Sunday, November 7, 2010

Just in case you aren't sick of post-election commentary yet

Wow, Tuesday, wow.  I'm still pretty excited about the results.  I've been spending this week relaxing, hanging out with family, cleaning out my car (it is amazing how many palm cards can hide under a car seat), and enjoying all the post-election commentaries. Just thought I'd share a few of my thoughts on Tuesday's results and what it all might mean moving forward...if you're not sick of all the endless election rehashing yet, read on...


This was one of the earliest races to be called on Tuesday night, and the results reflected what the polls had been showing for weeks - Rubio solidly ahead of Charlie Crist, Kendrick Meek in third, and Rubio coming close to beating the two of them combined.  Crist really embarrassed himself with the way he conducted this campaign, abandoning the party that had supported his political career for years, flip-flopping on so many issues that IHOP wants to make him their new spokesman, and then finally the desperate attempts to bully Kendrick Meek out of the race.  It's ironic, when Charlie first announced he would continue his campaign as an independent, it was assumed he would steal conservative votes from Rubio, but he ended up taking liberal votes from Meek instead. 
So now where does Charlie go?  The Republicans don't want him back - not just because he left the party but more so because he abandoned so many conservative principles.  The Democrats don't seem overly enthusiastic about him, either.  Charlie's best bet may be to call Willy Wonka and see if there's any openings at the Chocolate Factory

Join us, Charlie, you'll fit right in!
In comparison to our Oompa Loompa Governor, Kendrick Meek comes out of this campaign with a far brighter political future.  As I've said many times before, I disagree with Meek on the issues, but respect him as a person.  Everyone I know who has ever worked with him confirms that he is a friendly and immensely likeable guy.  Meek ran a honest and ethical campaign, focused on the positive and never gave up.  He worked extremely hard from the beginning - let's not forget that he got on the ballot by petition, which requires an incredibly high number of signatures for Senate races.  As a result of this race, Meek has earned statewide name recognition and is in a great position to run for a statewide office, challenge Bill Nelson for Senate in 2012, or run for another Congressional seat. 

I sincerely hope that Republicans, both nationally and in Florida, learn a few lessons from Rubio's success.  The Republican establishment, most notably the NRSC, decided in early 2009 that Charlie Crist was the winning choice because only politically moderate candidates could win statewide races in the era of Obama.  Marco Rubio came out with a strong, unapologetically conservative message from the very beginning, and never wavered from it.  He aggressively focused on his message that government spending and debt were frighteningly out of control, endangering the American legacy for generations to come, and that we must make tough sacrifices now to avoid disaster.  Marco was even willing to touch the so-called "third rail" of Social Security and argue that we must consider changes like raising the retirement age if we have any hope of keeping the program solvent.  

We have some very tough challenges facing our country right now, and it is going to take a lot of people showing a lot of courage to have any hope of solving our problems.  Pandering politicians who aren't willing to risk their own reelection won't be any help.  Marco Rubio stuck to his guns for two years and never wavered from his message.  I pray that he stands strong in these principles in Washington and uses his many talents to get others to join his fight.

Likewise, RPOF would do well to learn that they cannot simply anoint candidates in primaries and expect the voters to automatically get in line.  Jim Greer's downfall started with the backlash from Republican primary voters hostile to Charlie Crist being promoted over Marco Rubio.  Bill McCollum's loss to Rick Scott is another example of the voters lashing out against any appearance of "establishment" efforts to deny voters their choice of candidate.  It is one thing to support a Republican incumbent for reelection to the same seat, but to cherry pick among credible Republicans who are vying for an open seat is likely to get the same negative reaction from the electorate every time.

CONGRESS DISTRICT 8 - Sometimes nice guys finish first!

Hallelujah!  As a resident of District 8, I have been absolutely horrified by the behavior of Alan Grayson.  From his inflammatory and incendiary rhetoric to his ultra-liberal voting record, Grayson was a poor fit for this district and certainly not someone I could ever support.  Daniel Webster has legitimately earned the respect of many Floridians during his years of public service, and I took special joy in filling in the bubble next to his name.  Many of you know about Angie Langley's wonderful website,  I had a little fun with a paint pen and one of the website's bumper stickers on Election Night:

Sign at Grayson's soon-to-be-former-Congressional office (FYI my sticker is just resting on the window frame ledge; I did not stick it on the glass)
My new Congressman!  He liked the sticker.
Congressman Aaron Schock visited Orlando in late October to attend fundraisers for Webster and Sandy Adams, and he told a story that perfectly illustrates Grayson's personality problems.  When new members of Congress are elected, there are several orientation sessions that they can attend.  Schock, wanting to meet as many other freshman members as possible, attended all of them.  After the sessions, Schock went back to his office and told his staff to write down the names of two Congressmen he was certain would be in Washington for one term only, because their conduct during orientation was so aggressive, so offensive, he thought that they would quickly run into trouble getting support for re-election.  The two Congressmen that Schock identified as "one-hit wonders" were Eric Massa and Alan Grayson.  Well, Massa left Washington early in disgrace amid allegations that he sexually harassed male staff members, and Grayson got his comeuppance last Tuesday. 

Grayson is blaming his defeat on the Republican turnout wave and Democrats not showing up to vote, but his 20 point loss wasn't just from Republican votes.  The voter turnout in District 8 was slightly higher for Republicans than Democrats, but not 20 points higher.  Grayson lost big-time among independent voters, and also lost a lot of moderate Democrats as well.  Even people I know who are dedicated liberals and agreed with Grayson's positions on the issues were not able to back his behavior or the TV ads with such blatantly false attacks on Webster. 

This race should have been a lot closer, and would have been, if Grayson wasn't so good at shooting himself in the foot.  Grayson squandered the overwhelming financial advantage and name recognition he had enjoyed for two years in just two weeks of ill-conceived TV ads.  Everyone expects campaign ads to be inflammatory and occasionally stretch the truth, but when Grayson attempted to define "draft-dodging" as participating in ROTC, getting an educational deferment, and then getting rejected for medical reasons, and then followed that hysterical distortion with an even bigger one - the infamous "Taliban Dan" ad - Grayson's chances for reelection were sunk.  The timing of Grayson's meltdown - just as absentee ballots were landing in mailboxes and right before early voting began - gave his campaign no time to recover.

It doesn't matter how many millions of dollars you spent on TV ads if the national press, and every single local TV station and newspaper are unanimously and loudly attacking those ads as blatant lies.  Even Rick Scott's money couldn't have bought a better PR campaign for Daniel Webster.

CONGRESS DISTRICT 3 - Great candidate, wrong district

Mike Yost did everything right.  Worked hard, qualified by petition, ran an honest and ethical campaign, amassed a huge grassroots network of supporters, visited every corner of District 3, listened and learned from everyone he met, and fought hard to the end...only to lose by 28 points.  As the Jacksonville Times-Union put it, Yost got "trounced."  Why?  Well, take a look at a map of District 3 and see if you can't figure it out.  This is one of the most insanely gerrymandered districts in the country, stretching from Jacksonville to Gainesville to Orlando.  I was no fan of Amendments 5 and 6, but District 3 is just plain ridiculous.  

Unfortunately, it's the people of District 3 who suffer the most.  Corrine Brown ignores her constituents, her staff won't return phone calls, and poverty, crime, and unemployment continue to climb.  The only direct evidence I can find of Corrine Brown helping people in her district (other than her daughter's lobbying clients) was her campaign passing out coupons for free meals to voters.  During early voting and on election day, campaign workers wearing "Corrine Delivers" t-shirts passed out flyers like this at polling locations:
"I've done nothing for you for the past two years, but here's a free sandwich.  Corrine delivers!"

What makes this problematic for Corrine Brown is a very specific federal law:
§ 597. Expenditures to influence voting
 Whoever makes or offers to make an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate; and
 Whoever solicits, accepts, or receives any such expenditure in consideration of his vote or the withholding of his vote —
 Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

In other words, the mere offer to purchase lunch in order to encourage someone to vote is illegal, even if you don't explicitly demand that they vote a certain way.  Corrine Brown may have won this election, but between redistricting and potential investigations from her campaign activities, she may have a much more difficult time coming back in 2012.

One final note about the numerical breakdown in the votes.  I, along with many other Yost supporters, was shocked by the margin of loss on Tuesday.  The campaign had paid significant money to Pulse Opinion Research, which does a lot of polling work as a subcontractor for Rasmussen, for several polls during the campaign.  These polls showed that Mike Yost was within single digits of defeating Corrine Brown and continuing to make progress.  The campaign's field director put together a very detailed and targeted field plan based on the data from those polls.  I had studied the cross-tabs on the polls myself and believed very strongly that Yost had a great chance to win this race.

I've heard criticisms before that Rasmussen polls show a "conservative bias," but had never seen evidence that it was anything significant.  At best, any bias seemed to favor Republicans by only a point or two, still well within the margin of error.  For example, I remember a Rasmussen poll right before the election that showed Rick Scott beating Alex Sink by a point or two while another poll might show a dead heat or Sink winning by a point or two.   With a margin of error of three or four points, all of these results seem legitimate.

It seems that Rasmussen/Pulse Opinion Research polls were even more wildly biased in favor of Republicans this year, especially in several races where a Republican challenger faced a Democrat incumbent.  In Hawaii, Rasmussen showed the challenger, Cam Cavasso (R) behind incumbent Senator Daniel Inouye (D) by only 13 points in mid-October, 53% to 40%.  The final election results?  Inouye annihilated Cavasso by a whopping 51 points, winning re-election 72% to 21%, leading the Political Wire blog to ask if this was the "Worst Poll of the Year?"   Nate Silver at the New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog has some particularly vicious criticisms of Rasmussen's polling methods, including a comparison to the bias of other polling companies.

The overall biased results are bad enough, but what was equally bad, if not worse in my opinion, was the inaccurate results in specific categories.  If what Nate Silver is reporting is true about the pollsters making erroneous assumptions about the people answering the questions and the overall unorthodox polling methodology, then that explains a lot about why the results were so far off from what actually happened on election day.  I can't help but feel a bit angry about these lousy polls, we all put our personal credibility on the line when we asked others to give of their time and energy and financial resources to support the campaign, and the campaign made strategic targeting decisions based on those polls.  Would better information and correspondingly better targeting been enough to get Yost elected?  I can't say for sure but I think it would have at least made the margin significantly closer.

Still, despite feeling a bit cheated by the polls and sad about the margin of loss, I do not regret for one minute working on the campaign.  Mike Yost is a wonderful, honest, and ethical man who believes very strongly in this country, and I sincerely hope he runs for office again sometime soon.  I also enjoyed traveling around District 3 and meeting voters with Mike.  There are a lot of suffering communities in District 3 and it really saddened me to see how many neighborhoods have houses with bars on the windows and security gates over the doors.  I even saw several churches with bars on the windows.  When a church has to bar its windows to protect itself against burglars, that is  brutal proof of a longstanding crime epidemic infecting that community.  Hopefully redistricting will soon split up District 3 and give the residents there a chance for a representative who will actually do something to help other than just one free (potentially illegal!) meal on election day.

CONGRESS DISTRICT 24 - Grassroots power and a shameless sell-out on the Obamacare vote doom Kosmas

Suzanne Kosmas got shellacked, wiped out, skunked, beat to a pulp and then stomped on some more.  She lost by the largest margin of any Congressional incumbent that I can find so far.   (Alan Grayson got a lower percentage of the vote, but there were some minor party candidates on the ballot; the difference between Sandy Adam's votes and Kosmas' votes was larger than Webster's margin of victory over Grayson.) 

Kosmas kept claiming that she was a moderate, and her voting record was less liberal than Grayson's, but her role as one of the final crucial votes for Obamacare colored everything else that she did during her time in Congress.  District 24 leans Republican, and Obamacare was wildly unpopular there.  Kosmas' perceived failure of leadership regarding the space industry was the final blow to her reelection hopes.  She had supported some small assistance for the industry, additional space flight programs and some job placement funding for laid-off engineers, but was widely viewed as a weak and ineffective advocate for the space program.  I know several people who work for NASA and the affiliated companies who work on the space shuttle and let's just say that among that group, Kosmas, along with the White House and Democrats in general, are as popular as an IRS agent with bubonic plague singing the Macarena.

The Adams campaign deserves credit for working extremely hard on grassroots get-out-the-vote efforts all the way through the end of election day.  Polls showed Adams far ahead of Kosmas immediately after the primary, but Kosmas also had a gigantic cash-on-hand advantage and lacked Grayson's arrogant stupidity.  Kosmas did run some ridiculous ads that completely misrepresented Adams' support for the FairTax and how the FairTax actually works, but never got the attention or backlash that Grayson's ridiculous ads received.  Working very hard to the end paid off for Sandy Adams, and for the Republican Party as well.  It's safe to assume that Adams voters - and Webster voters too - were more likely than not to also vote for other Republican candidates.  Every Republican in their districts who won a close race owes them a debt of gratitude...especially our new Governor-elect...

GOVERNOR - Alex Sink blames staffer for iCheat, blames Obama for iLose

I stayed up as late as I could keep my eyes open on Tuesday night and went to bed with Rick Scott still slightly ahead but the race undecided.  I woke up just in time to see Alex Sink's concession speech.  This was a nail-biter to the very end and the only major race in Florida where the Democrat was viewed as having a chance at victory.  Now almost a week later, this race is still getting press as the Democrats' biggest disappointment. 

Republicans can be grateful that the brutal McCollum-Scott primary meant that there was no more new bad news left for anyone to throw at Scott.  Voter fatigue over negative ads was very high this year, and Sink's attacks on Scott never put a dent on his poll numbers.  On the other hand, Scott's attacks on Sink over losses to Florida's pension funds and issues at Bank of America were new - and therefore more memorable - in the minds of voters.  Even voters who may have had a negative opinion of Scott ended up with a similarly negative opinion of Sink.  Which then leaves a voter picking between a multimillionaire Republican associated with a corporate scandal and a multimillionaire Democrat associated with a corporate scandal.  The Republican turnout wave - and the amazing grassroots GOTV efforts - were crucial to getting Rick Scott across the finish line. 

The timing of the "iCheat" debate scandal in the middle of early voting didn't help Sink, but that alone wasn't enough to doom her chances.  What doomed Sink was her overall messaging.  She had plenty of insults to hurl at Rick Scott, and made constant claims that he couldn't be trusted, but she seemed to have serious problems articulating why voters should trust her It's often said that it's not enough to just tell voters why they should vote against your opponent, you also have to explain why they should vote for you, and nowhere is that more painfully clear than the Governor's race.  When Sink tried to wave off the iCheat debacle with an unbelievable (and quickly debunked by CNN) excuse, right after she'd spent the whole debate whining how perfect and shiny and ethical she was, she cemented her reputation as just another politician who would say anything to get elected.  The fact that she never seemed to take responsibility for the whole mess, just blamed her staff, hurt her too.

This week, Alex Sink is continuing her whining and blaming everyone in sight for her close loss.  Most notable was her comments to Politico that it was the White House's fault she lost her race, calling the Obama administration "tone-deaf."  Well, I agree with Sink that Obama's White House has been a colossal failure in the "listening to the American people" department, but blaming Obama for losing the only major Florida race where a Democrat had a chance this year sounds to me like a big ol' pile of steaming...ummm....denial.

Peter Schorsch at SaintPetersblog is sharply criticizing Sink for her comments, originally responding to the Politico article with "You've got to be kidding me," and then following that up by publishing an article from the Reid Report that just tears Sink to shreds:

Reid and Schorsch are right.  The blame for Sink's loss belongs firmly with Sink herself and the Florida Democratic Party.  The transparent willingness to throw Kendrick Meek under the bus and Sink's own snubbing of an NAACP forum (which Jennifer Carroll attended and earned respect) diluted her support in the black community, her inability to focus on a message other than "OMG don't vote for Scott!" failed to attract independent voters, and let's face it, the Democrat's GOTV plans were a big hot mess.  See also: 10 things Alex Sink should have done differently - St. Petersburg Times 

Republicans are lucky that the Democrats couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag this year.  If they'd been more organized or had a candidate who we couldn't tie to any pension investment losses or big scary corporate whatevers, we might be dealing with a Democrat in charge of appointments, redistricting, and that vicious veto pen for the next four years. 

ORANGE COUNTY MAYOR - If you're going to run as a moderate, don't hire radical liberal campaign staff 

Teresa Jacobs' victory on Tuesday was no surprise.  The only surprise was how very large her margin of victory was.  36 points...ouch!  Bill Segal started out this campaign as the perceived front-runner but started a downward spiral almost immediately after Jacobs entered the race.

Segal had been viewed as moderate during his time as the District 5 County Commissioner.  He had strong roots and many friends in College Park and Winter Park.  Plus, he's a very nice guy with a warm personality.  Before Jacobs got in the race, many Republicans supported Segal, myself included.  (I gave him $25, it's public record.)  Given the choice between Linda Stewart (nice lady but viewed as too liberal in her positions for most Republicans), Matt Falconer (aggressively rude and impractical policies), Mildred Fernandez (sigh...), and Bill Segal (moderate, not anti-development, we know what we get with him), Segal certainly seemed like an "acceptable" choice to Republicans. 

In Segal's personal appearances, he always mentioned his moderate approach, his respect among both Republicans and Democrats, and talked about development issues, tax policies, etc.  Segal's personal messaging was right on the money...the problem was that the messaging from his campaign was a complete and utter disaster.

Segal's campaign messaging was so bad, it was like watching the Hindenburg crash into the Titanic.  (As a side note, this image is pretty much proof that you really can find anything on the internet)

The Segal campaign strategies were just so brutally awful, even the Sentinel started sounding sorry for him.  As Mike Thomas wrote the weekend before the election in what may be one of the best lines of this campaign season, "Segal was the victim of a vicious smear campaign that distorted who he really is. Unfortunately, it was from his own campaign staff."  

 Segal's own moderate record and easy-going personality were completely subsumed by the aggressive messages from his campaign manager, Eric Fogelsong, and his "spokesman," Josh Wilson.  Fogelsong and Wilson's actions and words made Segal seem more liberal, more negative, and more dishonest than he deserved.  I know Fogelsong doesn't like it when I call him and Wilson "Tweedle-dumb and Tweedle-dumber," but I refuse to believe that they were trying to sabotage Segal, so I have to assume they did all that stupid stuff on purpose and really believed it would work.  Their campaign strategy was Just. Plain. Dumb.

A recap of how it all went wrong...Cliff Notes version, no way to list everything...early polls showed that Segal had a large name recognition deficit with Linda Stewart and Teresa Jacobs, and then the Orange County Republican Party (OCREC) sent out mailers to Republicans and launched a website,, pointing out liberal candidates and organizations that Segal had supported.  

Instead of sending mail to Republicans to reassure them of his moderate record, and sending mail to Democrats and Independents to increase his name recognition, Segal dropped a pile of money on TV ads.  These days, when everyone is watching shows online or with a DVR, the impact of TV ads is significantly diluted.  No other Orange County candidate bought TV ads.  With the money spent on the TV ads, Segal could have sent multiple mail pieces to all the supervoters in Orange County, and easily drowned out the one mail piece from OCREC.  Instead, the charge that Segal was a liberal Democrat remained unchallenged in the messaging that was reaching voters.

In the meantime, Teresa Jacobs herself was very cautious to not allow anyone to paint her as an extremist of any type, even at the risk of alienating Republican voters.  She declined to attend events with Sarah Palin, said over and over that her loyalty was to all the people of Orange County, and focused her criticism of Segal on his specific votes, issues, and statements, never anything overtly partisan or political.  Jacobs also gave voters very specific reasons to vote for her, focusing on reducing government waste, promoting "smart growth" policies, and her strong reputation as an ethics watchdog...all issues with nonpartisan appeal.

When Teresa Jacobs won the primary by twenty points, Segal's campaign went into Hindenburg-crashing-into-the-Titanic-during-the-Chernobyl-nuclear-meltdown mode.  Josh Wilson and Eric Fogelsong apparently saw a poll showing that many Republicans didn't want Sarah Palin to be President, and from that they extrapolated an odd strategy of trying to tie Palin to Jacobs.  And when it didn't work, they tried it again and again and again.  A silly YouTube video morphing Sarah Palin's face into Teresa Jacobs, a mail piece with a poorly Photoshopped picture with party hats added on their heads, etc.  Each time the local media would point out that the Segal campaign's messaging was a false attack and that Teresa Jacobs had no ties or connections to Sarah Palin.  Segal never got the same media defense for the mailer or website from OCREC, because OCREC had stuck to the facts: public records of Segal's own campaign donations and his own words.

Josh Wilson theatrically led a press conference in which he and Bill Segal claimed Teresa Jacobs was a lobbyist (the only thing worse than a trial lawyer!) and accused her of unethical actions on behalf of her employer.  The problem was that Orange County has a very specific definition of what a "lobbyist" is, and none of Jacobs' activities met that definition.  The Sentinel shot this down immediately and harshly ridiculed Segal's campaign for making the charge, especially in light of Segal's own ethical problems (voting in favor of his business partner Nancy Rossman without disclosing the relationship, etc.).  

No matter to Wilson and Fogelsong, the campaign repeated the "Teresa is a lobbyist!" attack over and over and over.  I've yet to hear of a single person who believed them.  I later heard Segal claim that calling Jacobs a lobbyist was legitimate by accusing her of lobbying other local governments that don't require lobbyists to register.  Even if that's true, it doesn't justify the attacks - the Segal campaign didn't attack Jacobs just by calling her a "lobbyist," they specifically accused her of improperly using her relationship with Orange County Government, and told voters that she shouldn't be trusted not to illicitly help her employer if she were elected. 

It wasn't as bad as Grayson's Taliban Dan ad, but this particular Segal campaign strategy backfired on him almost as badly.  As the saying goes, "Don't pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel."  The Segal campaign would fire misleading attacks at Jacobs, then get caught over and over, and each time their response was to double down, repeat the attack, and then whine that the Orlando Sentinel wasn't giving them a fair chance.  

Ummm, guys?  When every single one of your campaign messages is an easily disproved misrepresentation, you lose your right to complain when other people say your strategy stinks like month-old sushi.  Don't get mad over being called Tweedle-dumb and Tweedle-dumber (and I'm not the only one calling you that), instead, just quit being so flippin' dumb.

On a positive note, one of my favorite moments of this election season was watching Teresa Jacobs' husband Bruce during her victory speech.  His face was just glowing with pride for her.  Teresa and Bruce are both wonderful people and you can tell they really love each other.  It's easy to view all political candidates with a cynical and callous eye, and this was a beautiful reminder that there are some real people involved. 

ORANGE COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 4 - Hard work defeats whining once again

Jennifer Thompson has been campaigning hard for this seat for four years.  She ran what she knew would most likely be a losing campaign against the popular Linda Stewart in 2008, Stewart's final term, but ran a positive and ethical campaign, met a lot of people and increased her name recognition.  By the time the 2010 election rolled around, Jennifer had already walked all over the district, knew all the major neighborhood and community organizations, and had a plan ready to go.  Jennifer's blogging and social media efforts were highly regarded by many as an example of effective campaign messaging.

Mayra Uribe, Jennifer's general election opponent, seemed much more interested in name-calling and whining than grassroots work.  She got caught falsifying her endorsements, and then her excuse was that she "misunderstood."  Endorsements are required by law to be in writing, and to expressly grant permission for the endorsement to be made public.  That's the law.  So if you don't have anything in writing from someone, you don't have their endorsement.  Period.  Nothing to misunderstand.

Uribe has also made a lot of comments to people that it's not "fair" that the Thompson campaign had more money, more yard signs, etc.  Guess what?  Life ain't fair.  The only hope you have to get ahead is to pursue a goal that is suited to your talents and work like mad to make it happen for you.  Jennifer worked really hard for four years, made a lot of friends, collected a lot of campaign contributions, and yep, bought a boatload of yard signs and  mail pieces.  Uribe's response was to falsely claim Jennifer was racist, and then launch a series of vicious and ugly personal attacks.  Jennifer beat the snot out of her at the ballot box, which I found quite gratifying.

I gotta ask - was there some sort of Democratic Party mandate this year that ordered all the candidates to avoid talking about issues or ideas and just make false personal attacks on the Republicans?  Seriously, it seems like every single one of them completely lost their dang mind this election season, lost all ability to discuss the issues or to do anything other than whine about life being unfair and how their opponent was an "extremist."  And then none of these personal attacks had any effect other than to backfire on the Democrats,  but they stuck to this strategy like gum on the bottom of a shoe, leaving me to wonder if the GOP has a mole in the Democrats' camp?


In a year when everyone is hyper-vigilant looking for signs of voter fraud or voter suppression, when they are "finding" bags of ballots in Connecticut, lawyers are swarming in Alaska ready to litigate over voter intent on write-in ballots, and...sigh...once again...Palm Beach County proves they badly need adult supervision when they botch up another election and delay the results of the Governor's race, those of us who live in Orange or Seminole County should say a special prayer of thanks about our Supervisors of Elections.

Mike Ertel does a fantastic job in Seminole County, is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to provide voter education, and has an extremely well-trained, friendly, and helpful staff.  Plus, he has a super-cool license plate:

Can you think of a more perfect license plate for a Supervisor of Elections?  No, I didn't think so.

Orange County SOE Bill Cowles watches over elections for one of the largest and most diverse counties in Florida, and he does a wonderful job.  As co-chair for the RPOF legal team for Orange County, I had direct contact with Cowles' office and their legal counsel,  Nick Shannin, and was very impressed with their commitment to fair elections, attention to detail, and responsiveness to our questions and concerns.  

Elections are by definition unpredictable, and every election season brings its own challenges, but Orange and Seminole's SOEs do an excellent job of meeting those challenges and protecting our elections.  


All I'm going to say about Doug Guetzloe, Peg Dunmire and the rest of their "Florida Tea Party" buddies is that I was happy to see that not only did they lose every single race they entered as expected, but that they also failed to serve as the "spoiler" in any race.  The Florida Tea Party was completely and totally irrelevant to the final election results.  Of course, they are very humorously claiming credit for Rick Scott and Marco Rubio's victories.  I can stand in my front yard tonight and yell to the heavens a command that the sun rise in the east tomorrow morning, but that doesn't mean I get to claim credit when the sun does actually show up.

Want to know how to oppose a constitutional amendment?  Check out the "No on 4" campaign.  They started very early, put up a website, came up with a simple and easy to understand logo, sent representatives to debate the issue around the state, provided appealing talking points to supporters, and worked relentlessly to bring attention to their cause.  After gaining traction initially as a way to rein in out-of-control governments and a cutesy "Hometown Democracy" label, Amendment 4 went down in flames last Tuesday.

Want to know what not to do?  Check out the "Protect Your Vote" campaign.  Didn't do a darn thing until October, never seemed to have a unified logo or slogan, and their message was limited to pointing out that 5 and 6 were supported by out-of-state liberal groups like SEIU and ACORN and fighting with the NAACP about whether they were good or bad for minorities.  Well, Republicans don't like the sound of those groups, but most people like gerrymandering even less.  And when Protect Your Vote's most visible spokesperson was Corrine Brown, beneficiary of one of the wackiest slithery snakes of a district in the country, the credibility of the cause was damaged.  Not once, not once did I hear them ever point out the dangers of how 5 and 6 would actually operate.  I don't like gerrymandering, but I strongly believe that 5 and 6 were the wrong solution to the problem.  RPOF was one of the biggest opponents of 5 and 6, and they didn't even communicate to their Republican base that they wanted them to vote against these amendments until right before the election.

Funniest moment on election day: I was in a conference room with our legal team, taking calls from campaigns and poll watchers from around Orange County.  At the end of the day, everything was going smoothly, we were getting reports that the polls were closing at 7:00 pm as they were supposed to, the end of the voter lines were being marked, no problems...until one phone call from UCF.  In 2008, the precinct on UCF's campus had experienced extremely long lines, especially near the end of the day, so we  had anticipated that there might be similar lines again this year, but the traffic all day long had been pretty slow.

One of our attorneys asked the volunteer who was at the UCF precinct how it was going there, if it was crowded, if there was a line.  He said, yes, there was a line.  We asked, OK, how many people in the line?
Volunteer: "About a thousand."
Attorney: "WHAT?!  Seriously?!  There's a THOUSAND people in line?  Are you sure?  How long is the line?"  [Everyone in the room looks up in shock. Panic.  Panic.  Panic...]
Volunteer: "About a quarter of a football field."
Attorney: "A quarter of a football field?  That's not a thousand people.  That would be about maybe 2 or 3 dozen people."  [OK, maybe not panic yet.  But now we think this volunteer needs to take some more math classes.]
Volunteer: "Well, they're all bunched up.  And there's more people getting in line..."
Attorney: "There's MORE PEOPLE getting in line?!  What is going on?!  No one is supposed to get in line after 7 pm!  You need to report this to the SOE employee in charge down there, right now!"  [Lots of frenzied scurrying around the room, we're all getting ready to call the SOE, send more people to supervise the line, etc...]
Volunteer:  "Oh wait.  It's, ummm, not voters.  There's a concert..."
Attorney: "IT'S A CONCERT!"  
...and everyone in the room bursts out into laughter.

1 comment:

  1. Sarah,

    Awesome wrap-up! Great to hear all the ins-and-outs of the local races from abroad. I almost feel like I was there working on all these campaigns the whole time . . .

    If you hear any news on how redistricting is going to shape up, be sure to let us know :)


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