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In Flagler Elections, Primary May Decide Half the Local Races, Including Supervisor

| June 2, 2016

They may all be Republicans, but as things stand now, all voters, regardless of party affiliation may cast a ballot in the Supervisor of Elections race in the Aug. 30 primary, which will decide the outright winner for that office. The same applies to two school board races and to the three races for Palm Coast council, although in Palm Coast's case run-offs are still possible. Above, from left, elections supervisor candidates Kimble Medley, incumbent Kaiti Lenhart, and Abra Seay. (© FlaglerLive)

They may all be Republicans, but as things stand now, all voters, regardless of party affiliation may cast a ballot in the Supervisor of Elections race in the Aug. 30 primary, which will decide the outright winner for that office. The same applies to two school board races and to the three races for Palm Coast council, although in Palm Coast’s case run-offs are still possible. Above, from left, elections supervisor candidates Kimble Medley, incumbent Kaiti Lenhart, and Abra Seay. (© FlaglerLive)

For Flagler County voters—all registered voters, regardless of party–the Aug. 30 primary election, not the Nov. 8 general election, will decide almost half the local races on the ballot.


There’s still time for more candidates to join races: qualifying doesn’t end until June 24. But as things stand today, the race for Flagler County Supervisor of Elections will be decided in the Aug. 30 primary, not on Nov 8, so will the two races for Flagler County School Board, and possibly some or all three races for Mayor and Palm Coast City Council.

In each of these races, all registered voters—Democrats, Republicans, Independents, small parties—get to cast a ballot on Aug. 30. Candidates, the two major parties and elections officials are striving to rattle voters out of the usual primary apathy to get them to the polls. In 2010 and 2014, primary turnout was 22 and 21 percent in Flagler, in 2012 it was still a dismal 25 percent.

All voters always get to participate in non-partisan elections—that is, elections that have no party primaries, including school board and Palm Coast.

But all voters also get to participate in the primary of any partisan election where only candidates of one party are running. That’s the case with the supervisor of elections race. It’s partisan: candidates run as Republican, Democratic or Independent. But this year, all three candidates—incumbent Kaiti Lenhart, Kimble Medley and Abra Seay–are Republican. If that doesn’t change by June 24, then it’s an open election. A 1998 constitutional amendment approved by 64 percent of Florida voters ensured that such primaries be open so that a fraction of the electorate doesn’t decide elections in the absence of contested primaries.

Yet absent a Democrat joining the race, there’s still a maneuver left that could close the supervisor’s race to two-thirds of the electorate anyway: someone could decide to run as a write-in candidate. It’s a cynical and transparent ploy, usually by one of the candidates or the party represented by the candidates, to exclude the more diverse, more moderate electorate and aid the more extreme of the candidates , as primary voters who actually show up at the polls tend to represent the more activist, more radical elements of either parties.

The Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies of Flagler County did just that in two county commission and the clerk of court races in 2012. In all three of those races, only Republicans were in the running. So all voters were going to get a chance to vote—until the write-in candidates joined (without having to pay a dime or gather so much as one petition, as more legitimate candidates have to do). The ploy automatically excluded Democrats and Independents from the vote, or two-thirds of Flagler’s electorate.


A primary that underscores the importance of turnout and diminishes the importance of party affiliation, at least in three races.


In the race for supervisor of elections, Seay and Lenhart have come out explicitly against the write-in ploy. “Speaking as a candidate,” Lenhart said, “I believe that a person should file to run for public office only if they truly intend to do the job, which is to serve the public and provide each eligible voter the opportunity to cast their ballot.”

Seay was even more blunt: “I favor an open primary,” she said in written answers to questions on Wednesday. “The qualifying by petition process has passed its deadline, therefore another candidate would have to qualify by paying the fee or by being a write-in. If another candidate wanted to enter the race for the right reasons (to diligently work for our community, fulfill the duties of an SOE, promote voting, etc.) then I’m all for them entering. But, if another candidate were to enter by fee or by write-in, just to close the primary then I would be adamantly against it. Their actions would deny approximately two-thirds or 66 percent (a majority) of our voters the chance to exercise their right to vote for our next Supervisor of Elections.”

Seay said the Flagler County Republican Club told her it would not be fielding a write-in candidate, and that she had “heard” that the Reagan group would not do so, either. The Reagan group has taken a more low-key approach to this election. But, Seay said, “I was told that there is some speculation that Kim Medley’s campaign will put in a write-in candidate.”

That would be a surprise: Medley has been bitterly critical of the Reagan group in the past, in part because of its incendiary tactics. Asked specifically whether she favored an open or closed primary, and whether she’d favor a write-in to close her race to all but GOP voters, Medley’s answer left at least some room for speculation: “We welcome whatever process is determined at the end of qualifying.”

Medley, subsequently contacted by phone and email about Seay’s claim, responded categorically: “Such speculation is patently false.” But asked specifically about write-in tactics intended expressly to close primaries, she did not disavow them: “Our campaign will not be the arbiter for the primary,” Medley wrote. “We will adhere to a motto learned through many years of Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting; we will ‘Be Prepared’.”

Incumbent Colleen Conklin is a Democrat, challenger Jason Sands is a Republican, but in an ostensibly non-partisan school board race, all voters get to cast a ballot regardless of party affiliation. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Incumbent Colleen Conklin is a Democrat, challenger Jason Sands is a Republican, but in an ostensibly non-partisan school board race, all voters get to cast a ballot regardless of party affiliation. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

If there is no write-in candidate in the elections supervisor race, the vote on Aug. 30, regardless of the outcome, will decide the winner, even if the top vote-getter gets less than 50 percent, Lenhart said.

That’s also the case with the school board races. Two seats are up: The District 3 seat held by Colleen Conklin, who is running again, and the District 5 seat held by Sue Dickinson, who is not running. Two Democrats and two Republicans are facing off in District 5, and in District 3, it’s one Democrat against one Republican. But all voters, regardless of party affiliation, may vote in both races, and the winner in each is the outright winner, whatever the margin. Two years ago, for example, incumbent John Fischer faced three challengers. He lost by 23 votes to Janet McDonald, with Fischer and McDonald each getting fewer than 33 percent. Yet McDonald was the declared winner (even though her 4,087 votes represented just 5.8 percent of the registered electorate: that was a reflection of the very poor turnout of 19 percent.)

Since the school board race is non-partisan, the write-in ploy would have no effect there. Nor would it in the Palm Coast City Council elections, which are also ostensibly non-partisan. But in Palm Coast, the top vote-getter in the Aug. 30 primary is declared the winner only if he or she clears the 50 percent hurdle. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters go on to a run-off in the general election on Nov. 8.

Twelve candidates are in the running in Palm Coast—four for mayor, five in the District 1, and three in the District 3 seat. The districts are meaningless, as far as voters are concerned: all seats are considered at-large, in that all Palm Coast voters, no matter their district (or their party affiliation) may cast a ballot in all three races. The Republican-Democratic breakdown between the candidates is roughly even, and given the number of candidates, it is more likely than not that some of the races will yield a run-off.

The remaining races on the primary ballot are more traditional primaries: four Republicans are contesting the county commission seat held by incumbent Charlie Ericksen, with one Democrat—Jason DeLorenzo—in the running. Democratic incumbents Barbara Revels and George Hanns have not pulled challengers in the primary, but four Republicans are contesting their primaries between the two seats, guaranteeing a primary and a general election in all three races, and making the write-in ploy in those races moot.

The sheriff’s race is the most active of the season, with incumbent Democrat Jim Manfre drawing one opponent in Larry Jones, making it the county’s only contested Democratic primary. Six Republicans and one Independent are also running, guaranteeing a three-way general election unless a candidate drops out. The tax collector and property appraiser races are uncontested, the clerk of court race barely so.

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9 Responses for “In Flagler Elections, Primary May Decide Half the Local Races, Including Supervisor”

  1. Jack Howell, PhD says:

    Interesting that rumors are starting about the SOE race. I can tell you that Kim Medley is not going to have somebody pop up as a “Write In”. She does not play that type of nonsense nor do the other candidates. Of course, nobody can stop it should some spoiler decide to play this hand as the RRRA did a few years ago. The ladies running for this position are all above board.

  2. tulip says:

    There are over 20,000 independent voters and a little over 1800 minor party voters. That’s a lot of people that could be voting in a Primary if it were open. As I’ve listened to how the states differ in their rules and watched them play out in this presidential election, I’ve become disgusted. Not having open primaries makes voting less than accurate and maybe a sham.

    I remember when the Reagan radicals closed off the primaries because their own candidates were weak and that’s the only way they would be able to win. So much for ethics and ever person having the right to vote.

    Maybe because of Bernie, the whole voting rules and regulations will be changed and standardized throughout the country and allow all registered voters to vote in primaries. I think the results of them being open would create a far more accurate overview of who people really want as their leaders.

  3. just me says:

    IMO all primary’s should be open to only those within a particular party. Ds vote for Ds Rs for Rs. If one does not want to be a part of any party then they should not get a voice in shaping that they are not a part of. If only candidates are running from ONE party it should be up to the other to put up a candidate.

  4. wishful thinking says:

    Isn’t it about time FLORIDUH… revise voters registration as in Virginia where one does not have to chose any party when registering to vote… Elections are open 100% of the time. Why must we always be last in fairness?

  5. Ben Hogarth says:

    If you want to fix the election system then remove the party system. That way the money isn’t funneled through a series of bureaucratic processes and you can see which companies bought which candidates.

    But if you want to fix America – remove private money from politics and government altogether

  6. Anonymous says:

    One does NOT need to choose a party when registering to vote in FLA. Elections ARE open to100% of registered voters. What is being talked about is Party primary’s.

  7. mrsdondarrian says:

    ALL voters should be able to register to vote up to and on election day – every election! That would be fair here in Florida.

  8. Brad W says:

    First, it would be a TRAVESTY if Kim (aka Kimble) Medley was actually elected as our Supervisor of Elections. She has been far less than fully honest with voters about her background including the fact that she was vying (quite aggressively too) for the backing of the Ronald Reagan group in 2012 with her disapproval of the group beginning only after she did not get that. Let’s look at her ACTUAL background (which you can also view on her application for the Palm Coast Code Enforcement Board on pg 40 https://flaglerlive.com/wp-content/uploads/code-enforcement.pdf):

    1. After helping Kim Weeks with her campaign in 2008, she quit the Clerk of Courts Office and went to work for the Supervisor of Elections Office in 2009.

    2. She quit the Supervisor of Elections Office after only about 7 months employment citing a stressful work environment during the last election.

    3. After quitting in 2009, Ms Medley filed for unemployment which she was not entitled to because she quit voluntarily. She was later ordered to repay over $4,000 back that she had received

    4. Ms. Medley has not held a job since quitting the Supervisor of Elections in 2009

    5. Ms. Medley has moved about 7 times since moving to Flagler County in 2004 which is an average of 1.7 years at each residence.

    All of these points would be major “flags” for any employer and Ms. Medley not only is applying for a $95,000/year tax payer job with us, she conveniently leaves these details out everywhere.

    Second, Ms. Medley is far less than transparent and would be a step backwards to what we had with Kim Weeks who handled the public in much the same fashion with non-sensible and evasive answers. Recently when I questioned Ms. Medley about statements of “saving the City and County thousands of dollars” on her campaign Facebook page I received personal messages from her social media person (Luis) telling me Kim will only answer questions in face-to-face meetings which I found absurd. So when I offered to meet and live broadcast her responses on Facebook, I was told “no” that would not be an option. We DO NOT need anyone like Kim (Kimble) Medley holding ANY of our local offices. She is an example of the problem and not by any means the solution to anything.

    Kaiti Lenhart and Abra Seay are the only real candidates in that race and the only ones with anything of real value to offer for the position. I lean more towards Lenhart because she has proven she is up to the task and doing a pretty good job so far.

  9. Anonymous says:

    When candidates run for public office after they have demonstrated inability to be a leader it is best that we don’t vote for them. Abra Seay ran a VPK daycare in Bunnell and I believe it went into foreclosure and I believe employees were not able to file for unemployment because she was paying in cash and not paying required employer taxes. Kimble Medley collected unemployment after walking off the job at the SOE office and was taken to court to make her repay it because she was not entitled to it. Kaiti Lenhart is the only candidate running for SOE that hasn’t demonstrated the same inability to lead…….lets use some common sense when we cast our vote. Do your homework on the candidates and make informed choices.

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