Contrary to fears or assumptions that this would be an unsettled or violent election season, it’s proceeding quietly and with poise in Flagler but for a few notable exceptions: The 53,000 Flagler County voters who have cast ballots in record pre-Election Day numbers have done so patiently and civilly, at times standing in long lines for up to an hour or more on their feet, in the heat and, especially at the Palm Coast Community Center, without shade.
But if voters have been model citizens so far, and they have, a very small handful of candidates or party operatives, particularly in the Republican Party, have been a little less so: their actions have required the interventions of poll deputies, of Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart and of sheriff’s deputies.
No incident has risen to the level of so much as a misdemeanor. No one has been arrested. There’s been no physical altercations. But there’s been a few threats, a few insults, the crossing of 150-foot no-solicitation zones, some yelling between campaign tents, and intense internal flare-ups between different factions of Republicans, whose party controls most elected seats in the county.
“Overall they’re getting along fine, and everybody is really behaving, they’re cohabitating in a very tight space together,” Lenhart said at the beginning of the week with characteristic cheer. Her focus was on the ongoing surge in voting. But the incidents at voting sites have distracted her on occasion, whether it’s the Republican tents’ misuse of sample ballots to sway voters or overly aggressive soliciting, yelling across tents or doing anything that could be interpreted as intimidation.
“I talked to both tents, the Republican and Democratic tents are right next to each other there,” Lenhart said of the set-up at the Government Services Building, where her office and one of the three early voting locations is located. Lines can stretch within close proximity of those tents, and candidates or their volunteers have at times been unruly. “Voters are watching, and I don’t know if that’s the kind of behavior they want to have representing their political organization. It doesn’t look right.”
The internal acrimony within Republican circles led Sen. Travis Hutson, also a Republican, to intervene this week as he called Lenhart and Dave Sullivan, a member of the Republican Executive Committee board and a county commissioner, after he got reports of unseemly or slanderous behavior within Republican ranks, namely in the Milissa Holland-Alan Lowe race for mayor and other races for the Palm Coast City Council, which, along with the Trump reelection movement, have been ground zero of this election cycle’s tawdriest behavior. (See “GOP Infighting and Ugly Turns in Palm Coast Mayoral Race Draw Sen. Hutson’s and Supervisor’s Interventions.”)
In a related sideshow illustrating the rifts, the local REC issued a statement Monday attacking a political action committee that calls itself Trump Team 2020 and that supports Holland. “Over the past few weeks, mailers, social media post, text messages, phone calls and televised commercials have been used to mislead Flagler County voters. Trump Team 2020 PC is not affiliated with the Flagler County Republican Committee, the Republican Party of Florida, the Donald J. Trump for President campaign, or Trump Victory,” Jearlyn Dennie, who chairs the local REC, said in the statement. She called the PAC a an “illicit source” and a “dishonest organization has been shamefully deceiving Flagler County voters into believing President Trump is supporting one candidate over another in the Palm Coast mayoral or city council races.”
Today Annie Marie Delgado, who heads Trump Team 2020, issued a statement of her own, accusing Dennie of issuing a “false and defamatory statement” against an organization that’s “registered thousands and thousands of Republicans with the mission of reelecting President Donald J. Trump.” Delgado said her organization at no time portrayed itself the way Dennie described it, and that the PAC was never “denounced” by Trump’s campaign. “I find it ironic and hypocritical that the Flagler County Republican Party chair would violate the GOP charter/bylaws by working against a Republican then falsely accuse our organization of actions we have taken that are completely within our rights, are 100% based in fact and are in keeping with our steadfast support of President Donald J. Trump,” Delgado wrote.
She was referring to the same conflict that would reverberate in some of the few incidents documented by FlaglerLive through a complete examination of all election-related calls to the sheriff’s office since early voting began (there’s not been a dozen, most of which were not even incidents). A summary of those incidents follows.
On Sunday at the Community Center, an unknown person confronted Bob Updegrave, a dean of the local Republican Party, when the the man uprooted a Milissa Holland sign, threw it across the parking lot and got in Updegrave’s face, yelling obscenities and such things as “what are you going to do about it?” A sheriff’s report notes a deputy spoke with the man, who did not dispute that he’d picked up the sign, claiming it was too close to his personal space. The deputy warned the man to control himself or he’d be asked to leave. The man’s name was not noted, though he appeared to be known to law enforcement. Soon after deputies left, the man again confronted Updegrave and was heard hurling a threat: “Someone overheard the male say I’m going to come back and shoot the MF,'” the 911 dispatcher reported. But no further incidents ensued after the man left, and Updegrave has kept manning his polling location.
“I feel perfectly fine being there myself, having my wife there and other volunteers,” he said. “My only difficulty is with some of the Republican thugs.” He had not misspoken: asked to repeat what he’d said, he repeated the description: he was alluding to a deep and ongoing rift within the Republican Party in Flagler that has bitterly pitted one group of Republicans against another. The rift is especially prominent in the race for City Council, with incumbents Milissa Holland and Nick Klufas on one side, and candidates Alan Lowe, Ed Danko and Victor Barbosa on the other.
The day before, Barbosa was at the center of an intervention by the sheriff’s office and Lenhart herself after inappropriately confronting a polling deputy at the early voting site at the public library in Palm Coast, where Barbosa, Lowe and Danko have been aggressively campaigning together the two weeks of early voting.
The polling deputy there, Joseph Dipaolo, reported to the sheriff’s office that Barbosa was violating the 150-foot no-solicitation zone and unlawfully entering the polling station “while wearing a political shirt with his name on it as well as a hat with the same insignia,” according to the sheriff’s report. Earlier in the day Dipaolo had found Barbosa walking into the zone with political signs, which is not allowed, and parking his campaign-sign-addled truck within the 150-foot zone, also not allowed.
Dipaolo tried to explain the rules to Barbosa, who was “argumentative and went back and forth with Poll Deputy Dipaolo, while standing close to his face, almost touching chests,” the report states. “At some point during this, [Barbosa] took out his phone, possibly recording, and stated, ‘Don’t touch me.'” When Precinct Clerk David Preat was alerted to the issue and went outside, he saw Barbosa “yelling” in Dipaolo’s face, though neither men made contact with each other. Preat got between them and broke up the confrontation, only for Barbosa to then argue with Preat, according to the report.
Lenhart at the scene determined that no law enforcement action was necessary as long as Barbosa remained out of the 150-foot zone and the polling location. She made allowance for Barbosa to cross into the zone to use the library’s restroom, “however,” the sheriff’s report states, “it is unverified what Barbosa’s] actions were while he was inside the building today.” As for the truck, “Lenhart advised that, due to the truck being there before the zones were established, it may stay there,” the incident report states. (“That parking spot is not fully within the 150 feet” that was measured on the first day of early voting, Lenhart clarified today.)
Last week Lowe himself called the Sheriff’s Office. It was the late morning on Oct. 22. He wanted to report that he was receiving death threats. He blamed it on Holland and on Delgado’s political action committee, which had disseminated texts and a video commercial tying Lowe to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. In the early 1990s Lowe had renounced his citizenship and declared himself a “sovereign citizen,” a movement that the FBI has unquestionably connected to domestic terrorism, though Lowe himself says it was a brief and inactive phase when he was battling the Internal Revenue Service over unpaid taxes, and exploring new avenues in his personal faith. (Holland said she has no knowledge of the ad Lowe is referring to.)
In fact, Lowe had not been threatened, at least not according to state law’s definition of a threat, as a sheriff’s deputy soon found out. “He has had several people walk past his tent saying rude statements,” the deputy reported, according to sheriff’s dispatch notes. “Lowe advised me that he hasn’t received any threats over the phone or any threats in person.”
“Nobody has said that, they said I should be hung or I should be executed,” Lowe told the deputy, saying he wasn’t worried for himself so much as for his fiancee, home alone. “I don’t know what can actually be done about it but I just want a record of it made.” The deputy who agreed it was “terrible,” attributing it to “that time of the year.” (Lowe in his encounter with the deputy then went into campaign mode, describing Holland as “stupid”). He told the deputy that he does carry a gun. “I’m just letting you guys know, if somebody comes up,” Lowe told the deputy, waving his hands and leaving the rest to the deputy’s imagination.
Two other incidents involve concerns from voters. The first day of early voting, a voter reported the supervisor of elections, the sheriff’s office and Palm Coast City Hall what he described in an email as “a hostile experience encountered at around 10:15 this morning near the entrance of the Palm Coast Community Center.”
“While standing in line for my handicapped wife,” the voter reported, “I noticed an elder gentleman approach her as she stood across from me taking in the shade of a palm near the front door.” He took the conversation to be small talk. It wasn’t. The man with the dog was telling his wife to vote Trump. “I can’t help you there,” she told him. “Then you’ll become a socialist,” the man with the dog told her. “Oh, well,” she replied. He then started broadcasting to the rest of the line: “She’s voting Democrat.”
“I don’t know if this sort of behavior is a concern for the general population, but it concerns me,” the voter wrote. “And, I must tell you I am considering my options at this point. But before I do, I would like to know what your agency will do with my complaint and what can be discussed to put it in proper context as I’m sure some might think this is acceptable behavior.” The email was forwarded to the city clerk, who referred him to the sheriff’s office if he felt threatened. He did so on Wednesday, finding out from a deputy that no threat had taken place.
And finally, Wednesday morning, an F-Section resident contacted the Sheriff’s Office to report what he took to be accurate, but what is in fact bogus fearmongering disseminated here and there on social media: that there would be “BLM and Antifa riots” the day after the election, and that one such riot was scheduled for Palm Coast. The Sheriff’s Office forwarded the information to its “tips” office.
Meanwhile, voting has continued largely untroubled, ending Thursday, with two days left of early voting, with some 53,500 ballots already cast and a 58 percent turnout so far in the election. (See our earlier story today, “Ballots Cast in Flagler Near 90% of 2016 Total, But Turnout Record Still Distant Absent Massive Election Day Surge.”)
Lenhart has not been unduly distracted by candidates or volunteers playing beyond their sandboxes. “I’ve been out to speak with each tent here at the elections office each day and everyone is getting along fine,” Lenhart said on Wednesday.
White Bronco says
This election as a whole is the greatest example of the “Dunning- Kruger Effect,”’that the world has ever seen. I remember when the great American pastime was baseball, not politics. Hopefully these zealots can make politics boring again somehow, but down their little bullhorns, and get back to the realities of actual life, not this agenda fueled nonsense. Barf. Sick of it all. Get a life.
Good grief. We’ve got some real weiners here.
Lowe, Danko and Barbosa, the 3 stooges. They better not come within my personal space while in line to cast my vote, within or outside of the boundary. I am ashamed to be a Flagler County Republican in 2020 due to the 3 stooges, a former “sovereign nation” a former CNN employee, and a man who has run for and lost every election possible.
If Mr Barbosa is getting into “In your Face Confrontations”, its worth noting that on Tuesday afternoon he had a pistol tucked into his shorts. I noticed it when he was reinstalling his canopy.
Concerned Citizen says
See something say something.
Depending on if he has a CWP he might of been illegally carryin. And even if he has a CWP there are restrictions on how and where it may be carried. I know because I have one myself. And there are places I cannot carry. And it must be worn properly as well.
Even with a CWP it is illegal in the state of Florida to allow your fire arm to be noticable. IE leaving a print under your shirt. or displaying in a manner easily seen to the public.
Concerned Citizen says
No this article isn’t biased at all.
When I went to vote I was aggresively approached by several democratic campaigners. One harrased me all the way in. Then his partner wanted to know how I voted on the way out. I politley said it’s none of your busniess.
Both sides have behaved less than admirably during this entire election season. But our media outlets will spin it to only point fingers at one.
Again, The only thing I am looking forward to is it being over.
This election season more than ever has taught me one thing. When someone asks your political opinion my replies are No comment and it’s none of your busniess. Because once you open your mouth unless your opinion matches theirs you’re a bad guy.
The article should have made clear that both sides’ candidate and volunteers have been as gluey as ever, their tents hugging the path to the polling site at the library, their manners no nor subtle than telemarketers, except in person. But the article is focused on incidents that have risen to the level of calls to and interventions by authorities. To date, And in the documents we’ve analyzed—-neither the sheriff nor the supervisor have any reason to be selective—-those incidents have been exclusively the result of Republican tent action. There is no bias in documentation.
BIG Neighbor says
Florida Statute 104.0615 Voter intimidation or suppression prohibited; criminal penalties.—
(2) A person may not directly or indirectly use or threaten to use force, violence, or intimidation or any tactic of coercion or intimidation to induce or compel an individual to: (b) Vote or refrain from voting for any particular individual or ballot measure; (5) A person who violates subsection (2), subsection (3), or subsection (4) commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
Where do you draw the line? As benign as these types of behaviors seem, the more it occurs, the more it becomes normal. Getting this documented as public record is the first step of doing something about it, other than making it into something it is not or minimalizing it (propaganda). Complacency is not the answer especially if it triggers violence.
Having a formal process to file complaints with the Supervisor of Election and not distract law enforcement is an answer. Push for reforms like these as well as others that exposes cracks in the system. Ask and make sure your vote got counted. Create watchdog protections on Canvassing Boards to ensure transparency per Sunshine Laws.
I voted at the government services building. When a poll watcher told a person carrying a Biden sign she couldn’t have the sign within the no soliciting zone, a woman from the Democratic tent got right in the poll watcher’s face and berated him loudly, saying she could walk to her car with the sign. She was a large woman with a rainbow shirt on. Her behavior was less than stellar. On the way out the same poll watcher had a woman remove a Trump sign she placed on her car when she exited to vote, which started a short conversation that ended when the woman removed the sign. Those were the only “events” I saw when I voted. The bigger picture that is being ignored by the MSM and Flagler Live is the violence that was perpetrated by left-wing antifa members across the country in particularly Democrat-controlled cities. Even more egregious is the total left-wing media blackout of the Biden corruption scandal, complete with eyewitness accounts and irrefutable evidence as indicated by the Biden family’s refusal to deny the allegations and choosing instead to dismiss the whole thing by labeling it another Russian conspiracy, without a shred of evidence. As I’ve always said, the only thing the left fears is the truth.
Bill C says
Maybe if you got out of the Fox News echo chamber you would have heard of the Proud Boys and the Wolverine Watchmen.
What cities are they burning down and what does that have to do with Biden lying to America about not knowing anything of his son’s business dealings when there is evidence he is allowing his family to profit immensely off his name and office? Stop picking the fly shit out of the pepper and look at the big picture: Democrats have once again picked the worst possible candidate while some of their constituents are destroying America. I do watch CNN and they’re still blaming it all on Russia.
I wonder if any votes would be different if the voters were informed that the FBI is investigating the Trump Administration for inticing its Texas followers to run a Biden Harris bus off the road.
Stephen Ward says
I can only say IMO the Psychological retracements of Group thoughts by the existing Administration in conditioning the Masses to certain behavior as acceptable is not something POTUS is new at. He has a PHD in this respect. His entire life has been in a self consumed bubbl.e where one can insulate themselves from critic and perfect the Craft.Surround themselves with YES Men Staff who reinforce the ruse.This is his safe place, alernate Reality. DJTs day to day mishandling of our Countries vision ideals and values has reduced an individuals life down to mishap. Oh Well. It is what it is. The continual extent to the depth of misinformation right up to an Election to influene for a Vote unprotected continuously defying Science and the odds of contagion is appalling. This is Trump Politics for personal enrichment. His Family born and raised of the same ego driven mantra of a fragile childish oneway immature man child. The graven extent to which he His Family Administration Allys and Backers have committed Moral Turptitude on Americans is shameful that WE let it happen. God Bless VOTE Accordingly.
I guess, since the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is combative, decisive, argumentative and just plain rude, how would you expect his acolytes to act any differently. Let’s go back to a less toxic time when people worked for a common cause. Say NO to the Trump influence on Election Day or whenever you vote.
The 150 foot limit should be expanded to 1,000. Treat these political terrorists the same way we treat sexual perverts. The block entrances, take up parking spaces and serve no useful purpose. Nobody who is going tot vote is going to be influenced by these idiots, the only purpose is to terrorize voters.
Celia M Pugliese says
I have seeing in district 27 our community center the overbearing GOP party posting Trump signs in the public right of way of Club House Drive that is illegal. Done several days until I called the city code enforcement and were removed. Also posted along our publicly owned Palm Harbor Golf Course that were removed as well and they had the nerve to post at least one in our HOA common wall that was also removed as was not approved by ARC. So Pierre’s editorial is not bias is the reality as was Barbosa that doesn’t know me denouncing me “a friend of the Mayor” because my post in favor of retaining Holland as she is the only one since our city incorporation that made city government responsive to us and many of our request regarding improvements and or repairs to preserve our quality of life and safety have been granted. Many know that myself and other Palmcoaster’s attend council meetings asking for solutions of problems that don’t even affect me directly, but all of us and Holland, Manager and Departmental heads hear us and resolve most of them. By the way I never seeing in all these years attending city or county meetings asking or in support of other resident any of the three: Barbosa, Lowe or Danko except now while they started campaigning. Have to say that for years the one that attends those meetings is Dennis McDonald. I posted to Mr. Barbosa that I am not yet a friend of the Mayor but sure appreciate what she’s done so far including her mask mandate (totally ignored while door knocking campaigning by some, OMG they lost that vote). Also the Mayor organized the fundraisings for the food banks to help our unemployed residents as well. If Mayor is reelected and gives us her support for thousands affected residents around Matanzas and Palm Harbor Golf courses/land in peril now and puts our existing residents quality of life and safety preservation first (as our city charter reads) when it comes to well planned growth I would not mind at all to become her friend then if she would care. Simply because a friend of all constituents when asked and gets city issues resolved, would be automatically a friend of mine and also will secure that the top seat of the nation can be his/her reality one day as only requires those constituents vote… My personal view after residing in Palm Coast since 1991, attending county and city meetings and also a graduate from PC Citizens Academy under Landon-Nets. Then I pride to know quiet a bit. By the way Lowe, Danko and Barbosa if are not graduates could greatly benefit from taking the course is free ask Dennis McDonald that I believe took it too. Great way to learn how our city functions specially our utility that we proudly approved to own and who is who departmental heads. Very informative.
Mike Cocchiola says
Our Democratic poll workers, observers and “sign wavers” have invariably been the adults in the room and we’re proud of that. But, we have had to endure some unduly provocative situations. At the SOE’s location, Trump “screamers” walk or drive by calling us communists and baby killers among other insults. Our Pride volunteers have been accosted verbally with intolerant diatribes. At the library, we witness Trumpers routinely blocking sidewalks to accost voters. Until recently, they would park their Trump-festooned trucks on the library’s lawn contributing to a Trump rally-like atmosphere. At the Community Center… more Trump screamers and flag wavers in the streets and sidewalks in addition to the incidents reported above. Oh, and not a mask among them. Not one!
We’ll all get through this, but the political divide in Flagler is on prominent display and we are going to have to deal with it responsibility no matter who wins.
Pontius Pilate says
Lowe, Danko and Barbosa have demonstrated their disregard and respect, for civility, rules and good behavior. Then the self styled “Pastor J”, who seemingly doesn’t read her bible particularly the words of Jesus “My kingdom is not of this world lest my servants fight” and once again peddles her pulpit for influence.
The collective intimidation and ‘lone wolf’ political style would be a death-knell for tolerance, decency and decorum in Flagler County.
Mike Cocchiola says
As an addendum to my previous comments, I want to say that Pastor Jearlyn and Bob Updegrave of the Republican Party have worked hard to help reduce conflicts and SOE Kaiti Lenhart has been fabulous. She has responded quickly and with authority to issues. We thank her for the sometimes thankless job of herding political adversaries through this troubled time.
Dale Harmon says
My wife and I voted the second day of early voting. We both had already decided days before on every single race and issue on the ballot. I realize there might be a voter here or there who could be influenced on the same day that they vote. However, I wonder if anyone has actually done any studies as to whether the political signs and partisan volunteers influence such voters. Even if they do, is it in a positive manner or negative? Thank goodness that everyone’s vote is secret and this election will soon be over.
C'mon man! says
This is all Superman’s fault He should have let General Zod and his goons have this planet decades ago.
James M. Mejuto says
re: voters cast ballots . . . Folks, this is really bad and downright dangerous what’s happening in this country, this
election cycle. trump has sowed so much division and hatred this past four years that possibly the UN should intervene
and declare the United State a war zone.
Our local polling station here in Palm Coast has allowed mad republicans to intimidate Democrats and others who
are exercising our basic and most honored right as citizens.
We once set the example how elections should be carried out among nations . . . but that was long ago.
I suppose the dems have done nothing wrong in the past 4 years. They have in many instances suppress free speech. I.E. the Jewish people in New your supporting Trump They were pummeled. Look at google,Facebook and twitter canceling accounts because they disagreed with the New York post about the laptop. This comment may be canceled also.
Nun ya bus says
Its disappointing to live in a county where we are allowed to be bullied by political extremists who tailgate us going down the road in their jacked up trucks with flags hanging and obstructing ability to observe traffic. Not to mention the illegal range placement of their headlights at night. I believe either the sheriffs are scared of them or side with them, but, I have yet to see them get pulled over. One truck that carries the Barbosa sign with man cave all over it, ran a lady off the road right by Barbosa plaza speeding. And then ran off the road right behind salsas and dirt went flying. Then he sped thru the area behind island walks center. I was shaken watching this. These extremists put everyone in danger. This year has been a year of that party trying to shove their agenda down our throats. The county and city clearly do not care about quality of life for everyone. We still have the right to vote for who we want, but, sadly you can dress up this place but its still living in 19th century mentality. Cannot wait to sell the house and move to a city with more intelligent forward thinking leaders of tomorrow, away from yesterday’s past.
E. Hoffa says
Voting in Palm Coast should be made safer by increasing the 150ft to 300ft! People going to a voting station already KNOW who they are going to vote for!