This is the year. These are the elections to sweep out the status quo and start anew. Stop doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
And that means rare is the incumbent this election cycle who should stay in office. The career politicians should find new careers.
This is the mood of the electorate; our mood as well.
And as in every election, our recommendations unabashedly side with the candidates most likely to preserve and advance liberty and individual rights; with the candidates who believe individual liberty is superior to that of the collective group; with the candidates who vow to shrink government spending and its intervention into our lives; with the candidates who promote capitalism.
Herewith, our recommendations for the Aug. 24 primary:
COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 4
This is a tough decision for Sarasota County Republicans, perhaps the toughest they’ll make in the primaries.
Incumbent Nora Patterson, the most fiscally conservative of the five county commissioners, is running for her fourth four-year term. This, after having served 23 years altogether as a Sarasota city and county commissioner. If there’s a local symbol of the dreaded label of “career politician,” Patterson is it. But there’s a reason: Voters obviously have approved of her performance.
On the other side, her opponent, Mark Smith, is a longtime Sarasota architect and community volunteer whose economic and fiscal thinking matches what voters are looking for — someone who, from his experience with the county bureaucracy, would challenge the status quo and do it with common-sense, business principles. If there’s a candidate whose beliefs align with our Libertarian view of economics, Smith is it. Unfortunately, he must oppose Patterson because he and she live in the same district. And that makes this difficult.
There is much to like about Patterson. Her experience has great value. She knows the numbers and the county’s finances, and over the years she has been a consistent voice for restraint, albeit not one to thump and pound for attention.
Patterson has a strong grasp of what’s needed. Her priorities: 1) Help bring the unemployment rate down, i.e. don’t raise tax rates, re-examine impact fees; 2) continue to trim the county budget “so income matches expenses and we don’t raise taxes or lower services”; 3) “figure out ways to grow and catalyze the building of more hotels and resorts in the county.” In short, talk with Patterson, and it’s clear she sees the big and small pictures and, as they say, “gets it.”
Then there is Smith. He’s frustrated by what he calls the county government attitude: “They start with ‘no,’ and you have to get them to ‘yes,’” he says. “We have to change the attitude, and the attitude starts at the top.”
His priorities, if elected, are similar to Patterson’s: 1) Jobs, attract new businesses. He wants to go on recruiting trips to companies himself. 2) Change the permitting processes. “Peel away the stuff that causes us to be uncompetitive.” 3) Fiscal restraint. Smith says he has instructed his friends that if he is elected and starts to wander from his fiscal conservatism, his friends are to conduct an intervention.
Sarasota County voters would fare well with Patterson or Smith. But as we said at the outset, it’s time for new. We recommend Smith.
SARASOTA SCHOOL BOARD
DISTRICT 1 — We always hope incumbent Carol Todd will cross the line and leave the club. She gets close so often. And then she falls back and does things like support the one-mill tax.
Todd, overall, has been a good, steady steward and board member for 12 years. That’s a long time. And there’s much to be comfortable with keeping her on the board.
Todd’s opponent, Joseph Neunder, a young Sarasota chiropractor and product of Sarasota schools, shows an eagerness to question the status quo. He has noticed what many also have noticed: The collegiality of the board members is so high, Neunder says, there’s not enough questioning and probing.
This is a tough call: Neunder would bring an infusion of youthful enthusiasm and energy, but he needs more seasoning professionally and in the community. Todd is heading toward the distinction of career school board politician, but she’s a safe, solid bet. We recommend Todd.
DISTRICT 5 — This race is similar to the one in District 1. It’s a contest to fill the vacancy of retiring board member Kathy Kleinlein. You have Jane Goodwin, the school establishment insider (she headed Citizens for Better Schools, the group that campaigned for extending the one-mill school tax last spring) versus Kathy James, an Englewood mother of four with students in the district and novice at politics.
A pharmacist by education, a stay-at-home mom, a pragmatist and a parent frustrated with the system, James would bring a much-needed outside, parental perspective to the board. We love her enthusiasm. We recommend James.
CHARTER REVIEW BOARD
Two candidates have the right disposition for this position, which, essentially, is to serve as the guardians of the county charter (constitution). Their job: Protect the charter, do no harm.
DISTRICT 2 — Steven R. Fields.
DISTRICT 3 — Adam Miller.
HOSPITAL BOARD SEAT 1
This is a conundrum. We remember Levko Klos’ enigmatic run for supervisor of elections in 2008. He was unconvincing. At the same time, Klos’ opponent in this race is Darryl Henry of North Port, who spent six months in Sarasota Memorial after a stroke. Henry wants to give back to the community and has impressive credentials. As a department of defense supervisor he oversaw more than 150 military personnel, civilians and contractors and administered an annual budget of more than $43 million.
The one serious drawback to Henry: his health. We recommend Henry.
COUNTY JUDGE GROUP 3
This is another tough decision for voters. Two aspiring, young (by Sarasota standards) lawyers — Tracy Lee and Maryann Boehm — are seekingthe judicial seat of retiring Judge Emanuel Logalbo Jr. Each has attractive, impressive credentials.
Of the two, Boehm has had a wider breadth of life experiences. You have to like that, as a young girl, she took voice and dance lessons for more than a dozen years, activities that paid off when her sorority at the University of Florida put her up for the Miss University of Florida pageant in the late 1980s. Boehm won that contest and eventually won the Miss Florida title. She went on to win the talent contest in the Miss America pageant and spent a year as a singer and dancer for the Walt Disney Co., in Orlando.
After her father had a stroke and shortly after she graduated from law school, Boehm took over as CEO of the family’s development business, DePlonty Properties, in Charlotte County. She held that post for seven years, gaining vast experience in the trenches of owning and operating a business and making payroll.
On the volunteer side, Boehm served as president of the Junior League of Sarasota in 2007-2008. This is a demanding job — especially for a mother with two young children and a full-time legal practice.
Professionally, Boehm has been a lawyer since 1996. She earned her degree from the South Texas College of Law. Boehm served one year as an assistant state attorney for the local 12th Judicial Circuit and for the past three and a half years she has been an associate at Porges, Hamlin, Knowles & Prouty, P.A. in Bradenton, focusing on condominium and homeowners’ association law, land use and zoning and civil litigation.
By far, Lee is more experienced in the courtroom than Boehm. He has practiced trial law for 16 years, handling everything from child abuse to capital murder cases. He has a long list of affiliations that demonstrate his considerable expertise in trial matters. Were it not for one concern, Lee would be the recommended candidate.
Earlier in the campaign, Lee dropped out of the race after being arrested for a domestic incident with his wife in their front yard. His wife later dropped the charges. Police records show there have been other confrontations going back to 2007. At one point, his wife signed a temporary domestic violence injunction against Lee.
“I have never started an argument with my wife,” Lee told us. “I’m one of the most passive people you’ll meet. I hate domestic violence.”
In our interview with Lee, he expressed dismay that these incidents have surfaced and would overtake his professional experience. But personal ambition sometimes clouds judgment. Lee is qualified for the job, but not ready yet. We recommend Boehm.
In short, this race goes like this: two Tallahassee insiders versus a politically inexperienced, feisty, fresh outsider. That would be Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former Secretary of the Agency for Healthcare Administration Holly Benson versus Pam Bondi, Tampa native and longtime assistant state attorney in Hillsborough County.
Bondi’s 18 years in the state attorney’s office in Tampa has given her a breadth of experience trying a variety of cases, from consumer fraud to capital murder. She also has gained experience helping manage and craft the budget for one of Florida’s largest state attorney offices. Clearly, this gives Bondi an advantage in becoming Florida’s chief legal officer.
Take the feisty, fresh outsider. We recommend Bondi.
Naples businessman Rick Scott has tagged Bill McCullom perfectly: career politician. Forget all of McCullom’s nastiness about Medicare fraud when Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA. Here’s the difference: Scott has held real jobs and created jobs in the private sector; he has built and managed successful companies, one of them with 250,000 employees. He is far more qualified to be the CEO of Florida than McCullom. If logic prevails, this race should be a landslide. We recommend Scott.
U.S. CONGRESS, DISTRICT 13
There is no need to say much here. Incumbent Congressman Vern Buchanan doesn’t have a threatening, serious opponent in the primary. While he sometimes drifts too far to the middle (and left) for our taste, Buchanan remains committed to requiring a balanced budget and beating back job-killing regulations. We recommend Buchanan.
On the Republican side, we recommend Marco Rubio. The Democrats, meanwhile, have a tough decision. None of the candidates is a clear standout.