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Novices Flood Local Elections as 21 Candidates Qualify for Palm Coast, County and Schools

| June 23, 2014

Your turn is coming. (© FlaglerLive)

Your turn is coming. (© FlaglerLive)

Qualifying for elections to local offices–County Commission, School Board, Palm Coast City Council–ended Friday with two distinction: unlike previous cycles, not a single seat is going uncontested. That means no incumbent is getting an easy path to re-election. But virtually every challenger is a newcomer to politics.

Fourteen candidates, including five incumbents, have qualified for county commission and school board seats. Seven have qualified for two Palm Coast City Council seats.

This being the first year that a Palm Coast municipal election will be held on an even year, two seats are up, and only one incumbent has chosen to run again: Bill Lewis, who at 78 or 79 (he is usually cagey about his exact age) is the oldest candidate or incumbent on any local government board, and who was first appointed to the council in 2008, to fill out the term vacated by Alan Peterson when Peterson was elected to the county commission. Peterson had defeated Lewis for that council seat three years earlier.

Lewis spent the past couple of years as the lone minority on any countywide or city government panel even though 12 percent of Flagler’s population is black and almost 10 percent Hispanic. In March Bonita Robinson, who is black, was elected to the Bunnell City Commission, adding a still-rare touch of diversity to local government representation.

But Lewis is vulnerable, and candidates sense it: he is facing three challengers: Woody Douge (whose “About” page at his website is blank), Steven Nobile, who came out against Lewis at the Ronald Reagan Assemblies, and Norman Weiskopf, a Palm Coast resident who’s become familiar to council members through his frequent campaigns for a better dog park at Holland Park.

Lewis is running in District 4, at the southwestern part of the city, but that’s relevant only to him and other candidates, who must live in the district to contest it. All Palm Coast registered voters, regardless of district, get to vote for all council elections.

Dave Ferguson has been representing District 2 (the northeastern part of the city) since he was appointed to replace Frank Meeker, who won a seat on the county commission in November 2012. But Ferguson announced he was not interested in running again, as he plans to build a house on a property outside District 2, making him ineligible to represent it. Ferguson spent his time on the council asking a lot of probing and revealing questions, but was not a policy-making factor. His departure creates an open seat being contested by three candidates: Anne Marie Shafer, who’s been associated with the tea party and the Ronald Reagan Assemblies, Heidi Shipley, a 14-year Palm Coast resident who headed Sanford Hospital’s mammography department for the past seven, and Joel Rosen, an insurance broker who owns A.J. Enterprises in Palm Coast.

Council members make $9,600 a year. The city council elections are ostensibly non-partisan, so all registered voters–Independents, Democrats, Republicans– will get to vote in all city council elections. If a candidate garners more than 50 percent of the vote at the Aug. 26 primary, the candidate is elected outright. Absent such a result, however, the top two vote-getters go on to a run-off in the Nov. 4 election.

The tally of six candidates and incumbents for the two county commission seats does not include two write-in candidates. Write-ins are not seriously contesting the election but throwing in their name only to ensure–against the spirit of a constitutional amendment–that the coming primary is closed, so that voters from one party may not have a voice in the primary of another. They neither campaign nor take their own candidacy seriously. The stratagem, a specialty of the tactically subversive local Ronald Reagan Assemblies, was used in the last election cycle to ensure that Democrats and Independents could not vote in the Alan Peterson-Charlie Ericksen race for county commission, thus ensuring that Peterson, seemingly the more moderate of the two at the time, could not bank on more moderate votes. Ericksen won. FlaglerLive neither recognizes such write-in candidates as legitimate, nor names them.

The presence on the ballot of write-in candidates is a non-issue this year since both county commission races have drawn two Republican candidates who have chosen to run as Independents–Howard Holley in the race against incumbent Republican Frank Meeker, and Denise Calderwood in the race against incumbent Republican Nate McLaughlin. Holley and Calderwood will only appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

For Frank Meeker in District 2, that leaves his old nemesis–and many other politicians’ nemesis–Dennis McDonald, a darling of the tea party and the Ronald Reagan Assemblies and the most persistent critic of the Flagler County Commission and the Palm Coast City Council for the past several years. His criticism, however, tends to be more reflexive than either targeted or properly fact-checked. Any issue of note either Palm Coast or the county may be contending with will generally catch his ire, in the opposite direction from the one the government is taking. As such, McDonald reflects the compulsively oppositional mood of a narrow but vocal segment of voters. He’s developed a considerable following. In his race against Meeker two years ago, Meeker squeezed by with 53 percent of the vote to McDonald’s 47 percent. Waiting for either of them is Holley, who portrays himself as the voice of business in this race.


In District 4, McLaughlin will face fellow-Republican Mark Richter, who has the distinction of managing to out-right-wing McLaughlin, who’s discovered the effectiveness of pragmatism in the last four years. Either winner will face Denise Calderwood in the general election. Calderwood is closely tied to the non-profit community in Palm Coast and Bunnell, working with numerous social organizations, including for the homeless, and is in line to preside over the Palm Coast-Flagler Kiwanis Club before long.

But no independent has every won an election to the county commission in Flagler. County commissioners are paid about $53,000 a year.

In the three school board races, which are non-partisan and will be decided in August regardless, Board Chairman Andy Dance (in District 1, but again the districts are relevant only to the home address of the candidates, not to voters) has drawn one opponent: Maria Barbosa. She has a doctorate in “Christian counseling,” has worked for a couple of decades in restaurants and for 14 years as a property manager, and currently advises local clubs for teens.

Incumbent Trevor Tucker, the least verbose of the five board members, faces Michael McElroy, a retired cop who also made his debut at the Ronald Reagan Assemblies and said he was focused on preventing tax increases–though the local board has little say in more than 90 percent of the school taxes levied locally.

Incumbent John Fisher has drawn the most active race, reflecting his own vulnerability: three candidates are challenging him. They include attorney Lynnette Callender, who was short-listed for the Palm Coast City Council job that Ferguson eventually won out; Janet McDonald, who is married to Dennis McDonald but presents a more measured approach on most issues; and Toni Baker, who’s proposing “kitchen table type common sense.”

In the congressional district that includes all of Flagler County, first-term incumbent and tea party favorite Ron DeSantis, the Republican, has qualified and is expected to easily retain his seat against just one challenger: Democrat David Cox, a well-versed but underfunded newcomer. There will be no primary election in that race.

In State Senate District 6, which includes all of Flagler County, incumbent Republican John Thrasher has drawn one Republican opponent for the primary–Derek Hankerson, a two-term chairman of the Putnam County tea party. Thrasher has also drawn a Democrat, Kathleen Trued, a second time, and an Independent, Greg Feldman, for 25 years a cop in South Miami.

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23 Responses for “Novices Flood Local Elections as 21 Candidates Qualify for Palm Coast, County and Schools”

  1. m&m says:

    Maybe we need some novices. I’ll vote for anybody but the incumbant.. Change is good and let’s do it..

    • Samantha Claire says:

      Well, there they go again. The angry uncompromising hard-over right-wing Reagans have closed yet another Flagler Republican primary election with their write-in surrogates. In doing so, they have again disenfranchised over 42,000 Flagler county voters who would have been able to vote in this Republican primary. This ploy seems designed to give some advantage to their anointed candidates running against Meeker and McLaughlin.

      If you are as annoyed as I am and want to vote for the best candidates, Meeker and McLaughlin, the solution is simple easy and 100% legal.

      If you are a registered Democrat, Independent or No Party Affiliation (NPA)and want to vote in the August Republican primary, send a note with your name and address, birth date, your signature and date requesting to change your registration to Republican to:

      Flagler County Supervisor of Elections
      P.O. Box 901
      Bunnell, FL 32110

      Deadline to request a registration change or to file for a new one, to vote in this Republican primary, is July 28, 2014.

      Please share this with others. SC

      • Carol Mikola says:

        You are right, Samantha. The write-ins don’t have to pay anything or gather signatures; they are simply spoilers doing the bidding of the Ronald Reagan Assembly and Dennis McDonald. Change your registration even if it’s just until the primary is over. The deadline is JULY 28th.

        I wonder if Dennis McDonald read yesterday’s news. Palm Coast is back in the TOP 10 when it comes to economic growth which shows that Flagler County’s economic development efforts are paying off. That kind of success means investment in capital expenditures. This is a concept that the Reagan Assembly, and in particular, Dennis McDonald, Mark Richter and Ann-Marie Shaffer simply don’t understand.

        [Correction: Palm Coast is not back in the top 10 in economic growth. The news report was about a projection that sees Palm Coast in future years returning to the sort of growth that would place it in the top 10. Currently, Palm Coast is not in that position.–FL]

      • Bill says:

        If demacrats wont/cant get someone to run why the he** should they be voting in a Rs primary??? That is just nuts! Just like in Mississippi where the old guard of the Rs did all they could by getting Ds to vote in its primary run off to keep hold of its power over the party was wrong.

  2. Dennis McDonald says:

    Pierre, thank you for your “kind words”.
    Yes, I have been pushing back on the City for violating the Voters and rate payers of Palm Coast. Just to name the big issues, Resolution 12-644 on 7/3/2013 that gave us 37 MORE Red light Cameras. That Motion was approved by Meeker, Lewis, Netts, McGuire. Before that, it was early 2012 when the CC pushed for a 6.5% Electric Tax, public opposition was felt by the CC and it FAILED !
    Yes, I spoke against this same ” Tax Them ” philosophy that continues at the County level when the commissioners voted to buy the “vertical junkyard” aka the old hospital for $1.23M and Voted by super majority to NOT allow the Voters to decide if they wanted another round of the small county sales tax.
    Yes, I have been critical of flirting with last place in employment in Florida, and the media rides along because they do not wish to upset the current bureaucrats, ” fair and balanced ‘ they are not..
    All the incumbents should have taken the honorable route like Dave Ferguson and NOT have run because they have proven to the Voters that they can NOT get it done ! The promise of better times has been going on for more than SIX years and every two years the Voters get the opportunity to be heard.

    Two things I promise, I will not join the ” Governing Club ” and I will continue to push back government over reach at both the city and county when elected.

    Leadership has been a commodity in short supply, and they have proved it !

    Dennis McDonald

    • Joe says:

      The 37 red light cameras and the old hospital have 1 thing in common, Meeker made the motion and also became famous when he wrote that ” Why I voted to buy the old hospital” letter!

  3. tulip says:

    No Reagan person will ever get my vote and neither will I vote for any incumbent who has been supported by RR.

  4. Steve Wolfe says:

    I like the closed primary. The Democrat vote merely dilutes the true intent of Republicans, although I guess that’s the only voice the Democrats can get since they don’t seem to be able to put up candidates of their own. You Dems go ahead, nominate some folks that represent you. I’ll stay home on your primaries. I have no malice towards you. Run it on your own merit. R-r-run it. (In my best Scottish accent.)

  5. Woody Douge says:

    My name is Woody Douge. I am a candidate for Palm Coast City Council. I have been living in Palm Coast for the past decade working for the state, serving the Justice System here in Flagler County. It has been my pleasure to do my part to keep our community safe. While working with many of the wonderful people in our community, I have been able to see first hand many of the issues that are ongoing and developing in Palm Coast.

    I would like to share with you my plan for our beautiful city. I would like to create opportunities for our youth, while improving our city for our seniors and working families. Please take a look at my plan and let me know if you have any questions.

    http://www.woodydouge.org/my-plan.pdf

  6. Mike says:

    If you are happy with the way things are run in our County and City then vote in those in office, I for one am not and nirther are the many I speak to at functions. If you do not get out and vote you have no one to blame but yourself when there is no change. By leaving those in office that currently reside there you are saying all is well, keep up the good work, we have one of the worst unemployment rates in FL and the counrty. Do not reward these politicians for non-preformance, let them know you are disatisfied with them, vote them out and start fresh. The people coming in my be novice and no better, but why reward someone for a job they are terrible at, just saying get out and vote, its your civic buty Flagler County.

  7. BW says:

    Many have been warning about the serious issue of low voter turnout for local elections and how it opens the door wide to a radical political taking control. Well here is that reality right before us. Our Supervisor of Elections puts extra time and effort into being a voice to attack local officials and local governments but can’t put the same energy into being a voice of voting, and we may all pay a huge price for that very soon.

    This group displays a lack of understanding of the issues with running a town and county both of which are creeping up on a population to exceed 100,000 soon. This “kitchen table” approach to every issue, finances, and simple echoing of problems without offering solutions is absurd and dangerous. Ann-Marie Shaffer trumpets a $181 million debt number falsely stating that it’s a “management issue”. The reality is that number is about greatly needed infrastructure improvements and expansion.

    With people like her, Steven Nobile, Dennis McDonald, Mark Richter in office we can expect more flooding, less water, and a community that worsens. Yet all complain about lack of business. Why would any business want to come to a town that can’t adequately accommodate it’s existing population and refuses to plan or improve for expansion?

    We need better than the Ronald Reagan group taking over and causing very real damage, and we deserve far better than what they have to offer.

  8. Denise Calderwood says:

    Thanks for the brief introduction. I do more than work for not for profits. I assist small business owners and own one as well-focusing in on project management and alternative revenue sources-grants. I possess a Master’s degree in Public Administration- and I am a trained community organizer who knows how government and elected leaders are supposed to perform their duties. I chose to run for the office of County Commissioner because I believe in transparency and providing the best services at the most efficient costs and not just support a select few. I am fiscally conservative, socially and environmentally friendly and I am looking forward to providing the citizens of Flagler County with an alternative than business as usual.

    Denise Calderwood

  9. Binkey says:

    I see John fisher at school events all the time he has my vote.

    • C McCall says:

      John Fisher certainly knows how to make phone calls to the right people at the right time… like the time he made six phone calls to his friend Sheriff Fleming just 11 mere hours after his wife killed a woman in Palm Coast that was walking her dog. Then she fled the scene of the vehicular homicide. Yeah… we like insiders like honest John Fisher. His wife will only get about 18 months of jail for that hit and run killing. Life is sure cheap in Palm Coast.

  10. Charles Gardner says:

    nov·ice noun \ˈnä-vəs\
    : a person who has just started learning or doing something
    Why not? Some politicians have been doing it too long.

  11. confidential says:

    Its better a novice than the experienced vultures we have now.

  12. confidential says:

    We need a change for the status quo.
    Best success to Dennis McDonald, Denise Calderwood, Michael McKilroy, Heidi Shipley, Woody Douge (was gathering signatures against the red light cameras proliferation), Lynnette Callender, David Cox that (will lobby for our local issues and not wasting time against Obamacare already passéd, or Benghazy murders or the IRS Gop Pacs audits) and Kathleen Trued for the same reasons (other than lobbying/presuring demanding a seat for the FSU Presidential vacancy a la Trasher!)
    Regarding Dance and Barbosa in the other school board position I see no change between the two, the bow to special interest other for the benefit of the students, will proceed unchanged with either of them. We need change no matter who the FCCOC, Observer or DBNJ will endorse, fund or support!
    Having a vocal, valiant, feisty candidate like M. McDonald is the only venue we have left, as when we speak in never ending meetings to discourage our attendance or vote a referendum on an important issue in a very civilize manner they ignore us on a very uncivilized and dictatorial way to serve theirs and their buddies financial interest, Flaglerlive! Anyway thank you for this article as we know you risk too with it.

  13. Joe says:

    Ditto for Fischer, he has my vote too!

  14. Bill says:

    We need new blood in this county and the City of PC to run it. the same old same old has not done right for us as a whole.

  15. Steve Wolfe says:

    I think it’s subversive for Democrats to vote in a Republican primary. The intent of Democrats is to skew the selection away from conservative candidates to Democrat-friendly or “Democrat-lite” candidates. That’s what we have in office now! Meeker and Mcloughln never saw a tax increase they wouldn’t vote for or a big spending budget they wouldn’t approve. The city council is much the same. Conservatives are the antidote. The light is coming on slowly across the country.

    People should remember the Democrat-run cities that have declared bankruptcy. That’s where your worst nightmare scenario comes from, not from common-sense solutions like, “If we have less money, we should spend less.” That’s how Conservatives think.

  16. polly dunkel says:

    Two sides of the argument are always good. FlaglerLive gives concerned voters the opportunity to voice their opinions. But that does not necessarily mean they are informed voters. Several did not even read the article to find out that David Ferguson is not running! What the voters need to do is attend several forums and listen to the candidates and their position on issues.

    The Ronald Reagan’s are conservative and proud of it. Usually their opinions fall on deaf ears at the City
    Council and County Commission meetings. These community leaders do not understand the concept that if you have to borrow, you should not be doing it. Or that the citizens of the city or county should have a say in how they spend our money. As citizens, we deserve better than those who currently serve. This community could be one of the most desirable places to live in Florida……but we are not because we have high unemployment, massive debt and businesses do not want to come here. What is wrong with this picture!

    You will not go wrong voting for Reagan’s. They will be true to their word on fiscal responsibility. They will always have the community in mind rather than politics.

  17. C McCall says:

    I can’t stand NY liberals or the Nazi style Palm Coast Gov. Palm Coast is one of the worst places in Florida to live.

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