Category Archives: Elections

South Carolina Shocker

I was surprised to wake up this morning to see that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had won the South Carolina primary. And won it convincingly.

Newt Gingrich by Gage SkidmoreThe final tally showed Gingrich winning the primary by 12 points over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and it puts what the Romney camp had hoped would be a quick march to the nomination into serious question. Romney has the backing of much of the Republican power structure. He’s already spending millions for advertising in Florida, which votes a week from Tuesday.

I’ve been watching Gingrich since he ascended to the Speakership in 1994. I was working for C-SPAN at the time, and Gingrich was famous for his “Special Orders” speeches, conducted in the House after the close of official business. The speeches, which could last as much as an hour, were delivered to a mostly-empty house chamber, but recorded and aired by the house television system and read into the Congressional record. It was one of the tactics that brought the speaker national recognition.

Now Gingrich, who many had discounted as unelectable, won by a substantial margin, and turned the nomination process into a horserace. He went on the offensive with the news media a debate the day ABC news aired an interview with his second ex-wife in which she asserted he had asked for an “open Mitt Romney by Gage Skidmoremarriage,” which under many circumstances could have spelled the end to his campaign. He blasted CNN for opening the debate with a question about his personal life, and said it was “despicable” for them to do so. By doing that, it’s possible he raised his standing with many of South Carolina’s conservative voters who have a pretty low opinion of the national news media. It’s certain that his debate performance  on that issue was a factor, and maybe a major factor, in his win Saturday. It can’t, however, be discounted that voters do not register by political party in South Carolina. Democrats and independents are allowed to vote in the Republican primary. It leads one to wonder how many Democrats may have turned out to cast a vote for Gingrich because they saw him as the weaker candidate, more easily defeated by Barack Obama in the fall. But President Obama would underestimate former Speaker Gingrich at his own peril.

Now, the campaign comes to Florida, where only Republicans can vote in the primary. There is a debate here in Jacksonville at UNF January 26th, and I’m expecting that my phone will start ringing incessantly with robo-calls not later than Monday. But unlike South Carolina, Florida is not a traditional “southern” state. There is an extensive diversity of thought here. The Panhandle and northeast Florida are more conservative, like the “traditional” south, which may give Gingrich and advantage. But the central and southern areas, largely from the I-4 corridor to south Florida will be more moderate, and potentially more favorable to Romney. It’s possible the Florida can make the decision, but it’s just as likely that the nominating campaign will go deep into the spring. It does appear now that the field has been winnowed to two, though former Senator Rick Santorum and Congressman Ron Paul will probably hang on as long as money continues to come in. We will see in a week if the Florida balloting swings the momentum back to Romney, or gives Gingrich an additional boost. Let the robo-calls begin. (Photos from Wikipedia by Gage Skidmore)



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Filed under Elections, Politics, Primarys, Republican Party

Election Day

I Voted Today is election day, for those of you reading on Tuesday, September 15th. That’s likely most of you. And even if you don’t live in the Florida 8th Senate district, or the 13th Jacksonville City Council district, or the 1st Duval County School District, I hope you’ll continue reading.

For those of you who ARE eligible to vote in those races, for pity’s sake go to the polls and vote. Readers of The Jacksonville Observer know who is my choice for the State Senate, and I’ll be attending that victory party tomorrow night.

You should go to the polls because these local elections are in some ways the most important. If you believe, as I do, that the government closest to the constituents is the most responsive and can be the most effective, then this is your election. State Senate, City Council, and School Board. It doesn’t get much more local than that. Then, too, this is a special election which was the result of a chain of events set in motion by the untimely death of State Senator Jim King. That race was pushed up by a year, and with a Jacksonville City Councilman and a member of the School Board resigning to run for the Senate, those offices had to be filled at the same time.

Voter turnout is expected to be low. 10 to 12 percent by some estimates, which is honestly pathetic. You can’t turn on the television or radio (unless you consume ONLY public broadcasting) without seeing and hearing endless commercials either lauding or lambasting the candidates. The local media has done it’s part to inform people about the candidates, some more favorably than others, it seems. I was fortunate enough to moderate one discussion among all four, and one in which three participated. I do love being involved in the process. I think one of the things I miss most about my former position is that I did a lot of that. One of my ongoing career goals is to find a way that allows me to do it again.

But think about it. People complain about government. At every level. “Those Guys Never Do What I Think They Should,”  is a common refrain. But when you ask them if they voted, the get defensive, or look at you like you’re from Mars. Lots of people turn out for the big national or state elections, but when it comes to a special election which can determine incumbency for the upcoming normal cycle, they don’t bother. And by the time there’s an incumbent, it’s often too late.

So, I’ve done my part. I’ve tried to do my part to impartially give candidates a forum in which to express their views, and by all reviews I’ve been successful at that, and I’ve gone to vote. And I’ve encouraged others to vote. Of course I hope they vote for the people I support, but I really just hope they vote. At least the informed folks. Sometimes I think anyone voting on name recognition alone should just stay home, but that’s not democracy either. If more people get out and vote, at least we’ll have a true sense of the “will of the people”, and not an election decided by a fraction of the eligible voters.

So if you’re eligible, take 10 minutes Tuesday and go vote. The lines (sadly) won’t be long and the ballot is short, one or two races. Badda-bing badda-boom … and you’ll be done.

And get ready, because with State elections in 2010 and local races in 2011, we’re only at the start of a long political season.

For those of you in far flung places that don’t have an election today, wake up, pay attention, and know when your next opportunity to vote is rolling around. Learn about the issues and the candidates, and make your voice heard. Better yet, pick someone that you agree with and get involved. An informed, involved electorate is the key to good government (unless you think that phrase is an oxymoron). The folks in city halls, state capitals, and Washington D.C. are supposedly there to represent you. The only way you can be sure that happens it to be involved in the process.

Go Vote. You’ll be glad you did.



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Filed under Beach Living, Democracy, Elections, Life, Politics, Thoughts, Voting

Northeast Florida Power Drought


As statewide races begin to shape up for United State Senate, Governor, Attorney General, and CFO … a disturbing trend seems to be forming.  None of the  candidates being prominently mentioned in the media is from Northeast Florida.


Early polling shows Governor Crist as the odds-on favorite to replace Mel Martinez in the U.S. Senate, though many more conservative Republicans are furious that the state party seemed to be picking sides even before the campaign begins.  crist-rubio Miami Republican Marco Rubio, fresh from his stint as the Speaker of the Florida House, will also seek the seat, and from a more conservative vantage than will Crist.  But Rubio, by all accounts, faces an uphill battle in name recognition, and Crist is riding a wave of almost unprecedented popularity for this point in his term as Governor.  His time spent with John McCain, depending on your point of view, was either a brilliant move in building name recognition or an unabashed run to be McCains’ running mate.  Should Crist win the Senate seat, don’t be surprised to see him make a bid for the White House after one or two terms.Sink-mccollum

The principal candidates to replace Crist in the Governor’s Mansion are Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Bill McCollom.   Both call the I-4 corridor home … Sink is from Thonotosassa, and McCollom is from Longwood.  The I-4 corridor is in some ways Florida’s most purple region, and pivotal in any statewide election.

Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson initially considered a run for Governor, but announced this week that he would not seek the seat.  He, too, is from Central Florida.

That leaves both the CFO and Attorney General seats open on the Cabinet.  Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp (Tampa) as said he’d consider the AG’s office, though that race will likely take a while to shake out.  Senate President Jeff Atwater (West Palm Beach) indicated his interest in the position of Chief Financial Officer … but there will likely be many names floated for that race as well.

But not one (so far) is from north of I-4.  Technically Thonotosassa is north, but it’s pretty much right at the intersection of I-4 and I-75.

Then, too, our region may lose one of it’s best legislators this year.  I truly and fervently hope Senator Jim King is able to serve out his term in the legislature next year, but we had a very personal experience with pancreatic cancer in our family this year.  Maybe I’m just a little too close to that condition, and, of course everyone is different.  But at the very best, there is one more session for Senator King because of term limits, and the region will lose one of it’s champions, and a strong voice in the Senate.

So where does that leave the leadership of the state in relation to the First Coast?  We have a very capable legislative delegation, and there are some strong candidates running for the open seats in the region.  And, too, as more and more of the long-time legislators are sent home by term limits, that playing field will level.  There will be fewer and fewer office holders with longevity in Tallahassee.  Whether or not that’s a good thing is a debate for another day, but the days of someone serving seemingly for life in a single office are gone for good.  Some will jump from office to office as their terms expire. But the way private sector workers now seem to shuffle from job to job, whether by their choice or forced by circumstance, maybe that won’t be seen as a negative.  At the end of the day, the way power in Tallahassee is perceived may change.  But when two thirds of the state seems to be left out of consideration for state-wide races … it might be time to have a look at how political talent is developed north of I-4.

MSB Jacksonville and Northeast Florida should not be considered the red-headed stepchild of state politics.  We have the largest city in terms of land mass in the country, a port system that rivals any in the state for economic development and potential, and as viable and stable an economy as any other region.  We’re not Miami, or Tampa, or Orlando in terms of sheer numbers of people, but then I’m fairly certain no one here really wants to be.  It is important that our voice is heard and our concerns represented in the debates that are coming in the next decades, particularly about water, education, transportation, taxes, the economy, and the environment.

I know, it’s easy for me to write such things from my perch at the continents’ edge.  And no, I’m not volunteering.  But I do hope that somewhere among the delegation is a person who can become known well enough to make a run for a statewide office.  Because otherwise, it takes money … lots of money, to mount a campaign where the first thing to be done is build name recognition south of I-4.  And that’s a difficult hill to climb



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Filed under Beach Living, Elections, Florida Politics, State Politics, Thoughts

Election Eve

And so it comes down to this.  In about 24 hours, we’ll either have a good idea as to who will be the next POTUS, or know that it’s going to be a long, long night.  I may not even watch.

For the first time in a long time, I won’t be in some kind of broadcast facility for election night.  And since I voted two weeks ago, I just can’t get jazzed about it tomorrow.  It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion as to who is going to win, though as John McCain said on Monday Night Football a few moments ago, “That’s why they play the games”.  And he’s right.

Instead, Scott Abrams is back in town to conduct a workshop with John Bryan, and he’ll be crashing at our house tomorrow.  I do have an early meeting at JCCI Wednesday morning, but we’ll be able to have him up and out of here by then.

If I have to be out of a job, and I guess I do, it’s helping in that I’ve got some time to spend over at the Aquatic Garden house, trying to get it ready for Andie’s mom to move back in.  I’m not convinced she ever will, but we’re working towards that end none the less.  There remains a ton to be done, and if she’s going to move back in, only a short time to do it.  At least after tomorrow’s Dr. appointment, she’ll have an appointment with an Oncologist who may be able to give us a better idea of what we’re dealing with.

So, I’ve got a lot on my mind this election eve.  A lot more than who’ll be the next occupant of the White House.  Personal events have served to focus my attention on a lot more than national politics.  As much as I love watching the process, and I think it really matters who wins, my mind is elsewhere.  Actually a lot of elswheres.  With luck, no matter who wins tomorrow, the Republic will survive, and I’ve done all I can to influence that.  I voted.  I can have a lot more influence over what’s going to happen to us in 3 months.  That’s where I need to place most of my attention.

If you didn’t vote early … go vote.


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Filed under Elections, Politics, Thoughts

Can We Take Off the Blinders?

I was watching the Jackie Mason response to Sara Silverman today.

Now, you’ll notice, once you stop laughing, that Mason makes a very salient point.  You should vote for whoever you think will be the best for America.

I understand that political parties will likely always be with us.  Always.  I’m not sure if that’s necessarily a good thing, but it is what it is.

I know people who would not vote for a Republican for a million dollars. It wouldn’t matter if it was the person they most loved and respected in the world, if there was an R beside their name on the ballot, they’d vote for the one with a D.  I really, really don’t understand that.   But the more I read comments on various blogs, it’s apparent that they are legion.  Of course, that goes for some people who are reflexively against anyone with a D.  And I wish there were a lot fewer of them.

I seems like there are so many closed minds in America today.  No one seems to be willing to even LISTEN to what the other guy has to say.  And unfortunately, it seems to start with the candidates.

We are a nation divided against its self.  If Lincoln is to be believed, we may not stand.  Our economy appears to be in a freefall, and Congress dithers, points fingers, and can’t even pass an emergency bailout bill that’s not loaded down with goodies for special interest groups.  You’d think, in that kind of an emergency, they could have passed a clean bill and not immediately devolved into finger pointing when it didn’t.

Just once, I wish they’d admit that they’re going down into the mud from the get-go.  Don’t tease me with all the talk of “a positive campaign”.  Don’t tell me it’s going to be “about the issues”.  Just admit it.  You, or your surrogates, are going to do everything possible to be sure your opponent is cast in absolutely the worst possible light.  Either stop being weasels or actually run a positive campaign.

It’s just appalling that anyone should be accused of being a racist because they don’t vote for a particular candidate.  It’s appalling that anyone should be accused of being a fascist, or an idiot, or an automaton.  But by the same token, there’s not a single candidate that should be taken at their word.  If you’re going to be an agent for change … tell us how.  No one should “drink the kool-aid”.  No one should be for a candidates just because he or she is NOT the incumbent, or a member of the opponents party.  Our elections seem to be decided by people who aren’t stupid, but who don’t seem to take the time to think things through and really understand.

Be skeptical.  Take everything they say with about a pound of salt.  It seems the journalists have forgotten that as well, at least some of them.  It doesn’t matter what the story is, approach everything with the journalist skepticism that got you into the business in the first place.  If you want to work PR for a candidate, apply at a PR firm, or with the campaign.  Applauding journalists have no place at a political rally.

I think we can all agree.  No candidate is going to be perfect.  I want to be able to respect your decision to vote for a candidate based on a reasoned and informed argument, not on a string of talking points you got in an e-mail this morning, or what you might have read on your favorite partisan blog.  I know everyone likes to read things they agree with, but be a little skeptical.  And that includes the New York Times, Washington Post, Washing Times, CNN, Fox News, all the legacy media.

It makes me sad when people I like and respect make me feel small or stupid because I don’t agree with their political position.  I know the probably don’t mean to, but it seems like when I talk with people with whom I disagree politically, there’s no room for discussion.  No one seems to be open to any idea that doesn’t agree with their own.  Maybe I’m the same way, or that’s how they perceive me.  I’d like to think that I’m open minded … or at least willing to listen.

So please, be an informed voter.  Read, listen, have an open mind.  Don’t reflexively reject a candidate simply because he or she is not of your party.   Don’t wait to take your cues from the candidates, or party leaders in congress.  If we start from the bottom, and don’t march in lockstep, maybe WE can begin to break the gridlock.  If your Senator or Representative is egregiously partisan, and you’re tired of partisanship, learn something about their opponent and vote for them if you think it will be better.

So, as Jackie Mason says … vote for the person you think will do the best job.  But know why you’re doing it.  Don’t just vote for change, or the war hero, or the sound bite or the bumper sticker, or the talking point.

Maybe we can make this thing a little bit better.


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Filed under Congress, Elections, Partisanship, Politics, Thoughts