For the first time in the Flagler Chamber of Commerce’s history, the results of a straw poll of the coming general election conducted at two recent chamber-sponsored events were released today.
There were few surprises, though to some candidates the results may be a wake-up call.
The chamber polled people at its Creekside Festival this past weekend and at its second and last candidate forum of the season, held Tuesday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn. In all, 124 people participated, though some got tired of the length of the poll—not an encouraging sign, considering that the poll listed the very same names on the Nov. 4 ballot—and quit somewhere along the way.
Among the state winners: Rick Scott, beating Charlie Crist with 62 percent of the vote, and all other incumbent cabinet members beating their challengers by very wide margins: Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. John Thrasher wins the Senate seat he’s already all but abandoned, and Ron DeSantis, the freshman congressman, beats Democratic Challenger David Cox with 62 percent of the vote.
To local voters the more interesting part of the ballot is its reflection of local races.
In the two county commission races, Republican Nate McLaughlin trounces Independent challenger Denise Calderwood, but Republican Frank Meeker is, as expected, in a much tighter race with Howard Holleyt, the ex-Xerox executive who, next to DeSantis, is the most richly (and self) funded of the candidates: He’s raised or borrowed from himself $38,000 to Meeker’s $29,000. The margin between Meeker and Holley is still eight points, according to the straw poll, a usually comfortable lead or troubling deficit, but in this case, because of the small sample, more indicative of a hint of things to come than a certainty.
Flagler Chamber Straw Poll, 2014 General Election
|Forum Votes||Creekside Votes||Overall Votes|
|Congress - District 6|
|Chief Financial Officer|
|Commissioner of Agriculture|
|State Senate - District 6|
|Flagler County Commission - District 2|
|Flagler County Commission - District 4|
|Flagler School Board -District 2|
|Palm Coast City Council - District 2|
|Palm Coast City Council - District 4|
|Amendment 1 - Water and Land Conservation|
|Amendment 2 - Legalization of Medical Marijuana|
|Amendment 3 - Governor Appointments of Judicial Vacancies|
The school board’s incumbent candidate, John Fischer, is ahead of challenger Janet McDonald by the same margin. McDonald beat Fischer based on those who voted at the forum, but lost to him by a much bigger margin based on those who voted at the Creekside Festival, who may have been more representative of voters at large: forum voters were established members of the business or political class and were largely partisan, but will in the end represent a minority of voters.
In the two Palm Coast City Council races, Heidi Shipley and Anne-Marie Shaffer are in a runoff for the District 2 seat. Shipley proved to be the [poll’s top vote-getter, with an 81-19 percent win over Shaffer, who has tended to make a poor impression on the campaign trail as she did Tuesday evening. Steve Nobile is challenging incumbent Bill Lewis for the District 4 seat, and comes out with an 18-point lead—larger than expected, though Lewis knew he was in the fight for his political life. His very serious health issues, which kept him sidelined for months, have not helped.
In other results: the medical pot legalizing amendment fails miserably, garnering just 49 percent in the straw poll. Amendments need a 60 percent margin or better to pass. The pot amendment has been losing momentum fast across the state, with the latest poll on the Gulf Coast showing it all but lost, as a result of a sustained campaign by the state’s sheriff’s against it.
Remarkably, Amendment 1, which would protect and conserve natural resources such as recreational lands and waters, also fails, garnering just 50 percent. That’s a surprise in a county that has traditionally been an ardent supporter of environmental measures. Amendment 3, which would give the governor more power to appoint judges, fails convincingly, with just 27 percent approving it. In poll’s last race, Kathy Weston beats Adam Warren for the only circuit court judgeship left to be decided for this circuit.
The results were tabulated only today.
Before then, most candidates running for local and state office and one of the candidates (not the incumbent) running for the congressional seat representing Flagler County placed themselves at the mercy of questions in one of the county’s main election forums Tuesday evening at the Hilton garden Inn.
There were notable exceptions: DeSantis, the Republican incumbent for the congressional district that includes all of Flagler County. DeSantis tends to be a no-show at most local functions, political or otherwise. And Thrasher.
Though there was plenty of time for it, the state university system’s Board of Governors chose not to hold a special meeting before its next session in early November to ratify Thrasher’s appointment, thus forcing a special election to replace Thrasher—which Thrasher, too, favored, as it gives the Republican party more control over his successor, though at a steep cost: assuming Thrasher wins in November (an assumption few bettors would lose money over), the special election may cost upwards of $600,000 to $1 million, which county taxpayers, including Flagler will have to pay.
Meanwhile, Thrasher isn’t taking commitments to his re-election bid too seriously.
The forum was organized by the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, the Flagler Home Builders Association and the Flagler County Association of Realtors, whose officials crafted the questions—and kept them secret until the forum, which was moderated by WNZF’s David Ayres. The forum drew 120 people, including candidates, supporters and organizers. The audience was considerably smaller than at the chamber’s primary forum in the same venue, now that the primary has whittled candidates down to one name per party, if that: Democrats have been a rarity, with no Democrats running for either the county commission or the school board, and only one Democrat left in two races for Palm Coast City Council.
According to Flagler Votes Committee Chair Lea Stokes, the straw poll is a first for the committee and a natural extension of the voter education efforts.
“Our organizations teamed up to create Flagler Votes to educate voters and encourage turnout,” Stokes said in a news release issued this afternoon. “The results of this recent straw poll may not be statistically significant, though they give us some insight as to which way the elections could go.”
Forum video compliments of Office Divvy’s Ky Ekinci: The county commission candidates. More will post subsequently.