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In Flagler’s Elections, Some Coffers Are Depleted, Some Rich in Out-Of-County Donors

| September 21, 2012

Click on the image for larger view. (© R.J. Matson/

Another round of campaign finance reports came due this week. With less than seven weeks to go before the Nov. 6 general election, and less than five before early voting begins, some of Flagler County’s candidates have campaign coffers more depleted than others.

The biggest contrasts are in four high-profile races.

First, the race for the Flagler County Commission’s District 2 seat, being vacated by Milissa Holland, who’s running for a House seat (see below). It features Republican Frank Meeker, the Palm Coast City Commissioner, against Abby Romaine, an independent candidate and radio broadcaster. Meeker raised $14,440 before the primary, Romaine raised $7,000. Both put in $3,000 of their own money into the race, as loans.

Most of Meeker’s larger checks are from developers, engineers and real estate professionals. But the most striking thing about Meeker’s contributions–unique among all Flagler-based candidates for local office–is that, once his own $3,000 loan to himself is taken into account, fully 77 percent of his contributors are from out of the county and out of the state, a strange source of support for a county commission seat. The last time that happened involved Bob Abbot, an incumbent Democrat whose campaign was almost entirely funded by ICI Homes and its affiliates, the Daytona Beach-based Mori Hosseini company with large spreads of lands and planned developments in Flagler County (and whose vice president, David Haas, was the county administrator before Craig Coffey).

The Hosseini checks are peppered through Meeker’s reports, too, by way of differently named companies: Multilink Communications and Venture Development Realty are both companies registered in Hosseini’s name, contributing $500 each.

The contrast with Romaine is striking: without exception, every one of her donors is from Palm Coast, Bunnell, Flagler Beach or Flagler County (including her own loan of $3,000). Meeker spent about half the $14,440 he raised before the primary, leaving him with $7,755 against Romaine’s $2,761.

In the race for Flagler County Supervisor of Elections, Republican Trey Corbett closed the books on the report due Sept. 14 with a $148 deficit, after spending $6,302, the result of a bruising primary election fight he won by a small margin after a four-way race. His opponent, Kimberle Weeks, the Democratic incumbent, had no opposition. She’s raised $17,300, and still had $9,431 of it on hand. The bulk of that money raised is her own: She loaned herself almost $16,000, and two other contributors–Sunny Barzelogna and Michelle Taylor, both of Bunnell–account for an additional $1,000 between them. In other words, the Weeks campaign is well funded, but it has very little individual contributors’ support.

About a fifth of Corbett’s contributions are from himself, his company or his ex-wife, but he still had a much larger number of individual contributors supporting his campaign–depleted as his coffers were by the middle of September. As a Republican Corbett still has the advantage of a registration split that now favors Republicans by some 1,200 voters in Flagler County, a turn-around that took place just this year: Democratic registrations led Republican as recently as last December. The switch is indicative of a more energized Republican base in Flagler County than its Democratic counterpart (a trend apparent across the country, though that enthusiasm has been dimming somewhat in the last few weeks).

The race for the Florida House, redrawn through redistricting to give Flagler County the dominant voice in that district for the first time in two generations, features Democrat Milissa Holland, the county commissioner, and Travis Hutson, a 28-year-old newcomer to politics. Hutson, benefiting from the support of the state Republican establishment, has out-raised Holland twelve-fold–$172,464 to $13,514. He still has close to $111,000 on hand, to Holland’s $5,883. Holland has strong support where it counts–In Flagler County, which has more than 60 percent of the district’s voters, and she’s secured the support of notable Republicans (including Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts, Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson and school board member Andy Dance). But she was snubbed by other local Republicans who, when she was just a commissioner, had called her a friend–and preached the importance of local representation–only to close political ranks in favor of Hutson. (Frank meeker, the Palm Coast City Council member and candidate for her seat on the commission, and Gail Wadsworth, the clerk of court and head of the Flagler County Republican Club, whose father was the last person to represent Flagler County from a Flagler County-based seat at the Legislature).

Notable donors to Holland’s campaign include Netts, Barbara Revels (the chairman of the county commission, and a Democrat, who contributed through her real estate company), and the St. Johns Education Association’s political action committee. Hutson draws support from numerous conservative PACs and business groups representing, for example, the cable industry, chiropractors, beer wholesalers, a horse racing association, Disney, and $25,000 from the Florida Republican Party.

The race for the congressional seat that includes all of Flagler is similarly lopsided, with Republican newcomer Ron DeSantis, a lawyer with the military and Holland & Knight, battling Democrat Heather Beaven, who runs a Flagler Beach-based, statewide non-profit for disadvantaged girls, and who’s running for the second time. The last reporting period for congressional seats dates back to the end of July, before the primary, by which time DeSantis had raised almost half a million dollars to Beaven’s $123,000. He had just over $205,000 on hand to Beaven’s $30,000, but those numbers are very likely outdated as more contributions have come in since, and much more has been spent: both are advertising variably in the district.

In the Flagler County sheriff’s race, incumbent Republican Don Fleming spent most of the $21,200 he raised to pull a surprise win in a three-way primary, leaving him with $4,300. He’s facing Democrat Jim Manfre in a rematch of their race four years ago, which Fleming won by a small margin. Manfre was the sheriff for a term until eight years ago. He spent most of the $10,300 he raised, leaving him with $1,116.

The Flagler County Judge race had featured seven candidates in the primary. The two top vote-getters were the two who raised and spent the most money by far: Craig Atack and Melissa Moore-Stens, who raised $68,000 between the two of them, much of it their own. Going into the general election Moore-Stens has a $9,360 to $2,572 advantage, but candidates have learned by now that money alone doesn’t decide the races: John Pollinger (in the race for sheriff) Alan Peterson (an incumbent, for county commission) and Bill Corkran (school board) all out-raised and out-spent their opponents in the primary, and lost. Charlie Ericksen, the winning candidate against Peterson, had raised less than half Peterson’s $6,900.

At least one more seat will turn over on the commission in the contest between Meeker and Romaine.

The race for the County Commission District 5 seat has been the least eventful, money-wise, with incumbent Democrat George Hanns, the longest-serving elected official in Flagler County this side of the 20th century, and Republican challenger Herb Whitaker combining for $6,000 between them. Hanns had about $700 left, Whitaker $1,100.

A detailed chart is below.

Campaign Finance: Flagler County's Races as of September 14, 2012

Total Monetary Contributions
Total Monetary Expenses
On Hand
Flagler County Sheriff
Don Fleming (I, R)
Jim Manfre (D)
Supervisor of Elections
Trey Corbett (R)
Kimberle Weeks (I, D)
Flagler County Judge
Craig Atack
Melissa Moore-Stens
County Commission, District 2
Frank Meeker (R)
Abby Romaine (Independent)
County Commission, District 5
George Hanns (I, D)
Herb Whitaker (R)
Florida House, District 24
Milissa Holland (D)
Travis Hutson (R)
U.S. Congress, District 6*
Ron DeSantis
Heather Beaven
Sources: Flagler County Supervisor of Elections, Florida Division of Elections, Federal Elections Commission.
(*) As of July 25.
Note: Tallies include monetary, not in-kind, contributions and expenditures.


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26 Responses for “In Flagler’s Elections, Some Coffers Are Depleted, Some Rich in Out-Of-County Donors”

  1. 2-1=4 says:

    How can Supervisor of Election candidate Trey Corbett spend more than he took in and have a negative balance? Is this another fine example of “tripping” on his budget as he has on many rules since starting his campaign.

    Interesting that Corbett consistently states he will manage the budget of the SOE better than the current Supervisor when he’s unable manage his own campaign fund that’s under $10,000, AND his personal finances; according to his Financial Disclosure Statement (Form 6) filed in June 2012 with the Elections office.

  2. DoubleGator says:

    WAKE UP. Developers (and make no mistake I am in favor of responsible planned development) should not be able to buy political offices……….. so don’t let them buy your vote. We have both the street level and macro picture here ……… local city council man moves to the county commission ……and then a young rich man farmer turned real estate developer ( north st. johns, duval, clay) you know the big boys moves to take the state house seat to represent Flagler county….. will they really represent us in Flagler County or Tallahasse. If we pick this representaion then we deserve our fate. I’m thinking of going to work for a big developer (is that a bright idea or wishfull thinking) or somehow fitting in.

  3. Jack Howell says:

    Great job on laying this out. Looks like Frank Meeker is the best friend of the builders and developers. He represents what we don’t need on the County Commission as he is bought and paid for to represent this group. One should follow his voting pattern as a City of Palm Coast councilman to see how he has supported the builders and developers in the past. We know where his allegiance and interests lies. I don’t want him representing me!

    We need a fresh untainted face to our County Commission. I would urge that voters vote for Abby Romaine. She is extremely bright and has here finger on the pulse of our county. It appears that her only allegiance is to the voters.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this insightful report—-The most enlightening may be the Holland / Hutson saga—The local ‘ good ol boy / gal ” network seems to dissolve when the money is on the line—-Maybe their bet is that Hutson’s $ support will dominate the outcome despite Holland’s popularity and sweat equity in Flagler County(60 % of voting base.). Could it be that they all know that Ms. Holland will always have “a place at the table” should she fail to win her race at the vacated Palm Coast city Council position ?
    As for the Meeker / Romaine battle,, this race perhaps exemplifies the apparent dysfunction ( lack of harmony) in the various Republican organizational bases / clubs in the county- Has Flagler / Palm Coast grown to a size where being Republican doesn’t insure a particular loyalty to a candidate/ cause ?
    I look forward to how this all plays out and what CHANGE we all can benefit from this crew of ” public servants”- PS Does a potential Romney victory in Flagler portend a winning coat tail effect on any of these races ? Wouldn’t it be nice if $ was less of a factor in electing our voices in Government ?

  5. John Boy says:

    Would never vote for anyone who gets the majority of his/her funding from outside sources like PACS, Trade Groups, Etc. By definition that are looking for something and will expect to get paid back for their contributions.. A Bribe is a Bribe no matter how much lipstick you put on it.

  6. tulip says:

    Two good commissioners will no longer be on the new board, so if Meeker and Whitaker are elected, the entire BOCC will be comprised of real estate, builder and developer orientated commissioners, as well as those commissioners that are involved with the Chamber of Commerce

    . Without Ms. Holland and Mr. Peterson, as more neutral commissioners, which made for a good mixed and balanced BOCC, it is very possible the developers and real estate related businesses will have a tremendous influence on certain BOCC decisions. We are already aware of the huge money builders, developers, etc. are using, and have used in the past to support candidates who might be helpful to them later on.

    • Herb Whitaker says:

      You should check all of the candidates records and report them properly. Look at 2008 contributions to George Hanns and you will find his largest and almost only contributor was Venture Developments, which is ICI and Mori Hosseini, the biggest developer in Flagler County. If you will look at my website at under the About Us page you will see that I have committed to not accept any contributions from developers. Who would you rather have on the board, an educated former Realtor, or an in the pocket of the developer 20 year incumbent commissioner? Personally, my vote is mine and not for option! I have no obligations to anyone, I am not running for re-election, I will make decisions based on the merits of the issues, not on the re-electibility of the issue. I will not vote 98% of the time with the majority, unless the majority is right in my opinion. Let me giveyou to the facts of the final statement, they came from the Secretary of the Commission the Clerk of the Court as a result of a public records request. Since 1/1/2009, George Hanns has voted against the majority 6 times in all of the votes that have been taken by the commission and 2 of those votes were against my approval on county committees, to which the other 4 commissioners appointed me.

    • Magnolia says:

      Holland neutral? We don’t have a politician in town who is neutral. This town is run by developers and real estate related businesses who are in bed with all these people.

      The only way you take the power away from that is to show up and vote and turn the governing bodies over more frequently. It’s also pretty stupid to elect a lobbyist for the builders to the council, if you ask me.

      Just my humble opinion…

  7. Samuel Smith says:

    It’s common knowledge that a certain well-established land developing family owns a state senator and bought seats on the board of trustees of DSC and Embry. Why be surprised if they mess with local politics as well?

    • Herb Whitaker says:

      Mr. Smith,
      I think if you will check the records, you will find that the developer that you are referring to has long been involved in contributing to commissioners and city councilmen and has usually gotten his projects passed with little conflict, the recent Cypress Knoll vote by the City comes immediately to mind. But, Mr. Hosseini is also a graduate of Embry Riddle, as am I. Are you sure he bought his way onto that board, or being a graduate was appointed because of his generosity to the University?

      • Samuel Smith says:

        I’m not seeing how getting a seat because of generosity to a school is functionally different than exchanging money or favors for a seat. Maybe it’s political semantics, I dunno.

  8. BW says:


    FlaglerLive seems to be a bit mistaken as Trey Corbett has taken is $6,368.86. There is not a negative balance. We have an Elections Website which shows the correct figures (although it just recently was changed to finally showing the correct Early Voting times after a Facebook posting with screenshots because our SOE doesn’t know how to look at her own website)

    When it comes to finances, it’s scary to hear people in support of the person who just spent an additional $45,000 of our tax dollars to send a mailing that accomplished nothing in the primary election, has had continued voter turnout declines in part due to the confusing/conflicting information from her office, does not look to new avenues to connect and promote voting, asks for $300,000 for an election that cost less than $100,00 because she doesn’t take cost/voter data from our own elections, is constantly asking for more of our tax dollars while giving less and the budget is relative to the surrounding counties based upon the number of registered voters, and the list goes on. It is broke and it does need to be fixed.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      BW, you’re right in so far as what Trey Corbett has taken in only when including in-kind contributions, which add up to $213.98. But we specify that these campaign finance numbers are based entirely on monetary contributions and expenditures, as reported by Trey Corbett himself.

      In his last report, ending Sept. 14, Corbett reported total monetary contributions to date of $6,154. He reported total monetary expenditures of $6,302. That works out to a deficit of $147.74, by Trey Crobett’s reporting. You’re welcome to have a look for yourself. Here’s Crobett’s last campaign finance filing.

      • Magnolia says:

        $147.74? We have a County Administrator who is in the hole $4 million and you’re picking on a candidate for a $147.74 deficit in his campaign?


        [Magnolia, you’re overreaching. Like most local governments in Florida this year and last, and the year before that, Flagler County had a gap to close going into the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. It closed it. The report on Corbett’s finances stated that he had a deficit in his campaign. That was reported. Period. Please don’t draw ludicrous conclusions by association–FL].

      • What-a-Joke says:

        Must be all the budget experience Corbett claims he has that makes him comfortable with a deficit campaign balance. After all, this is how he runs his personal finances too according to his filed financial disclosure statement. What is scary is that Trey wants us voters to believe he can actually manage the elections office, and he wants our vote! WOW!

        Thanks Flaglerlive for setting the record straight.

      • BW says:

        You are correct and I misunderstood. Thank you for the correction and shedding light on a topic and strategy some candidates use that can be confusing and misleading for local voters.

  9. PJ says:

    Why would I vote for a person taking monies from developers?

    If I can believe in the myth that Meeker is in it for the greater good I may vote for him. However, I feel this is not good poltics and remember ths is my opinion only. I simply question Meeker is it a nice way to plan for your retirement set yourself up for a consultants gig with these companies when you get out of your other political jobs, both of them.

    On his opponent Abigail Romaine this is a new face. Fresh and not yet and may never be spoiled. I also like the fact her monies are citizen driven. So she would likely vote for the greater good not for the few that think they are greater then the greater good.

    Beaven and Holland this is a no brainer. Local folks that care about our area not driven by the political machine.

    Corbett vs. Weeks ok the guy is under-funded a few bucks short of his goal so we say he is not budget wise. Not realy fair to judge him yet.
    Let’s not get started on Weeks she started out her job on day one giving bonuses. Where is she prudent with taxpayer monies? Weeks is a bad manager ripped up at one of the County Commission meetings so bad I expected that the Commission was going to ask for her resignation. She is a bad manager and I rather give Corbett a chance then go through several more years of REALLY BAD MANAGEMENT and no positive plan for the future of voting.

    I’m a resident and voter who votes, thank you America for allowing me to voice my opinions what a great county we live in!!!
    Great article from Flagler Live this is why I read it.

    • The the truth is says:

      Weeks has done a excellent job in her position and has been identifed as one of the top 13 Supervisors in the State by the Governor.

      It is not about how much money you take in, it is about how you manage what you take in.

      FlaglerLive says:
      September 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm
      BW, you’re right in so far as what Trey Corbett has taken in only when including in-kind contributions, which add up to $213.98. But we specify that these campaign finance numbers are based entirely on monetary contributions and expenditures, as reported by Trey Corbett himself.

      In his last report, ending Sept. 14, Corbett reported total monetary contributions to date of $6,154. He reported total monetary expenditures of $6,302. That works out to a deficit of $147.74, by Trey Crobett’s reporting. You’re welcome to have a look for yourself. Here’s Crobett’s last campaign finance filing.

      • Magnolia says:

        Weeks hasn’t done an excellent job. She has changed the voting locations for each of the last 3 elections.

        Ask those working the polls how well that worked out. If you question her about it, she bites your head off and threatens you. Time for this bully to hit the road.

      • BW says:

        It is interesting that Weeks supporters and she likes to tout this so-called award. This was based on one election in which we saw one of the lowest voter turnouts in the area. It was the first time the ranking was ever done by only the Governor’s Office and the ratings have been disputed by many of the state Supervisors. The bottom line is that voter turnout continues to decline and Weeks continues to demand more money. When’s the last time you found it logical that people need more money when the workload continues to decline? Also, it’s very concerning that we have an SOE that has treated our tax dollars like her personal bank account to use and disperse to whoever she sees fit through “verbal employment agreements”. That’s our money. She needs to go, and her opponent is the best choice for the position in my opinion. She is merely trying to distract voters right now from the real issues because she doesn’t feel comfortable speaking to them and has no plan. She is very out-of-touch and her integrity is very questionable based upon her conduct over the last four years in office.

  10. Ben Dover says:

    Its time to clean house this next election , its plain to see the current people in office care nothing for what we need or what we say , you tell them we do not want 10 more traffic camera`s , they say screw you , now were putting 52 more, and for what , not safety, but to try and get in our pocket when we are running a little late for work, have they brought any more jobs to the area …..nope , they turn companies away because they don t like what their building might look like or they want to advertise with a sign , it must be nice to have enough money to be so picky about curb appeal. Too bad we have the highest unemployment rate not only in the state but the whole country, we tell them we need sidewalks , two people have died because we don t have them or enough lighting in our neighborhoods, what do they do with the money , tree`s in the medians , blocking our view from on coming traffic. we now see why they keep giving these same companies all the work we don t want or need , they get campaign contributions . Come on people its time to clean house, get people in here to help us get jobs , save our houses , stop trying to pick our pockets with rigged up lights , bet if you did enough research, you`d find that this Arizona based camera company ,has made some contributions of its own to these ……..I have to watch what I say or it don t get printed , but you know what they are , cmon we all know what they are , lets vote them out!!!!!

  11. You've been tricked says:

    There is a real push on in this County by the developers to get their people in. Think about it – The School Board is considering a moratorium on impact fees………right after the voters approved taxing themselves to pay for construction projects. School Board member Andy Dance was the front man for continuing the tax but has his own landscape architect firm that is employed by……..developers. He should recuse himself from anything brought before the School Board by the Flagler Home Builders Association or other lobbyist group.

    As America falls farther and farther behind we ALL need to do our part in educating our kids. No exceptions.

    • anon says:

      Flagler county has the largest ratio of foreclosure filings.
      Yet the builder’s lobbyist who is also a Palm Coast town councilor wants an impact fee moratorium so that more houses can be built. He uses the creates jobs rational. These are temporary, short term jobs that have limited impact on the upward movement of employment.
      He is another one who should not be voting on issues regarding building development, such as the senior citizens home in Grand Haven.

      Many builders will use a contractor who will then sub the work out to someone who uses illegal labor. Much like what happened during the construction of European Village.
      Then when the authorities arrive everyone plays deaf and dumb.

  12. tulip says:

    @ HERB WHITAKER In reply to your response to my previous post——your intentions are good to hear, and I appreciate your thoughts.

  13. tulip says:

    FlaglerLive, Some of these posts are out of time sequence and it gets a bit confusing a times. Last time I was reading the site there were 18 posts. Now it says 24 and I had to kind of scroll around to find the newest ones.

    [tulip, comments don’t get approved in sequence. They go through a two-step process most of the time, and some get held back for a second look. That second look can take time, depending on the load and the volume of comments: writing and reporting always come first, comment moderation last.–FL]

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