7:30 p.m. Update: Bunnell City Commissioner Elbert Tucker was re-elected today, and Bill Baxley, on his second try, was also elected, while long-time commissioner Daisy Henry lost her seat, resulting in a momentous change that re-aligns voting blocs away from Mayor Catherine Robinson and toward Tucker and Commissioner John Rogers. Baxley is a Tucker and Rogers ally.
Tucker won with 122 votes, Baxley had 121, and Henry 117. The top two vote-getters were automatically elected. A couple of provisional votes will be counted on Friday, but that’s not enough to make a difference in the results.
“I’m surprised. I am. I thought I was going to be the low man,” Tucker said. He was the top man instead. “What a deal. By one vote.”
Tucker spent the past five years casting dissenting vote after dissenting vote. The election means that for the first time, he will be in the majority, and likely lead the new majority, casting Mayor Catherine Robinson in a minority role she has not often known.
“We’ll hopefully be able to do what’s best for the citizens, as always,” Tucker said. “That’s always what I’ve tried to do, and guard the public liberty, and maybe I’ll be able to better accomplish that goal. But it will be a team effort.” He added: “The Lone Ranger just has another person in the team. maybe. We’ll see.”
Henry had spent the day ferrying supporters to the polls in her own car. It proved to be not enough.
The earlier story:
Every Bunnell city election you can count on two things. Three, if you include low voter turn-out: the candidates and their spouses sit in lawn chairs at the foot of the old courthouse and try to solicit what few voters show up across the way at the old Bunnell City Hall, the election’s only polling station. Few voters do. Meanwhile, the smell of frying oil from the Bantam Chef, the small restaurant nearby, wafts over the candidates in waves pungent and persistent enough to make you want to check your cholesterol.
This is also where the candidates usually end up spending more times chatting it up with each other than with voters—to pass the time or to not get too nervous, though today incumbent Elbert Tucker and challenger Bill Baxley seemed no less relaxed than at a Sunday cookout. They were in a three-way race, along with incumbent Daisy Henry, for two seats on the commission. The top two vote-getters were to be the winners.
Henry was not soliciting. She was driving voters to the polls.
She would appear periodically in her blue car, bringing in voter after voter, some of them frail enough that they needed her help to go up the steps and into the voting booths: polling places are forbidden to anyone not voting (or not a poll worker or poll watcher), though the likes of City Manager Armando Martinez and former police chief Arthur Jones, neither of whom is a Bunnell resident, made appearances inside the polling place Tuesday afternoon. Jones was shuttling voters to the polls just as Henry was.
Henry could get around the prohibition through another allowance: voters may be aided to the booth by someone else. Henry, in other words, was not only driving in her own stream of voters, but walking them to the ballot that bore her name. She was quite busy. The polls weren’t closing until 7 p.m.
Baxley and Tucker looked on, bemused, shrugging off the scene as just another Bunnellian quirk. But the sort of quirk that usually yields victory. There are just 1,168 registered voters in Bunnell. Tucker mailed a letter to each one of them. Some 120 letters were returned, netting just over 1,000 actual voters. If 100 turned up, that would give Bunnell a turnout just over 10 percent. By 3:15 p.m. 133 voters had cast a ballot, and 23 additional ballots were sent in absentee. The after-work rush was still due.
The election itself is being run by Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks, not the city, which took care of election matters up to Election Day. The election costs roughly $2,500, City Clerk Dan Davis said.
At one point a Weeks employee and a poll worker attempted to keep a FlaglerLive reporter from taking pictures inside the 100-foot no-solicitation zone, saying it was against the law. They were wrong. Weeks was summoned to the scene, as was Lt. Randy Burke of the Bunnell Police Department. After a call to the state elections office, Weeks acknowledged that, in fact, there was no law prohibiting a reporter from being inside the 100-foot zone, or taking pictures there, though she said it was her preference that that not be the case. Weeks’s poll workers have on occasion misinterpreted the law and, as was the case Tuesday, rudely harassed reporters at voting locations. (Reporters are not only allowed inside no-soliciting zones, as long as they are not interfering with the voting process: they are also allowed to conduct exit polling at the door of voting precincts. They are not allowed inside the voting zones.)
In 2010, Tucker and Henry were reelected without opposition. Two years before that, they were in a three-way race for two seats, like today. But the ballot was part of a presidential primary, which brought out more voters than usual. Tucker ended up the top vote-getter, with 285. Henry was second, with 230. John Rogers was third, with 182.
Between Baxley and Tucker, at least one of them was assured election. But neither was considering it a victory if one of them lost. “If I don’t get in and Ms. Henry gets in, it’ll be the same as usual,” Baxley said. “Same old, same old.”
He was referring to the established 3-2 split on the Bunnell City Commission: On many matters, Tucker is usually in dissent, along with Commissioner John Rogers, with Henry, Commissioner Jenny Crain-Brady and Mayor Catherine Robinson maintaining a majority bloc. If Tucker and Henry are re-elected, nothing changes. Nothing would change if Baxley and Henry are elected, either. Baxley aligns himself with Tucker, but replacing him merely replaces a name-plate, not the commission’s alignment. That would happen only if both Baxley and Tucker are elected—a prospect Martinez dreads, because his job may be in jeopardy: Tucker and Rogers support him, but don’t champion him, and may be interested in a change. Baxley’s addition would provide them the majority they’ve long sought.
“There needs to be a change,” Tucker said. “If I get elected and he doesn’t, and I get elected and he doesn’t, the commission stays the same. We’ll have the three votes that generally vote one way, and we’ll have the two votes that generally vote one way.”
Baxley and Tucker had been joined by Jan Reeger, a Bunnell resident and real estate broker who’d run for the Flagler County Commission in 2008. She then chaired Bunnell’s Community Redevelopment Agency. She had just voted.
“I don’t know that it would do me any damage if somebody else won, but these two were my choices,” Reeger said, pointing to Baxley and Tucker. “I used to attend a lot of the meetings. I watched Elbert. I’m perfectly capable of having disagreements, but for the most part I’m extremely impressed with the research that he did. To me that’s important.” She then addressed Tucker directly: “I think you take firm stands on issues. You’re sometimes the objector. You don’t fall into those patterns. You stand forward and forth for what you believe.” She got to know Baxley over conversations with him, as Baxley knocked on doors and spoke with a considerable number of people over time. He did that more in this election cycle than he did two years ago.
Of Henry, Regeer said: “I have a great deal of respect for her. I think she’s a wonderful person and I think she has good intentions. I’m just not sure she might do some of the research or look into some of the matters fully. I think he may kind of slide along with what looks like the easy road. And again, I adore Daisy. She’s a wonderful person.”
Jan Reeger says
I have a favorite saying. “No expectations, no disappointments.”
But, in this case, I do have some high expectations.
WOW! 30% voter turn out. Thats impressive especially considering our neighbors to the north had less than 12% at their last City Council election.
Congratulations to both winners and a heart felt THANK YOU to Miss Daisy.
Quick results. I’m impressed. Good job ladies and gentlemen.
Thank goodness, who thought basic literacy would make the difference in 2013?
I’m thankful that the South side took a stand and got out and voted I’m so tired of the issue about Ms. Henry s literacy
Of the 1,168 letters mailed by Daisy Henry, why were 120 of them returned? I’d like to have the answer to that one and I hope that Ms. Henry will find out.
Sounds to me like 120 people should not be on the voter rolls any longer. Why are those names still there?
The letters reported were mailed by Mr. Tucker, not Ms. Henry. Good question about the 120 returned regardless…
Charles Gardner says
Maybe voters have moved because of the economy and they didn’t let the elections office know. Ms Henry needs to let the elections office know of this returned mail so they can investigate or she should go to the post office and ask them why the mail wasn’t delivered. I am always getting someone else’s mail.
I have an idea martinez cloud might have just lost its silver lining.
John DeWitt says
Two votes from my household to Tucker and Baxley. Miss Henry’s grammatically disasterous campaign letter was all the convincing I needed not to vote for her. Same for my wife.
“At one point a Weeks employee and a poll worker attempted to keep a FlaglerLive reporter from taking pictures inside the 100-foot no-solicitation zone, saying it was against the law. They were wrong. Weeks was summoned to the scene, as was Lt. Randy Burke of the Bunnell Police Department. After a call to the state elections office, Weeks acknowledged that, in fact, there was no law prohibiting a reporter from being inside the 100-foot zone, or taking pictures there, though she said it was her preference that that not be the case. Weeks’s poll workers have on occasion misinterpreted the law and, as was the case Tuesday, rudely harassed reporters at voting locations. (Reporters are not only allowed inside no-soliciting zones, as long as they are not interfering with the voting process: they are also allowed to conduct exit polling at the door of voting precincts. They are not allowed inside the voting zones.)”
At least Weeks and her employees are consistent, consistently wrong and rude.
Kmedley, thank you for your comments on this.
Do you have any idea why those letters would come back? You sound like you might have some inside knowledge of the situation. Is it likely Ms. Henry will find out? Hope she does. I have a feeling it might be important.
Magnolia-Kmedley is just good at copying and pasting.
If I remember correctly, when mail is returned, if a forwarding address has been noted by the Post Office, I think the SOE enters the new address (if in county) and mails the voters a new card. If the address is out of county the address is entered and the voter should be pulled into that county by that SOE’s office. I have not fully researched this. There is also the list maintenance program which should be conducted this year. A post card is mailed to all voters to confirm their address. If they are returned by the Post Office, then there is a process that is completed before that voter is removed from the voting lists. All Ms. Henry has to do is to ask to see those letters that were returned and compare them to the results of the most recent List Maintenance to see if the address is the reason for the return.
The supervisor is consistent; she is consistent with treating everyone fair with conducting excellent elections.
Follow the rules and respect the SOE says
Weeks’ preference should be respected. She is the Supervisor, and looks out for the best interest of the voter, and is ultimately responsible. Sounds to me the rules were challenged to see how far they could be bent. Excellent call Weeks. When I go to vote I don’t want to go thru mobs of people to enter my polling location.
Weeks is a Constitutional Officer and as such she takes an oath to uphold the U.S. and State Constitution. Her preference is not the determining factor; the Florida Statutes are.
F.S. 102.031(4)(a)(b) clearly outlines the requirements of the 100 ft. rule. This statute was designed to prevent candidates and their supporters from soliciting voters as they enter the polling room. It does not prohibit members of the media from taking photos within that area and/or conducting exit polling. The rules are listed within the statutes and in the Polling Place Procedures Manual issued by the Florida Department of State. One reporter does not constitute “mobs of people” and the groups that were present at the outlying perimeters of the 100 ft. zone during the primary and general elections did not violate the law.
Weeks has been the SOE since 2009 and this latest act of attempting to impose her preference clearly demonstrates she either does not bother to read the rules that govern her office; or, she reads them and makes a calculated decision to ignore them and anticipates voters and members of the media will not take the time to read them either and/or question her.
Still, I hope Henry will find out why 120 letters were returned and what Weeks does with them. It is her job to find out where each of those voters are and if necessary, remove them from the voter roll.
How about it, Ms. Weeks? I know you are reading this.
I am one resident of this town thank that mrs daisey should have won but some of the peoples that went door to door went agentst her too they turned ther votes the other way.