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Flagler Tea Party Straw Poll Winners: Stevens, Westbrook, Warren, Meeker, But Not Schools

| August 2, 2012

Some of the Tea Party straw poll's big winners: Scott Westbrook, left, one of seven candidates for county judge, Stasia Warren, who's challenging R.J. Larizza for State Attorney, and Ray Stevens, one of three Republicans running for Sheriff in the Aug. 14 primary. (© FlaglerLive)

Some of the Tea Party straw poll’s big winners: Scott Westbrook, left, one of seven candidates for county judge, Stasia Warren, who’s challenging R.J. Larizza for State Attorney, and Ray Stevens, one of three Republicans running for Sheriff in the Aug. 14 primary. (© FlaglerLive)

They don’t call it Survey Monkey for nothing. So before you read this story, a caveat.

When the Flagler County Tea Party Group surveyed its membership during the 2011 race for Palm Coast mayor, Charlie Ericksen was the big winner, trouncing Jon Netts with 59 percent to Netts’s 36. Joe Cunnane got the rest. The straw poll was based on votes from 205 participants. FlaglerLive had its own poll, also using Survey Monkey, with 237 participants giving Ericksen 51 percent and Netts 35 percent. Both were wrong. Netts actually won the election with 54 percent of the vote to Ericksen’s 41 percent, though with a 10 percent turnout, participation in the real election wasn’t impressively higher than in the polls.

Survey Monkey is a web-based polling tool that can control for very limited factors, so it’s not scientific. It does allow the surveyor to limit voting to one vote per computer. But the same person who owns, say, two desktops, a smart phone and a laptop can then vote four times.

The tea party just concluded its straw poll for the Aug. 14 primary, two days away from early voting’s start date in Flagler County. To call it a “tea party poll” may be somewhat of a stretch: anyone who could get a link to the poll, and many did, could then send it on to his or her friends and ask them to vote a certain way. Travis Hutson, the Republican candidate for the Florida House seat that includes Flagler County, did just that, pasting the link on his Facebook page with the plea: “Please vote for me, RJ and other republicans in this straw poll put on by the tea party.” Others likely did the same, which means that anyone from Palm Coast to Punxsutawney to Perth in West Australia could vote.

The numbers will be grist for much speculation and partisan hope. Whether they’re predictors of the primary’s outcome is another story. Still, the numbers provide the first non-anecdotal glimpse at some voter sentiment, with a few surprises. (The complete raw results appear below the article.)

The most worrisome surprise–for the school board and school advocates–is a rather emphatic rejection of the school district’s continuation of a half-cent sales tax. The membership voted against it by a 2 to 1 margin, despite the measure’s explicit and rare endorsement by Tom Lawrence, the tea party’s chairman. It’s possible that the membership was, at last to some extent, confusing that half-cent measure with the county’s, which will no longer appear on the ballot.

The county’s bickering with cities over the scope of the tax tarnished its chances–and may well have tainted the school board’s measure, in place to help fund technology and capital improvements. All voters get to vote on the school board’s measure, and the school district’s constituency will be heavily behind it, but the support must be significant enough to overcome resistance among older voters with no children in schools–and tea party voters.

In the race for State Attorney, which is actually open to all voters regardless of party registration–and which will be decided on Aug. 14, with no further vote–Stasia Warren came in well ahead of incumbent R.J. Larizza, with 63 percent to Larizza’s 37 percent. Both candidates are Republicans. Warren is from Volusia County, where she’s been a respected judge for many years. Voters in Volusia, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns will be casting ballots in that race. Warren is likely to control the vote in Volusia. Larizza cannot win without doing well in the three other counties.

In the race for Flagler County Judge, Scott Westbrook, currently a prosecutor in Larizza’s office, got twice as many votes as the next two candidates in a field of seven: Westbrook got 33 percent to Craig Atack’s and Josh Davis’s 17 percent. Westbrook is the least well-funded of all the candidates in that race. He’s raised just $3,800 as of late July, compared to $20,500 for Atack and $5,100 for Davis. Melissa Moore Stens, who’s raised almost $35,000, came in at 9 percent, tied with Sharon Feliciano. Marc Dwyer got just 7 percent, as did Don Appignani.

In the heavily followed race for Flagler County Sheriff, Ray Stevens was the winner overall and among Republicans, with a commanding 46 percent, a big number in a field of five. John Pollinger was second, with 31 percent, and Fleming third, with a 18 percent. Democrats Jim Manfre and Karl Tozzi barely registered support, with less than a combined 5 percent of the vote.

Another telling race might be the supervisor of elections’, which features four Republicans vying to win the Aug. 14 primary to take on incumbent Democrat Kimberle Weeks. Trey Corbett took that one with 32 percent of the vote. Allen Whetsell was second-best, with 20 percent, closely followed by Pam Richardson (19 percent) and Kimble Medley (11 percent). Weeks got 11 percent.

In the race for the newly formed congressional district that includes all of Flagler County, Ron De Santis, the former Holland & Knight attorney, won in a field of seven Republicans and two Democrats, with 45 percent of the vote. Craig Miller, the ex-restaurant magnet in his second congressional race, was second with 27 percent, and Ormond Beach Florida House member Fred Costello third, with 17 percent. The Democrats in the race–Heather Beaven and Vipin Verma–registered a trace of votes.

In the race for the newly formed Florida House seat that includes all of Flagler County, outgoing county commissioner Milissa Holland’s Flagler connection carried little weight with the tea party membership: the Democrat got just 14 percent, to Republican Travis Hutson’s 80 percent. The only other candidate the membership liked that much was Romney.

Not surprisingly, in races featuring a Republican against a Democrat, the Republican won by long distances: Republican Herb Whitacker, who’s trying to unseat county commissioner George Hanns, a Democrat, took 78 percent of the vote. Debbie Laury, the Republican in the race against incumbent Colleen Conklin, a Democrat, took 63 percent (which suggests some staying power, in such a Republican crowd, for the JFK-quoting, union-endorsed Conklin), while Republican incumbent Sue Dickinson took 69 percent against Bill Corkran’s 31 percent. The school board race is ostensibly non-partisan.

Two other county commission races ae on the ballot. One features only two Republicans, but will be a closed primary (meaning no Democrats or Independents may vote, even though the winner will be decided Aug. 14) because there is also a write-in for that race. The write-in is not a serious candidate but a successful ploy to close the primary and prevent Independents and Democrats from participating. That’s the District 1 race pitting incumbent Alan Peterson against challenger Charlie Ericksen. The tea party membership is virtually split between the two, with Ericksen at 50.3 percent (161 votes) to Peterson’s 49.7 percent (159 votes).

The County Commission District 2 race features Republicans Dennis McDonald and Frank Meeker, the Palm Coast City Council member, and Abigail Romaine, an independent. Romaine won’t be on the ballot until November. The tea party membership is picking Meeker, with 48 percent of the vote, to McDonald’s 37 percent. Romaine got 15 percent.

Asked about the three most pressing problems facing the country today (participants could cast three votes out of eight answers), jobs and unemployment came in first, with 68 percent, the federal budget deficit was second, with 61 percent, and the economy in general was third, with 49 percent. Moral decline was next to last with just 20 percent of the vote, and wars or fears of wars came in at barely 10 percent. (In Afghanistan so far this year, 205 American soldiers have been killed, for a total of 2,069 killed there since American involvement began in 2001. A total of 3,119 U.S. and coalition soldiers have been killed over that time span.)

The group got close to 400 participants this time, casting ballots in 14 races on the ballot, plus the school board’s half-cent levy, and the question about the most important problems facing the country today. Close to 400 people participated, though the number of actual votes in each race fluctuated, with dozens skipping certain questions. For example, 380 people answered the Mitt Romney-Barack Obama question (Romney won that one with 91 percent, roughly the same proportion of black support for Obama currently), but 352 answered the question on the sheriff and 342 on the clerk of court. More than 100 skipped the questions on the school board races, and 91 skipped the county judge question.

The tea party group is staunchly Republican, but not necessarily establishment Republican. The election season in Flagler continues to be animated by rifts between Republican groups that now include the tea party, the local chapter of the Ronald Reagan assemblies, the Republican Executive Committee, and the county’s Republican club. The straw poll may reflect some of those rifts.

That said, the tea party’s membership wields a powerful electoral presence. The tea party attracted 1,000 people, by its own count, when it hosted a meet-and-greet for more than 40 candidates last month at the Knights of Columbus hall in Palm Coast.

Flagler County Tea Party Straw Poll, August 10 Primary

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26 Responses for “Flagler Tea Party Straw Poll Winners: Stevens, Westbrook, Warren, Meeker, But Not Schools”

  1. Herb Whitaker says:

    Thank you Tea Party voters. Keep the momentum until November 6 and you will not be disappointed.

    Herb Whitaker

  2. question says:

    Wow…this helps a lot. Tops off my … ABSOLUTELY NOT…list !

  3. Lonewolf says:

    It’s good to know who all the local right wing nut jobs are…thanks Flaglerlive,com

  4. Dawg says:

    The same “cult” party that gave us the worst governor our state has ever had. Pretty much says who NOT to vote for.

    • Magnolia says:

      Dawg, you already have Republican incumbents in office here, did you know that? In order to have any Democrats, you will have to run candidates first. If you want something new, you’re going to have to vote.

      Take a good look at that ballot.

  5. notasenior says:

    Like the bumper stickers says – The Tea Party = Plains clothes division of the KKK

  6. Jim Neuenfeldt says:

    Thanks for pointing put “Who” were the majority of the poll respondents were. It clearly shows what they believe in, and follows their history of what they term as a “Conservative Take Back of Government.” Although they certainly do not operate or act conservative by any definition of the word.

    Sometimes it is smart to see who others are voting for and then consider the source! It may well tell a lot about the choice!

    • Magnolia says:

      I believe you are confusing the Tea Party with the Republican Party. The Republican candidates are not interested in taking back anything, they just want to represent you.

      Where is this “taking back” coming from?

  7. Wow says:

    Positively crazy on soooo many levels. And to decide to NOT support an investment in Flagler County students? Tells you exactly how out of touch these folks are.

  8. The Truth says:

    Ray Stevens ???? With all the crap he and his people have caused, especially the LIES about Pollinger. Give me a break people. He’s a small town cop with a big mouth. He would be the worst choice for the S.O. God, Fleming is better then him.

  9. palmcoaster says:

    Jim Manfre has my vote for integrity, experience and family values! He is the FCSO we all need and as much as we need Mrs. Stasia Warren for State Attorney.

    • Biker says:

      Mr Manfre was fired by voters eight years ago. Thats how we ended up with Sheriff Fleming. At the time our county commission was suing our county sheriffs office for public records that Manfre refused to hand over. That is why he wasnt re-elected !! In essence we sued ourselves over nonsense. It was a horrible waste of tax payer dollars. Do you really want to have a repeat of that debacle?

  10. tulip says:

    @ THE TRUTH ——Stevens belongs to the Ronald Reagan Club, as almost all the “winners” of the poll do. Hmmm, maybe a lot of people from the RR club voted? How else would Stevens be the “winner” of this poll?

  11. palmcoaster says:

    Straw Polls or not as a voter in this county I am concerned only about one thing and that is our Canvassing Board of Elections and “who are its members for our primaries and who will be its members in our general elections”. The Florida statute reads the following about the composition of our Canvassing Boards and its very serious duties:
    Judge Sharon Attack as the County Judge was in our past elections in the Canvassing Board as chair and our BOCC Chair… now would be Barbara Revels…If Judge Attack will decline for any reasons “then the Circuit Judge is to appoint a replacement.” If the BOCC Chair will decline then the BOCC will appoint one of the other members as replacement. Now my question is will be this board then a GOP majority members for these primary and worst, for the general presidential elections? This Board has a lot of power, “specially if the county attorney gets involved on it”, when actually is not really necessary as his presence is not mentioned in the Florida statute . I am just asking for some information to be looked up on this serious issue. Chads or not chads these Canvassing Boards can make or break candidates …

  12. Marie says:

    What’s crazy is that these candidates are now being associated with a party that they may have nothing to do with all because a poll was taken. Doesn’t seem quite fair.

  13. Flagler County Residet says:

    Let me begin with, I am a Republican/Conservative; however, I am NOT a member of the TEA Party. I had, in the beginning, been somewhat supportive of their views, but those views are becoming quite telling. When they cannot see how important the 1/2 cent sales tax is for the children and the resident of this county, then their relevance, in my opinion, is diminished. It is a case of a common sense approach to government and taxes. This tax is one that will directly benefit the locals, one that will stay right here in this county.

  14. tulip says:

    The local candidates that “won” the endorsement are either Ronald Reagan people, or members of the teaparty or members of both. They are Stevens, Wadsworth, Corbett, Ericksen, Laury .

    Peterson, Mazzie are not members of either group. I’m not sure if Whitaker belongs to the RR, or Tea party. Mr Meeker attends the Palm Coast Rep. Club, as does Mr. Peterson and Mr. Mazzie.
    With the exception of Mr. Meeker being endorsed, it looks like the Tea Party and Reagan people are a joint effort,.

    The Observer endorsed Manfre and Fleming for Sheriff, mostly RR and Chamber of Commerce people, gee no suprise there.

  15. PCer says:

    @Flagler County Residet I am a Democrat/Liberal and I whole heartily agree with your viewpoint. We need more common sense answers to the problems we are facing. If only there were more Republicans like you, we would be in a much better place. The extremism of both the Democratic and Republican parties needs to stop if we are to fix the economy and come together as a nation.

    • Magnolia says:

      PCer, I agree with you.

      Definition of extremism: Somebody who has a difference of opinion with you.

      When did this happen? I am not seeing any extremism here. I am seeing differing opinions. We used to be able to talk them out, but not anymore.

      Silence them with terms like “extremism”.

  16. Ray Thorne says:

    I read the Observer today and found some endorsements interesting. But online they have a reason stating the endorsements are to provoke thought and conversation and to hopefully bring more people to the polls. I’m good with that. I also read on Page 10 a Rebuttal to Pollinger from a former Middletown Police Detective and former PBA President. I found it to be an interesting read.

  17. Bonnie Bellin says:

    PCer, re: ‘The extremism of both the Democratic and Republican parties ‘

    Did I miss the lefts equivalent to:

    funny 3-corner hats,
    racial intolerance,
    Mitch McConnell one term- no cooperation, objective,
    Mitt Romney / ALL Republican Presidential Candidates: ‘won’t take 1 $ of tax increase for $10 spending cuts’,
    Michelle Bachmann, Grover Norquist/ pledge, Eric Cantor’, NRA/ ‘scoring’
    “Tea Party”.

    Please, there is and has never been a larger U.S.’ extremist’ group than The Tea Party’s gobbling up Congress, resulting in an 8% approval -do-nothing Congress…

    of which the left is proud to have NO EQUIVALENCE. Too easy to say ‘the left & the right’ when the left hasn’t come close to the destruction caused by the Congressional and Statehouse Tea Party members.

  18. Lonewolf says:

    TEA= The End, America

  19. palmcoaster says:

    @Biker. The horrible tax payers dollars wasted in 2004 by BOCC “as you point out” given the witch hunt organized mainly by the PBA chief and BOCC member against our then good Sheriff Jim Manfre, has been multiplied many times over in the last eight years and our law enforcement services drastically reduced. Now the FCSO sure gets along well with current BOCC as anything goes while our pockets keep funding waste and the services we pay are reduced.

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