $200,000. Show me where you’re that much better. Because if you can’t, then yeah, you should be worried.” Landon did not respond to McGuire’s comment, emailed to him in full.
Moorman predicted that with him and DiStefano gone, the tenor of the council will change. “I think it’s going to be less civil without Mary being there because she kept things on an even keel, and many times stressing civility. I’m the same way. I don’t like a contentious atmosphere. I don’t like to be in situations where people argue about things. I’d rather do things in harmony and walk away if things get contentious, I’m more prone to walk away and leave you to your own endeavors rather than be contentious. And I think without me it would be more contentious, being that he (McGuire) has purposefully said that he doesn’t like the 97 percent agreement. I don’t call it agreement, I call it compromise.” McGuire has been critical of the council’s seemingly lock-step votes.
DeLorenzo, who celebrated his victory with supporters at Europa Restaurant at European Village Tuesday evening, interpreted his win this way: “People saw that I had better knowledge, a better understanding of local government, a better understanding of Palm Coast and the community, and just the hard work that we did. We attended so many meetings and had so many meet-and-greets, people were absolutely wonderful. They wanted to host us all the time, and we got to meet people I’d never met before. I think we were in those intimate settings where you can really tell them about yourself, what you’d done, what you want to do. I think that really makes a difference because that’s where you can really get the information to them.” The most common reason people were supporting him, he found, was age: He is 40, Cross is 77, McGuire, Netts and council member Bill Lewis were all born when Franklin Roosevelt was president.
“I literally heard it every day,” DeLorenzo said, “we need young blood. That is what the people want. When they came to talk to me, that’s what they said every time. We need young blood.” The council members, he said, have different concerns than the working people raising families. “We have strong representation on the city council for retirees, and we have almost no representation for the working people with families.”
DeLorenzo survived Cross’s challenge despite withering criticism over his various associations through the Home Builders Association, where, as legislative director–a job he’ll keep–he represents the interests of some 160 local companies, many of them with business with the city. His wife, Rebecca DeLorenzo, is the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce’s vice president, which was to Cross a recurring theme as he interpreted his loss. “I think Jason is a likable person and will do his best, OK?,” Cross said. “But the bottom line, in my opinion, OK, you can quote me, is our friend is—Baxter and the chamber of commerce have just bought a seat on the Palm Coast City Council, OK?” Doug Baxter is president of the chamber. “Because in my opinion that’s really what’s going on here. Jason I don’t think is the strength in that family. I think his wife Rebecca is the strength in that family, and that strength that she has, and what’s been pretty much directing Jason in this whole campaign, has been the chamber and Baxter.”
DeLorenzo may have his own challenges on the council. Even Moorman had worried about his associations. “As long as he doesn’t let his employment overflow into his council decisions, I have no problem,” Moorman said. “He’s going to have to struggle with that to make sure that he’s not influenced by his civilian employment into the council business.” DeLorenzo has insisted all along that his objectivity and ethics are not in question, and had little patience for claims that just because he holds a job with the builders’ association–or just because his wife held a job at the chamber–he should somehow be disqualified from office. The DeLorenzos see their community involvement as a plus, not a reason for suspicion.
McGuire made clear that he’d have been more comfortable with Cross on the council. “I think Jason DeLorenzo is a fine young man, I’ve spoken at great length with him, I have great respect for his intelligence and his perspicacity,” McGuire said. “But I think he’s dug himself a hole with this Waste Pro issue and I think every time there’s a vote that comes up in the city council, it’s going to generate controversy that the city council doesn’t need. Were it not for that, I’d be fine in sitting down in a council with him. But I fear that if he’s elected and sits on the council that any time something comes up that requires an outside bid or appears to favor a home builder or a contractor—and again, if you look at the city’s list of priorities, there are a lot of things that the city says this is our priority list for 2011 and 2012, there’s a lot of things I know on there that are contractor issues.”
After his handshake with McGuire, a subdued Moorman, with characteristic calm and grace, left the supervisor of elections’ office and said, as he walked to his car (now without its campaign signs), “rather disappointing, but–what are you going to do?”