Kevin Cichowski’s brief candidacy for the special July 27 election for Palm Coast mayor ended today as oddly as it began a week or so ago–with cryptic statements, a back-handed endorsement of candidate Alan Lowe, and the proposal for an “active shooter system” in the schools.
Dropping out two days after qualifying ended also created a problem for Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart, whom Cichowski had not informed. Lenhart’s office had on Tuesday sent the ballots for the special election to be printed, to its printer in Orlando. What was already estimated to be an election that could cost up to $188,000 might have cost quite a bit more had Cichowski dropped out a day or two later.
“Luckily they had not been printed yet although we sent them the files yesterday,” Lenhart said this morning. Lenhart had been very concerned that had ballots been printed, the city would have had to bear the additional cost. Had those ballots been printed, City Clerk Virginia Smith and Lenhart would have had to decide whether to beep the ballots bearing Cichowski’s name and insert a slip of paper with each ballot, informing voters that Cichowski had dropped out, or run off an entirely new batch. As it is, the ballots will be redesigned without Cichowski’s name.
There may not be an additional cost to the city. That doesn’t mean Cichowski’s decision won’t be costly, in time especially: The supervisor’s office has to prepare the ballot, analyze and proof it and test it before sending it to the printer, as staffers at the office did starting Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday, and go through the process again when it returns. So Cichowski’s decision will have the office go through that process all over again, with the new ballot.
It may also delay mailing out the ballots overseas. “This is an accelerated schedule,” Lenhart said. “We were hoping to meet the 45-day deadline for our overseas voters and our overseas voters in uniform.” To meet the deadline the ballots would have had to be mailed by Friday. That may still happen. Otherwise, they’ll be mailed Monday. And there’ll be a $250 fee to resend the ballot to the printer.
Cichowski, meanwhile, is out $1,140, the election qualifying fee that does not get refunded when a candidate drops out, Smith said.
He first revealed his decision to drop out in an early-morning email to FlaglerLive. The full, unedited email reads as follows: “‘i’m dropping out of the race, due to a family’s members health. I do think Palm coast should install, an active shooter system on it’s schools. It’s basically gps for the police. They would know instantly if someone f’ed with our schools. I do endorse Allen lowe. I think he’s sorry for hating America, and he’s ready to show us, it’s only a short term let’s see what Allen can do giving a second coming I mean chance’ I’ve included pictures for you to look over.. city wide, it’s got issues.. smaller school sized system would be highly accurate.” (Cichowski had previously explained that his dyslexia caused him to make a lot of spelling errors.)
The email followed the pattern of similarly cheeky notes from Cichowski in previous exchanges with FlaglerLive. He would not speak by phone. On June 1, though he’d already filed to run, he wrote that he had “yet to announce my run” and was researching issues. Pressed for some explanation of his interest in running, he plied a reporter with questions about the city instead, and only described himself as “a person that invests in distressed businesses.”
He’d registered two businesses with the Florida Department of Corporations: The Happy Catts LLC, in 2018, and Pearce Holding Group, the same year. Both appear to have been inactive since.
Asked again about his profession, he replied with a one-liner: “I know this, My job is not ambassador Christ.” The line seemed to be a slight against Alan Lowe, who had abjured his citizenship and declared himself a sovereign citizen in the early 1990s, and declared himself an “ambassador for Christ.”
That note from Cichowski was on June 1. His next email came this morning, again referencing Lowe’s past. He was asked if his back-handed endorsement of Lowe was sincere. “Yes I am.,” he replied.
Lowe said this morning that he did not know Cichowski and did not think he’d ever met him. ” I have never ‘hated’ America,” Lowe wrote. He said his first awareness of the endorsement was in the statement Cichowski had made to FlaglerLive. “Having said that, I would accept his endorsement,” Lowe said.
Cichowski’s abandonment of the race leaves six candidates: Lowe, David Alfin, Kathy Austrino, Cornelia Manfre, Carol Bacha, and Doug Courtney. (See: “Candidates from the Obscure to the Expected Piling Up to Run for Palm Coast Mayor in Winner-Takes-All Election.”)