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In Chamber’s Straw Poll, Shipley and Nobile Win Palm Coast, Incumbents Win all County and State Offices and Pot Loses

| October 16, 2014

The chamber's political forum at the Hilton Garden Inn Tuesday drew a smaller crowd than its primary edition. Above, the county commission candidates presented. (© FlaglerLive)

The chamber’s political forum at the Hilton Garden Inn Tuesday drew a smaller crowd than its primary edition. Above, the county commission candidates presented. (© FlaglerLive)

For the first time in the Flagler Chamber of Commerce’s history, the results of a straw poll of the coming general election conducted at two recent chamber-sponsored events were released today.

There were few surprises, though to some candidates the results may be a wake-up call.

The chamber polled people at its Creekside Festival this past weekend and at its second and last candidate forum of the season, held Tuesday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn. In all, 124 people participated, though some got tired of the length of the poll—not an encouraging sign, considering that the poll listed the very same names on the Nov. 4 ballot—and quit somewhere along the way.

Among the state winners: Rick Scott, beating Charlie Crist with 62 percent of the vote, and all other incumbent cabinet members beating their challengers by very wide margins: Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. John Thrasher wins the Senate seat he’s already all but abandoned, and Ron DeSantis, the freshman congressman, beats Democratic Challenger David Cox with 62 percent of the vote.

To local voters the more interesting part of the ballot is its reflection of local races.

In the two county commission races, Republican Nate McLaughlin trounces Independent challenger Denise Calderwood, but Republican Frank Meeker is, as expected, in a much tighter race with Howard Holleyt, the ex-Xerox executive who, next to DeSantis, is the most richly (and self) funded of the candidates: He’s raised or borrowed from himself $38,000 to Meeker’s $29,000. The margin between Meeker and Holley is still eight points, according to the straw poll, a usually comfortable lead or troubling deficit, but in this case, because of the small sample, more indicative of a hint of things to come than a certainty.

Flagler Chamber Straw Poll, 2014 General Election

Forum VotesCreekside VotesOverall Votes
Congress - District 6
Ron DeSantis55%68%62%
David Cox45%32%38%
Rick Scott55%68%62%
Charlie Crist38%28%33%
Adrian Wyllie7%2%4%
Farid Khavari0%0%0%
Glen Burkett0%2%1%
Attorney General
Pam Bondi66%81%73%
George Sheldon32%17%25%
Bill Wohlsifer2%2%2%
Chief Financial Officer
Jeff Atwater77%83%80%
Will Ranklin23%17%20%
Commissioner of Agriculture
Adam Putnam77%79%74%
Thad Hamilton33%21%26%
State Senate - District 6
John Thrasher40%64%53%
Kathleen Trued42%27%34%
Greg Feldman18%9%13%
Flagler County Commission - District 2
Frank Meeker51%57%54%
Howard Holley49%43%46%
Flagler County Commission - District 4
Nate McLaughlin74%78%76%
Denise Calderwood26%22%24%
Flagler School Board -District 2
John Fischer46%61%54%
Janet McDonald54%39%46%
Palm Coast City Council - District 2
Anne-Marie Shaffer29%10%19%
Heidi Shipley71%90%81%
Palm Coast City Council - District 4
Bill Lewis43%38%41%
Steve Nobile57%62%59%
Amendment 1 - Water and Land Conservation
Amendment 2 - Legalization of Medical Marijuana
Amendment 3 - Governor Appointments of Judicial Vacancies
Circuit Judge
Adam Warren40%
Kathy Weston60%

The school board’s incumbent candidate, John Fischer, is ahead of challenger Janet McDonald by the same margin. McDonald beat Fischer based on those who voted at the forum, but lost to him by a much bigger margin based on those who voted at the Creekside Festival, who may have been more representative of voters at large: forum voters were established members of the business or political class and were largely partisan, but will in the end represent a  minority of voters.

In the two Palm Coast City Council races, Heidi Shipley and Anne-Marie Shaffer are in a runoff for the District 2 seat. Shipley proved to be the [poll’s top vote-getter, with an 81-19 percent win over Shaffer, who has tended to make a poor impression on the campaign trail as she did Tuesday evening. Steve Nobile is challenging incumbent Bill Lewis for the District 4 seat, and comes out with an 18-point lead—larger than expected, though Lewis knew he was in the fight for his political life. His very serious health issues, which kept him sidelined for months, have not helped.

In other results: the medical pot legalizing amendment fails miserably, garnering just 49 percent in the straw poll. Amendments need a 60 percent margin or better to pass. The pot amendment has been losing momentum fast across the state, with the latest poll on the Gulf Coast showing it all but lost, as a result of a sustained campaign by the state’s sheriff’s against it.

Remarkably, Amendment 1, which would protect and conserve natural resources such as recreational lands and waters, also fails, garnering just 50 percent. That’s a surprise in a county that has traditionally been an ardent supporter of environmental measures. Amendment 3, which would give the governor more power to appoint judges, fails convincingly, with just 27 percent approving it. In poll’s last race, Kathy Weston beats Adam Warren for the only circuit court judgeship left to be decided for this circuit.

The results were tabulated only today.

Before then, most candidates running for local and state office and one of the candidates (not the incumbent) running for the congressional seat representing Flagler County placed themselves at the mercy of questions in one of the county’s main election forums Tuesday evening at the Hilton garden Inn.

There were notable exceptions: DeSantis, the Republican incumbent for the congressional district that includes all of Flagler County. DeSantis tends to be a no-show at most local functions, political or otherwise. And Thrasher.

Though there was plenty of time for it, the state university system’s Board of Governors chose not to hold a special meeting before its next session in early November to ratify Thrasher’s appointment, thus forcing a special election to replace Thrasher—which Thrasher, too, favored, as it gives the Republican party more control over his successor, though at a steep cost: assuming Thrasher wins in November (an assumption few bettors would lose money over), the special election may cost upwards of $600,000 to $1 million, which county taxpayers, including Flagler will have to pay.

Meanwhile, Thrasher isn’t taking commitments to his re-election bid too seriously.

The forum was organized by the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, the Flagler Home Builders Association and the Flagler County Association of Realtors, whose officials crafted the questions—and kept them secret until the forum, which was moderated by WNZF’s David Ayres. The forum drew 120 people, including candidates, supporters and organizers. The audience was considerably smaller than at the chamber’s primary forum in the same venue, now that the primary has whittled candidates down to one name per party, if that: Democrats have been a rarity, with no Democrats running for either the county commission or the school board, and only one Democrat left in two races for Palm Coast City Council.

According to Flagler Votes Committee Chair Lea Stokes, the straw poll is a first for the committee and a natural extension of the voter education efforts.
“Our organizations teamed up to create Flagler Votes to educate voters and encourage turnout,” Stokes said in a news release issued this afternoon. “The results of this recent straw poll may not be statistically significant, though they give us some insight as to which way the elections could go.”

Forum video compliments of Office Divvy’s Ky Ekinci: The county commission candidates. More will post subsequently.

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27 Responses for “In Chamber’s Straw Poll, Shipley and Nobile Win Palm Coast, Incumbents Win all County and State Offices and Pot Loses”

  1. Niki says:

    Incumbent County Commissioners will lose.
    Vote for change everyone!!!

    • Richard Calderwood says:

      The Chamber Poll has many flaws, especially when you consider who was manning the computer system. I for ne was not encouraging people to take it, unlike others. I feel the poll is an unreliable indicator. I have never felt “TROUNCED” by anyone, much less by Nate McLaughlin.

      • Will says:

        Richard, what do you mean by :, especially when you consider who was manning the computer system”?

        The story says it’s not a reliable poll but it does give the sense of people who took it voluntarily at two different events in Flagler County. The Chamber is Non-Partisan and your comment is a bit of a slap at the staff and volunteers who were helping.

  2. KB63 says:

    It’s going to be a very interesting (and probably surprising) election. Every person I know, who has probably never voted in their life, who just registered when they got their license, is going to vote because of the medical pot issue. This is incredibly sad but just so true. I think there will be a huge voter turn out – and not those having anything to do with the Chamber or wanting to be educated on the issues. Names will be checked randomly until they get to the all important Amendment #2. The person with the most eye catching sign for people to remember will get votes. No poll is going to tell us anything right now.

  3. Sherry Epley says:

    This straw poll is from Chamber of Commerce Members. . . what else could you expect regarding the incumbents and pot ??!! Are they not mostly Republicans???


    [Note: both polling locations–the Hilton Garden Inn and Creekside Festival–were public, with polling open to non-members as well, just as the forum was open to all.–FL]

    • Nancy N says:

      I agree with Sherry…not a representative poll. “Public” events or not, the sort of people who are likely to show up for these sorts of events are upper middle class older people, which in Flagler County means “conservative Republican”.

      More representative polls, not taken in heavily Republican weighted rooms, show that Scott and Crist are in a dead heat.

      Although thank you for sharing the results. Knowing who that group supports pretty much tells me who NOT to vote for. Homework done.

  4. orphan says:

    Please bear with me here: If Thrasher is voted out of an office that he is going to quit anyhow, and that saves the taxpayers (us) around 1,000,000 dollars, what’s the question? I get the impression that this country is on a roller coaster ride to insanity HELL!
    I say “VOTE HIM OUT NOW”!
    As far as what Senator Thrasher has accomplished during his past years as a senator goes, let that stand on itself. Is this $1million supposed to be his legacy? To ME it will be!

  5. Robin Hood says:

    “Straw Pole”……Is that like a “Wet Noodle” ? Sorry folks, this election will be all about voting ” YES” on Amendment 2. The ONLY people who care about the politicians are the ones “rich” enough to support the candidate who will line their pockets with more money.

  6. kmedley says:

    The program used for conducting the poll required the participant to enter a ticket number as an identification number. It was the PARTICIPANT who entered the number, not the person(s) overseeing the activity. Once the number was entered, each race appeared on separate screens. Again, the participant controlled the screen advancement by clicking NEXT. If a participant decided he or she had not yet decided a particular race, the screen could be advanced to the next race. A review was available before casting the final vote. Many candidates, including Ms. Calderwood, participated in the poll. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Many voters also realized there were many races that still required consideration; and, as a result, they left with a 2014 Election Guide provided by the Chamber.

  7. Frank Diliberto says:

    Hope and change……still waiting

  8. barbie says:

    Oh, come on, really? A poll result from the Chamber, where they skew opposite politically from most regular people, is not really “news”, is it?

    Yes, indeed, someone else said it already–whatever these people are for, vote for the opposite. That means no to Rick Scott and yes to ending the silly government prohibition of a plant.

  9. NortonSmitty says:

    THIS JUST IN: The Camber of Commerce trends Republican and Conservative. In related news, poll of unaffiliated Wolves shows overwhelming opposition to allowing Sheep Protection proposal on ballot.

  10. Groot says:

    This does not at all meet the criteria for a representative sample. I hope it does not influence anyone’s decision to vote or not to vote. Really, not a good thing at all. I have to agree with Ms Epley. Also, polling a bunch of people at a community fest? Come on.

  11. samantha claire says:

    Quite a night at Chamber Forum and some not so surprising poll results. I am a Meeker gal – so there, full disclosure.

    Meeker showed his excellent knowledge and long-time commitment to Flagler County and all of its citizens. Holley has a “plan” yet to be put forth except in his embarrassingly empty electioneering platitudes. His bombastic presentation style rings of nothingness. His “new direction” is uninformed and misleading although very entertaining. His snake oil sales pitch is remarkably good but sells only hot air. Our voters are an intelligent bunch for whom Holley’s candidacy is wearing thin.

    Holley’s ever-tightening connections to the discredited failed Flagler branch of the Reagan assembly outfit looks like a gift to Frank Meeker whose poll numbers, I am told, took yet another uptick over the course of today and this evening after a Reagans’ Flagler surrogate, Rob Radford, a purported Republican (with a small “r”), endorsed him. Reagan officials are endorsing Holley; they are working for him installing and placing his large road signs on the same frames used by their failed commissioner candidate, Mark Richter; Reagan officials have bee his most ardent cheering section at events; advertise their support with personal Holley yard signs and campaign for him; Dennis McDonald, the itchy public political malcontent and well known government basher, now appears to have insinuated himself into Holley’s campaign. Mr. Holley, there is a word for your relationship with this group.

    Go Frank! SC

  12. Michael says:

    You get what you vote for, people bitch and moan about how bad things are here and now you have twi people getting ready to go back in office? How can you possibly vote in Nate and Frank after all the complaining people in this county do, I just do noy understand

  13. tulip says:

    Funny thing about polls—a poll can be taken in one location where the majority are for certain candidates and they would “win”. Take the same poll in another location where the majority are for the opponents and they would “win,”

    • samantha claire says:

      Tulip, Allow me to explain these two poll venues and why Meeker won handily. Holley’s people outnumbered the other candidates’ attendees and supporters at each event by two to three to one. Holley’s people flocked to that poll machine at both places. With that in mind, might it be that many of his “fans” were voting for Meeker? Or, that otherwise Meeker would have won it by about the same as McLaughlin? Hard to take, I know. Many of Holley’s nominal supporters are well regarded professionals; some are sticking by him. But many are now disaffected by his open weirded-up Reagan assembly connections combined with the realities showing he stands for nothing but running for office. Keep Flagler County on track. Go Frank! SC

  14. Ron R. says:

    I agree with most who have posted here — I have ZERO confidence in this very non-scientific poll.

    Let’s come back and look at this after the election, and see how close it was.

  15. YankeeExPat says:

    Sheep !

  16. Feed Up says:

    I hope this is the start of removing the greedy Red Light Camera supporters!

  17. So sad says:

    If people want more of the same old they will vote for the incumbents. If they want hope, they will vote for new blood. There is obvious some disfunction here in Flagler county and we have incumbent commissioners that want to make a career from their elected position with out much results other than for their private interests such as the airport. Look around, I visited Bull Creek Restaurant this week and was flabergasted at the site of the road ways in western Flalger County. Apparently Nate McLaughlin poorly represents these people. The roads were like driving on a wash board in Daytona North area, and the hard top roads are in such poor condition, and poorly maintained. The water rests on the side of the roads, and guard rails are not visible from the growth of plant life. These people are tax payers too and it is sad that they are not getting the service that other areas of the county. Western Flagler County is a view of wonderful landscape that is neglected. No where else in the county have I seen the road ways not maintained, and roads in such poor condition. It looks like the tax payers money was spent on making Bull Creek attractive, and the people were neglected in the process.

  18. confidential says:

    We and all my friends I know voted all incumbents out!
    If all the people that voted McDonald and Richter in the primaries (as they lost not for a lot of votes) now vote for NPA’s Calderwood and Holley added to all their own NPA’s party voters ballots they both should win.
    I know Mr. Nobile will be our next city council for sure and as my child and voter said, ” he is a very nice man”. Also if voters want change to a more positive direction of our city they should vote Mrs. Shaffer as we need change and not another associate to current status quo!
    Look what city is doing rushing the ground opening for 10/29 of city hall obviusly concerned that the new council may oppose it? 6.6 million dollars just because it looks good, for them council and manager but not in our pockets.

  19. A.S.F. says:

    The people who show up to vote (never a large number in our fair city) will decide the contest. Whether they, or anybody else, will end up being “winners” at the end of the day, is debatable. The pool of candidates this time around is less than impressive.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I will NOT vote for Shipley, Lewis, McLaughlin, Meeker, Fischer, Thrasher or Crist and hope you will not either!!!!! It is time we make our voice be heard and let the candidates know the election will depend on results of what you have done since taking office.. No incumbents have shown us nothing for our money and our vote….no results equates to no vote. Our county commissioners are out of control and allow the county attorney and cou ty administrator to run wild. Send Frank Meeker and Nate McLaughlin packing to save Flagler County.

  21. kmedley says:

    Funny thing about straw polls and endorsements. When you either win or receive them, everybody is happy, happy, happy; but, when you neither win nor receive them, then they are labeled as unreliable or not important.

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