Elections supervisor makes case for primary votes

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

While the debate rages on about who will win in local elections, voters are being urged not to wait until November to make their choice. 

The primary takes place on Aug.28.

  Too much is at stake said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley.

“If you skip the August election you could miss your opportunity to vote in these races,” Earley said this past weekend when early voting began in Tallahassee.

“The primary election is just as important as the general in picking who your representatives in government are,” Earley added. “If you have a favorite among the candidates and you don’t vote in the primary, then you are doing your choice a disservice. You are not advocating for your own cause.”

Meanwhile, Gary Yordon, a leading political consultant said that turnout will depend on how concerned local voters are about issues in their neighborhoods. Yordon, who also hosts the local weekly political show “The Usual Suspects,” served three terms as a Leon County Commissioner.

“If there is something that directly affects their lives; a pothole opening opposite their driveway all of a sudden they start caring about who is in office,”  Yordon said. “They don’t feel a direct connection between what’s happening politically and how it affects their everyday life.

“The rule is if [the] government directly impacts your life in a way that changes your daily routine, you will care. If it doesn’t most people don’t.”

However, Earley urged voters to participate in the primary because seats in the races for city commissioner, judges, and school board could be decided in the primary. Candidates, in most cases, who get 50 percent plus one of the votes would win outright and avert a possible runoff in the general election.

The main reason that some positions could be decided in the primary is because all of the local races are non-partisan.

There are some races that have already been decided because the candidates are running uncontested. Both are for judges, with candidates in seats 1 and 4 for County just — Stephen Everett and Augustus Aikens – are unopposed and will not appear on the ballot.

In the race for Seat 3, Suzanne Van Wyk, Monique Richardson, and Cydnee Brown are vying for the vacancy created when Ron Flury was moved up to the supreme court.

The more crowded the fields such as the race for mayor that has six candidates are more likely to have a runoff, Earley said. That, however, remains to be seen considering that former County Commissioner John Dailey has outspent his competitors and is the best-known candidate.

Voters will elect a first-time city commissioner to fill Seat 5, which has no incumbent. Although Dianne Williams Cox might be the best known among the four candidates, Bob Lotane, who is well backed financially, is outspending her.

Another newcomer will also emerge from the five candidates running for City Commission Seat 3. That race is a virtual toss-up, although Jeremy Matlow has the support of some well-known names in the community.

In the School Board races, there are three incumbents who are running for their districts. District 3 representative Maggie Lewis Butler is facing the toughest challenge with four people vying for her seat, including Darryl Jones who is well-known for his community work.

Another challenge for Lewis-Butler is that write-in candidate Lynn Jones makes it mandatory for that race to be decided on Nov. 6. Even if any candidate gets 50-plus 1 percent of the votes, election charters require it goes to November because of the write-in candidate, Earley said.

Voters also will get a chance to decide who represents districts 2 and 5 for the Democratic Party in the race for Congress. Those winners will face Republicans in the general election.

Whatever the turnout might be, Earley said he is concerned because many voters tend to be moved by the race for governor, which is decided in the general election. 

“It’s because that’s when the governor’s race and the presidential races are; everybody thinks election day is November,” he said. “Yes, primary elections have the most impact for the local races. Our motto is ‘be vocal, vote local.’ ”