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Invoking Conspiracies and ‘Party Purity,’ Pollinger’s Opponents Proceed With Suit

| June 19, 2012

John Pollinger, left, warming up for court with supporters on June 11. He\’ll be doing it again in a few days. (© FlaglerLive)

Anne-Marie Shaffer describes herself as a “stay-at home, home-schooling mom.” But she’s also an ardent Republican, an officer of the local hard-right insurgent group known as the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies, and an equally ardent supporter of Ray Stevens, one of three Republican candidates for Flagler County Sheriff on the Aug. 14 primary ballot. The others are incumbent Don Fleming and John Pollinger.

Shaffer is suing Pollinger to get him off the ballot as a Republican, because in her view he’s unqualified: he was registered Democrat in New Jersey, where he lived until 2008. Pollinger became an independent when he first moved to Florida that year, then registered as a Republican in 2009. But his New Jersey voter profile still had him recorded as a Democrat until January, when Pollinger had New Jersey authorities remove him from the rolls. He doesn’t think it’s a big deal: hardly anyone verifies their previous state’s registration status, especially when he’d have been ineligible to vote in New Jersey anyway.

To Shaffer, it’s a very big deal, so she sued. The lawsuit is proceeding. Flagler County Circuit Judge ruled last week against Shaffer’s attempt to keep Supervisor of Elections Kim Weeks from including Pollinger on the ballot, but he’s yet to hear arguments and rule on the merits of the case—Pollinger’s qualification under a Florida law that requires candidates to swear an oath that they haven’t been a member of another party for 365 days before qualifying for an election under a particular party. Pollinger signed that oath, because in his view his New Jersey registration has been null and void for four years. Knowingly breaking that law is a third-degree felony.

Both sides filed motions for summary judgment. Craig could hear the case as early as this week or next week.

The court documents filed in the case reveal far more than arguments about the law. They reveal Shaffer’s motivations, the deep and angry rift between various factions of local Republicans, which Shaffer or someone writing for her referred to as a “conspiracy,” and the opacity of her support group. Jake Kaney, her attorney, blocked questions from Pollinger’s attorney about who was behind her financially, and said he would block any such attempt in court. Shaffer herself named only one other person as being involved in the case: Dennis McDonald, a member of the Reagan group and a candidate for the county commission. It was McDonald who submitted Shaffer’s case against Pollinger to Weeks, triggering Weeks’s inquiries to the state Division of Elections. And Shaffer revealed that her association with Stevens was close and continuing (“I’ve never ceased my support of Ray Stevens”).

But Weeks, the supervisor of elections, herself revealed in a separate deposition that it was Stevens—who has been coy about his involvement in the suit—who first called Weeks to complain about Pollinger’s registration status several months ago. “I just basically listened to him vent about it,” Weeks said.

Four years ago, when Stevens ran for sheriff the first time on a no-party affiliation, had made a point—at a Grand Haven forum—that he was running “with no political affiliation because I firmly believe that law enforcement should not be influenced by politics.”

Court documents show that at heart, the suit against Pollinger is driven in large part by politics.

Anne-Marie Shaffer. (© FlaglerLive) pollinger case

Anne-Marie Shaffer. (© FlaglerLive)

“There is a conspiracy afoot by a group of Grand Haven residents to infiltrate and hijack this county as their ‘last hoorah,’” Shaffer posted at a website she created called Pollinger Can’t Qualify. “Many are RINO Republicanswho, just like Mr. Pollinger, were forever members of the Democratic Party before relocating to Flagler County and immediately switching their party affiliation to Republican. This conspiracy is at the very heart of all that has and is going wrong within the Flagler Republican Executive Committee. I have seen what makes up a concerned, action-oriented body of Republicans. It is not full of crabby, elitist, hate-spewing blue-hairs who accomplish nothing for the conservative Republican cause.”

Shaffer says the text was given her by someone else, though she signed it with one of her own pseudonyms (“the researcher”), but that she agreed with the characterization of latter-day Republicans.

Shaffer’s questioning about her motives for bringing the suit were equally revealing.

“Weren’t your motives to knock out Ray Stevens’ competition in the election?” Ron Hertel, Pollinger’s attorney, asked her in a deposition last week.

“My motives?” Shaffer replied. “My motives are for party purity and to preserve the integrity of the election for the voters in Flagler County.”

Hertel was taken aback: “party purity” is not generally associated with democratic traditions. (The Chinese Communist Party a few weeks ago, after purging one of its maverick members, issued an address titled “Firmly Implement Actions to Preserve the Purity of the Party.”)

“So what—what—what do you mean by party purity,” Hertel stuttered.

“Well, his dual registration in two parties,” Shaffer replied.

“Is that it? Is that all you mean by ‘party purity’?”

“True Republicans in Republican primaries, in Republican races, that’s party purity.”

Hertel persisted. “So you don’t consider John Pollinger to be a true Republican, is that correct?”



Ray Stevens. (© FlaglerLive)

Ray Stevens. (© FlaglerLive)

“Not from what I have experienced and seen” Shaffer said. “As I’ve stated, he does not live up to Republican standards.”

Questions then turned to Ronald Reagan, who had himself been a Democrat for many years before becoming a Republican. “Does that make him a true Republican by Republican standards?” Hertel asked.

“Ronald Reagan admitted his faults in being associated with the Democratic Party,” Shaffer said, explaining that “he apologized for that association, affiliation. He said he had been a member of the wrong party for 30 years.”

“Would you have blocked Ronald Reagan in a similar situation?” Hertel asked later, after a contentious back and forth that saw Shaffer trying to evade the question.

“If the situation was the same?” she said.


“If I had the same knowledge and same information?”

“Uh-huh, yes.”

“I would feel it would be a duty,” Shaffer said.

“To block Ronald Reagan,” Hertel deadpanned.

“If I had the capacity to do so.”

Shaffer said, incidentally, that the Ronald Reagan club is not supporting or endorsing her lawsuit, though she and McDonald are members of the club.

None of that means that she doesn’t have a case against Pollinger. In a withering and often ridiculing motion for final judgment in her favor, Kaney argues that the law in question leaves no room for Pollinger to have qualified his knowledge of his previous registration. Either he was still registered as a Democrat, as his voter profile clearly showed, or he wasn’t. Since he was, the Florida law is in effect: he broke oath. The law does not qualify the circumstances. It’s irrelevant if he was also registered in Florida as a Republican, that he was a member of this or that Republican club, that he was a dues paying Republican, that he’d voted here previously, or that he’d not voted in New Jersey in the interim. What’s relevant, Kaney argues, is only the fact of his registration as a Democrat, which was not nullified—by Pollinger himself—until January.

Kaney repeatedly tells the court—in language judges don’t usually like to hear—that if it ruled against Shaffer, it “would have to rewrite the statute,” it would be “the death-knell of the statute” in question, it “would have to legislate from the bench by writing the qualifying language into the statute.” And he tells Craig, flatly, that Craig’s previous ruling, which found that Pollinger’s New Jersey registration was made automatically null and void by his Florida registration, “is not true.” (Shaffer herself echoed the slapping around of Craig when she proferred her own legal conclusion during her deposition: “Looking at what Judge Craig wrote, it does look to me as if he’s completely dismissing New Jersey.”)

According to Pollinger’s claim, Kaney argues, “the oath would be translated to a ‘best knowledge’ representation. That is not the law. The duty to assure that he was qualified to run for the Republican nomination in this election remains with Pollinger.” In other words, Kaney dismisses the notion that either the local supervisor of elections or the motor voter clerk who initially took Pollinger’s registration information, or the state Division of Elections, which certifies registration changes, or the state of New Jersey, or Monmouth County, New Jersey, were in any way at fault for having failed, at any point, to nullify his previous registration.

“Going forward,” Kaney continued, and with characteristic acidity, “people could just say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know. Sorry, but I’m running away.’ Irony aside, defendant Pollinger’s ignorance of the law defense is not a defense any more than a broken speedometer is a defense to the speed limit laws. That door should not be opened. Pollinger’s proffered defense that it is someone else’s fault that he was still registered as a Democrat in New Jersey as recently as January is no defense.”

Dennis McDonald. (© FlaglerLive)

Dennis McDonald. (© FlaglerLive)

Kaney also dismisses the argument, put forth by Pollinger and his attorneys, that Shaffer has “selfish or ulterior motives” because she is “clearly entitled” to sue.

Not according to  Pollinger’s side, which argues that “the question whether a mere registered voter has standing to bring a declaratory judgment action seeking to disqualify a candidate” has no precedent.

If the court were to establish such precedent, it could theoretically open the floodgates of “mere voter” lawsuits against candidates at election time.

In this case, Hertel argues on Pollinger’s behalf, “Shaffer’s entire case relies upon a single fact: that Pollinger had a Democratic party affiliated voting registration in New Jersey that failed to be cancelled when he moved to Florida over four years prior to seeking the Republican nomination for Sheriff of Flagler County. The record is clear that Pollinger has not used his New Jersey voter registration since 2007, and that it was merely a stale voter registration that failed to be cancelled, for whatever reason. It is also clear that Pollinger could not have legally voted in New Jersey after changing his residence to Florida, without re-establishing his residence in New Jersey first.”

There was one other starling moment in the run-up to the case’s latest filings. Toward the end of her deposition, Hertel and Shaffer returned to the question of why she’d filed the lawsuit. At that point, Shaffer, who’d also said earlier that she was doing it on behalf of the voting process, provided yet another answer.

“Why I filed the lawsuit is because Mr. Pollinger asked me to.”

“Mr. Pollinger asked you to sue him?” Hertel asked.

“Yes, he did.” She then explained: “He stated that Kimberle Weeks could not throw him off the ballot and that he would not leave—he would not leave the Republican primary and that somebody had to challenge him. So I’m challenging him. He asked me to challenge him.”

Gary Hart might understand the logic.

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25 Responses for “Invoking Conspiracies and ‘Party Purity,’ Pollinger’s Opponents Proceed With Suit”

  1. question says:

    Sure is sounding like that Republican Presidential Clown College Primary we just recently had to endure.

    Not seeing where party affiliation making a big difference in this job anyway. [unless this was AZ re immigration or Stop & Frisk NY.]

  2. Ray Thorne says:

    Party purity. Amazing. A little more investigative reporting could reveal who’s really behind the lawsuit. Thanks for keeping us informed Flaglerlive.

    • RANGER 1/75 says:

      Fellow Americans and Citizens of Flagler County. I feel like I almost let down the founding fathers of our great country as I was about to vote in the primary and I had not researched the canadites that are running for the position of Flager County Sheriff. I know many people who have been injured and died in battle to preserve our right to make informed decisions regarding our elected officials.

      I researched the current Sheriff Fleming and I found the there is well documented corruption in his example as a leader, corruption in his chosen supervisors, and values that are warped by the power he is entrusted with.

      Where I failed is in my review of Stevens. Now I know the people that he has chosen to align himself with. Shaffer is a declared “puritist” which is defined as “The insistence on the absence of any form of variance from the original form”. She was the appointed LEADER of Steven’s campaign. The person who defines a canadite and what he stands for. Stevens LIED in many public statements where he stated he was not involved in this attempt to purify the party. We can only assume that as a Sheriff, Stevens will continue the same flawed characteristics that have been exposed here. Where will his drive for “purity” end? Will he discriminate against people who think different them he does? He is doing that already. Where will he stop? Different thoughts, different race, different cultures……will they all be inferior to him? I am from Florida and not from New York. Will I be fearful becasue I do not reach his defination of purity? Must I fear the officers who become his representatives if he is elected to Sheriff.

      I have spent hours researching Pollinger. His only apparent shortfall in this election is that he is not a politician. He is a cop. He does not engage in trash talking other canadates. He believes and lives by the the believe that one should embrace other ideas and cultures. I just heard him say, “Always consider everyone’s point of view even if it differs from your own..The last person in the room..even if they disagree with you may be the person who changes your mind”. Please look at these websites and please decide for your self…Who do you want to enforce the laws in our county….


  3. tulip says:

    Looks like this latest episode is going to cost her favorite candidate Ray Stevens even more votes.

  4. Joe A. says:

    Anne Marie –

    Witch Hunt After Reagan… Really?

  5. Steve Robinson says:

    Does anyone know a person who actually “cancelled” his voter registration in his former state before moving to a new one? If you really did such a thing, or know someone who did, raise your hand! If Shaffer is just a front for this group of Republican ideologues, you’d think they’d be smart enough not to pick someone who would use the term “party purity” while under oath. I certainly hope this group at least had the decency to wince when she said it.

    • margie says:

      Cancelling voter registration prior to moving to another area is the right thing to do. Yes, we raise all our hands in this household. Wow, the attitude of saying that it is okay to not be responsible by NOT cancelling old voter registration is being NOT responsible. That becomes the character profile of those who do not do the right things for all that they do. Why would anyone vote for someone who doesn’t do the right thing; if he cannot do the right thing for himself, how could he do the right thing for others if in a responsible position in any community. FOX news had a “special” about fraudulent voting and those who do not cancel their prior registration are inviting fraudulent voting.

  6. Biker says:

    This person and her attorney should be held accountable for the time (court cost) if she does not prevail. This is the biggest waste of precious tax payor dollars as a time that this county cannot afford it.

    • Anita says:

      The real question is: Who is paying her legal fees? Who backs such craziness? And, when you check the box marked, “change party affiliation”, on the registration form, why is that not sufficient to render all former registrations null and void.

  7. Jeannie says:

    What is her relationship to Ray? Does anyone know?

  8. Dudley Doright says:

    To stoop to these levels only highlights how pathetic the Steven’s campaign and followers really are. I think your strategy is to attempt to inflict major damage to John Pollinger’s personal bank account with all the lawyer fees and court costs. It’s not going to happen. Mr. Stevens, you and your campaign are only embarrassing yourselves and tarnishing the name of Ronald Regan!

  9. Dawg says:

    Let’s see here, we have an incumbent Rep that makes questionable calls to an alleged hit and run suspects husband and tries to deny it, a Rep candidate that has decided to be party affiliated only for personal gain and an arrogant out of state born again Rep candidate who feels he’s above the law. Being a “lifelong” republican (yes I admit I voted for Nixon), I feel Mr Manfre, a Democrat, is starting to look pretty good right now. Politics in Flagler is alive and well.

    • Nancy N. says:

      I usually vote straight ticket Democrat. However, there is NO WAY that I’m voting for Jim Manfre if he’s the Dem nominee for Sheriff. I’m hoping if Manfre wins the primary that Pollinger is the Rep candidate so I can vote for him instead…I can stomach him.

  10. Donna Heiss says:

    And once again the Ronald Reagan Republican Club comes into play. They seem to like to be in the headlines. Lets take another quote from their literature.

    Listed under “Our Principles”: And once again I quote, “Every citizen should be free to succeed or fail according to their individual abilities, without the need for government interference.”

    Just what is happening here?

    Please remember this is taken and quoted directly from the Ronald Reagan Clubs literature. They really need to read it.
    In my opinion, this club is aggressively pursuing the control of Flagler County. As we have recently seen, this club has already taken away voter rights. This is not so much about Mr. Pollinger remaining on the Rep. ballot. This is more about who this club will allow to be on the Rep. ballot. Control at its best. Again, this paragraph is my opinion.

  11. Jim N says:

    I would think that this should be a non issue, however as it pertains to an obvious flaw that was created by a law enacted in 2011 by the Florida legislature, I am of th opinion that Mr. Pollinger, or one of the other candidates affected by this new law (There actually appears to be at least 3, 1 in Lake, 1, in Nassau, and himself) should get their legal team together and petition the Supreme Court of Florida immediately to render an opinion and actually strike that law down, as it is discriminatory and vague.

    The opinions of the Dept. of State suggesting that the candidates faced with this law should run as NPA however that would leave the same “Felony” hanging as the oath requires that you swear you oblong to no other political party for the previous 365 days. Thus claiming no party affiliation would be just as false as claiming any party affiliation.

    The case in Nassau involves a candidate, of the Tea Party who willingly closed its party in November of 2011. Members of that Party started a new “Tea” Party because the old one no longer existed. The candidate is running under the new party because the old one does not exist any longer.

    We are all familiar that Pollinger apparently was a VICTIM in this because someone either at the State Department of Florida, or in New Jersey failed to remove him from their roles 4+ years ago. It appears he has no fault here, but is rather the victim of shady politics and theatrics.

    What does amaze me is the fact that it is reported that RAY STEVENS made the first calls to the SOE office back in January of 2012. Stevens has publicly stated here and elsewhere that he has no dog in this fight, yet he is the one to first bring the issue publicly to light? It is his ex- however still active campaign manager who instituted the civil suit as it is her right to do, however I would hope she is prepared to PAY for not only her attorney’s but those of the ones required to depend this frivolous litigation to begin with.

    The party affiliation law should be struck down. It is unnecessary. The Political Parties and the Voters are smart enough to figure out when a sham is taking place, just like the Ronald Regan Rupublicans and their influx of write in candidates so that primary elections become not only closed, but allow a particular party candidate to be elected to represent all voters, based only on a winning percentage of a select few registered voters. SHAME ON THEM!

  12. FlaglerGal says:

    Certainly appears that Ray Stevens is the force behind Schaffer. If he made the first call to the BOE and didn’t get the results he wanted, he then went to her to be his foil. Sorry, Ray but you aren’t getting my vote with such underhanded actions.

    BTW, I didn’t notify my BOE up north that I moved and registered down here. Does that mean that I can’t vote? I don’t know one single person who thought they had to tell their former BOE’s that they moved. I thought that by registering here it automatically cancelled out my previous polling place.

  13. Robert Lewis says:

    Jim N: very well said.

    It is said that this type of behavior continues to take place. I really found it interesting the reference to party purity. In all my years of being a Republican, I have never heard the GOP ever tout the word “purity”.

    Our ideas and beliefs change for whatever reason. Giuliani and Reagan were both Democrats then became a Republican. Hillary Clinton was once a Republican and thn became a Democrat. The concept is when you change your beliefs you associate yourself with a party with those beliefs.

    In 2004, Georgia Senator Zell Miller wrote a book called A party no more. He documented his beliefs why the Democratic party and he have separated. Their opinions and values changed. The Republican Party welcomed Zell Miller with open arms. As it has done with any candidate who joins the Republican Party.

    It was the Republican Party that endorsed Frederick Douglas as the first African American presidential candidate. The first party that supported Susan B Anthony. It has never been a party of exclusion.

    I bet the Republican National Committee would be very interested to find out that voters and candidates are being chasitized and disenfranchised because they are not in Ms Shaffers opinion, ” pure republicans”. Her standards are not consistent with those of the RNC. The term purity was once touted by a dictator before he ethnically cleansed his nation. We know that dictator as Adolf Hitler and that event as the Holocaust.

    Party purity are very strong words in a party that is very dynamic. There are many factions that makes up the dynamics of the Republican party. It is wise not to exclude them because of ones belief of what is or what isn’t a “true republican”

    As for the case, it is baseless as its obvious that an administrative error on the part of the state has now inflicted harm onto an individual. The state had an obligation under statute and it failed. Now a decent human being is being punished.

    Those carrying the pitchforks and torches are of questionable status as in other threads been linked to a legal but borderline unethical voting sham. Voters must really ask themselves a serious question. “if these people have gone to these great links to “steal” an election, what will they do once in office?”. It worries me to think of the abuse of power that will be exercised by these Immoral people.

  14. Will says:

    Just a thought – on this quote from Mr. Robert Lewis:

    “Party purity are very strong words in a party that is very dynamic. There are many factions that makes up the dynamics of the Republican party. It is wise not to exclude them because of ones belief of what is or what isn’t a “true republican””.

    If you substitute the word “Democratic” for “Republican”, the statement pretty much holds true as well.

    American politics evolves over the years as parties swing one way or the another. Mainstream principles for either party sometimes grew from the left or the right within the party, or occasionally from the other party.

    Purity doesn’t last for long.

  15. Justice for All says:

    @ Flagler Gal – Perhaps if we thought more highly of our right to vote and since we send our young men and women off to war to supposedly fight for that right, we would not be so cavalier when we discover someone is registered in two places at once and we’d give a damn about whether or not we were, too. Have that conversation with someone who has lost a loved one in war.

    • RANGER 1/75 says:

      I really can’t believe what you just wrote “Justice for all”-I have served in a combat unit in war and been badly hurt for out beloved country. I lost my father in Vietnam and my grandfather in WW2. The freedom that i would die for in a second is not one that uses descriptive words like “party purity”, If fact my grandpa died fighting against Hitler after Hitler used those exact words. DO NOT USE US as a way to invoke sympathy for your tainted cause! We stand for tolerance, freedom to express new ideas, freedom to change a political party, and the freedom to vote against anyone who whould attempt to taint those freedoms. I do not know Stevens personally but I can tell you this, it sure sounds like he and his supporters are out of touch with american values. NOW you have had a conversation with someone who has lost a loved one in war!

  16. It seems to me that Polliger has been ineligible to vote in New Jersey since he (a) was no longer a resident of NJ and (b) has been a registered Republican in his new home state of Florida since 2009. My impression is that the 12 month rule cited throughout was never intended for cases like Pollinger’s, but rather to guard against candidate deception and impropriety. Pollinger has lived, breathed, behaved, and voted as a conservative Republican for all of his adult life. The cited Democratic registration in NJ occurred when he was about 21 years old. His long career in NJ law enforcement had no party affiliation issues and hence he never changed it. But I can assure you as a lifetime acquaintance of Chief Pollinger that he has always held Republican views. Certainly the spirit of the rules and laws of party affiliation have been met, at the very least.

  17. Will says:

    @ Ranger

    Very well said!

  18. Justice for All says:

    @Ranger & Will: – Marines (purple hearts & bronze stars) and Navy. I think you misunderstood the point I was making. Regardless of the candidates, people need to participate in their government and not take it for granted.

  19. Jim N says:

    The other fact of the matter is this.
    This is a Florida Election. This is a registered Florida republican well in excess of the 365 day rule.
    There is no attempt to deceive anyone about his party affiliation. The Dual registration is not due to his actions, but rather the actions of either Florida Dept. of State, or The State of New Jersey, which neither admit to who is at fault.
    It is unfair to hold Pollinger responsible, for the actions of People he has no control or influence over.
    Even though I don’t support him in this election bid. I do support his opportunity to run for the office, because it is the right thing to do. Just like whoever is elected Sheriff, it is then our job as citizens to support, and hold that person accountable for the actions of that office.

  20. Eddie Jensen says:

    I rarely vote. This story represents one of the reasons I don’t. The lady behind this and anyone else causing all of this trouble does not deserve my attention from the sidelines. It is disgusting. I back no Democrat. I back no Republican. I back people who play fair and are not self serving. That lady needs to have more fun.

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