Last Updated: 5:46 p.m.
Flagler County Circuit Judge Dennis Craig ruled today that John Pollinger, the candidate for Flagler County Sheriff, has been legally a member of the Republican Party in Flagler County since August 2009, and therefore can remain on the Aug. 14 primary ballot as a Republican.
Craig threw out claims by Anne-Marie Shaffer, who charged in a suit that Pollinger was a Democrat in New Jersey until January, that Pollinger had intentionally remained a member of both parties, and that his status as a Republican in Florida was not legal. Florida law requires that anyone running for office under a party affiliation swear an oath that he or she has not been a member of another party for at least 365 days. Shaffer was asking for an injunction to keep Pollinger off the ballot. Craig ruled within a day of the supervisor of elections sending the ballot to the printer that there is no merit to an injunction.
“The court finds that Pollinger did not intend and in fact did not ‘flip flop’ his party registration within 365 days of the June 4, 2012 qualifying start date,” Craig wrote. “Pollinger registered to vote in Flagler County, Florida in 2008 and changed the party affiliation to the Republican Party of Florida on his registration in August 2009. There is no evidence that his party affiliation has changed on his valid Florida voter’s registration since August 2009.”
For Pollinger, the judge’s ruling is a victory on at least two counts: he won the case, but he has also been capitalizing on the attention the case drew to lift his name recognition. His conduct throughout the controversy–more humorous and resilient than resentful–likely added to his stature.
“There’s been a lot of accusations by certain parties that I lied and I didn’t know the law,” Pollinger said soon after the ruling’s release this afternoon. “This ruling today is at least a vindication of my integrity and my honestly, that I did not lie, and I did not violate the law.”
The ruling was conversely a stinging defeat for his opponents, particularly Ray Stevens, a fellow-Republican running for sheriff for the second time (he ran as an independent four years ago). Shaffer was Stevens’s campaign manager until she decided to file the suit against Pollinger. Jake Kaney, Shaffer’s attorney, did not return a call this afternoon. Shaffer made clear previously she had no interest in commenting on the case. When Stevens returned a call, he said he had no comment on the case, but accused FlaglerLive of having “no interest in the truth.” He declined an interview.
The case is not over. It had two components. The injunction Shaffer was seeking was one; a declaratory judgment on Pollinger’s Republican qualifications is the other. Shaffer can still press on. But what’s more likely to happen is a move by Pollinger for a summary judgment that would essentially end the lawsuit. Craig, in several parts of his order, either suggests or explicitly states that there is no evidence supporting claims against Pollinger’s Republican registration, or that Pollinger attempted to circumvent Florida law in any way.
The law in question revolves around the oath regarding party affiliation. “The purpose of this section of the statute was to establish party loyalty,” Craig wrote. “As pointed out by [Shaffer], the statute was amended in 2010 to lengthen the time period to 365 days after Charlie Crist changed his party affiliation. To borrow a term from [Shaffer], the ‘evil’ sought to be prohibited by this statute was any flip flopping of party affiliation within 365 days of opening of qualifying as a candidate for an elected office.” To show that there was such flip flopping, Shaffer had to show that Pollinger was in fact a member of the Democratic Party in New Jersey until January.
Shaffer didn’t. “There is no activity reflected in the New Jersey ‘voter profile’ between November 6, 2007 and January 17, 2012,” Craig wrote of Pollinger’s history in his previous state, where he’d been a police chief in Middletown after serving 27 years straight in the same department. “Since 2008 upon establishing himself as a Florida resident, Pollinger was not eligible to vote in New Jersey and his New Jersey voter registration was not legally valid notwithstanding the ‘voter profile’ not reflecting deletion until January 17, 2012.”
Craig dismissed suggestions that Pollinger had been dually registered in Florida and New Jersey, or that it would have even been possible for him to be registered as both a Democrat and a Republican, the standard Florida voter application form providing only one box to check.
Craig’s ruling, even though addressing only the injunction, went well beyond that issue to address the merits of the case against Pollinger overall: “There was insufficient evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing that Pollinger was legally registered to vote both as a Democrat and a Republican simultaneously. Further, there is no evidence that Pollinger intended to illegally maintain his New Jersey registration after moving from New Jersey in 2008.”
Craig returned to the matter of the ‘evil’ of flip flopping at the end of his ruling to state explicitly that “Pollinger did not engage in this behavior. Pollinger has had a valid Flagler County, Florida voter’s registration with the party affiliation of the Republican Party of Florida since August 2009.”
Stated as categorically as he did, Craig left very little room for the case against Pollinger to move forward successfully. Nevertheless, it still can, and both sides are likely to meet again in Craig’s hearing room at least one more time, likely before the end of the month, as Craig acknowledged the urgency of resolving the issue.
Pollinger wasn’t quite celebrating this afternoon. “I don’t get happy or sad with court rulings. I just accept the judge’s ruling as a matter of fact,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of concern not only with supporters but people in general, voters in general, about whether or not I was going to be on the ballot, what my party affiliation was, or was not, during this whole period of time, and I think the judge affirms in his writing that he’s ruled that I’ve been a member of the Republican Party since 2009.”
The name recognition was a windfall, but “at a cost,” Pollinger said. “I just continue doing what I’m doing. As I said from the beginning, I’ll continue campaigning, and campaigning until somebody to stop. And today, no one told me to stop.”
Robert Lewis says
Congratulations Mr. Pollinger. I am confident you will continue your campaign on a positive note. I am glad that the court ruled in his favor. He is a decent an honorable man.
Time for real change. The only truly qualified candidate for sheriff. Vote Pollinger!!!
Ralph Belcher says
Let the voters decide who they want in office. Keep a level playing field. I don’t know who I’ll vote for at this moment, but I’m glad to see that Pollinger wasn’t kicked off the ballot/disqualified. I may be less inclined to vote for those remotely associated in this move.
Let’s keep a clean race, everyone. And may the better candidate win.
I always had faith in the courts. John Pollinger is a good person, a good public servant. God Bless you John Pollinger. Flagler County won today.
This is not directed at Mr.Pollinger, it’s just a point of view.
Why at this time when we have young people out of work, or living on minimum wages, do public departments such as Police, Fire etc. continue to hire people that have already retired and who are often getting hefty pension benefits from other cities ?
Why not promote qualified people from within a career person, someone that may have a young family to support, in doing so that would also make an entry level job for someone trying to find work ?
I would guess, that maybe some of these guys currently in this race are getting some nice healthy retirement paychecks arriving in the mail on a monthly basis.
It would be interesting if the editor, could tell us how many of the candidates in this race are currently double, or triple dipping on the people’s dime.
Like MAN, if you are doing so, give it up stop being greedy, put the ego to bed and move aside to give us younger guys / and gals a chance at the apple.
FRANK DILIBERTO says
SAW… I AGREE WITH YOU 100 %
Johnny Taxpayer says
Sheriff is an elected position, you or any other person with a “young family to support” can run for it!
just a thought says
SAW says: Like MAN, if you are doing so, give it up stop being greedy, put the ego to bed and move aside to give us younger guys / and gals a chance at the apple.
You had the same chance at entering the race for Sheriff. They cannot promote from within when the position is elected.
God Bless John Pollinger. Justice was served here in Flagler County. He is a good person, a wonderful public servant. He never gave up, he never gave in. My vote is going to John Pollinger for Flagler County Sheriff.
Dudley Doright says
Great news John! Now maybe Ray Stevens and campaign crew can crawl back under their rock. By the way, I wonder who really fronted the the money for Ms. Shaffer to pay the high priced Daytona Beach law firm that represented her? I know they did not “Pro Bono”.
honest and truthful says
SAW, there is nobody in the Flagler S.O. qualified to be Sheriif. That includes Sheriff Fleming. Have you been reading the newspapers lately. Actually the S.O. needs a cleaning out.
John, I’m glad you have this behind you my man. John is by far the best qualified person in Flagler County for the position of Sheriff. You will not find a more honest,caring,and trustworthy person on the ballot.
Again, congratulations John.
Glad to hear that a fair ruling was made. I’m leaning toward giving Pollinger my vote in November after watching how well he handled this ridiculous situation.
I think Stevens needs to bow out after this debacle. He should be ashamed of himself.
I’m sure no one is more relieved than Mr. Pollinger is today and no one is more ticked off today than the person who filed the suit.
sadie sue says
I am a relatively new resident of Flagler County. I have lived in several states in the course of my life and I was registered voter in each one. I had never contacted my previous states of residence in regards to my new voter registration(s) and asked to have my old registration cancelled. I always assumed that would be done along with my driver’s license, car registration, etc. Because of that, I have been following this case rather closely thinking to myself how many other states am I still a registered voter in?
I find the court’s ruling today to be the correct one. Regardless of Mr. Pollinger’s party affiliation, the question came down to this: what is the State’s responsibility when a resident relocates to another state? Is my out of state driver’s license still valid in the state that I moved from? More specifically, since I never notified my previous state of residency that I am registered to vote somewhere else does that mean I can still vote there? I would as a matter of commonsense assume the answer is “no”. And, I believe that a majority of people in my situation would assume the same. I moved, I established residency in another state, I registered to vote in the new state, end of story.
For an individual affiliated with another candidate or another candidate himself to “nitpick” over something as minor as this is, in mind, frivolous. Run on your credentials, experience, and qualifications. That is what voters are looking for – the best person for the job; not inane lawsuits that seek to disqualify a candidate based on a legal/administrative technicality.
I thank the court for what I think is a well thought out, legally correct decision. Let the voters decide.
Pollinger and Fleming same modus operandi, same school. We need change in this county. We need to elect the good Sheriff we had before until 2005, Mr. Jim Manfre. With him we really had law enforcement and our bicycle, water and horse back riding mounted patrols that serve so well and inconspicuously/less expensive, our community. Back then we never had empty cruisers parked around our city, them were cruising all the time with surveilling deputies at the wheel.
Then we could really see those cruisers patrolling our parks as well. Now we have too many chiefs to support the boss when elections come around at over 80,000/year and not enough deputies doing their work. Do we want to proceed with the same?
Ralph, there was never a chance that he would be ‘kicked off the ballot’. He would just have run as an independent…still on the ballot, just not as a republican.
Jim J says
Justice was not served
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I appreciate your thoughtful comments and conclusions.
Don’t be a stranger here!