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EDITORIAL: Pasco Sample Ballot Voting Guide–Our Suggestions, Early Voting

EDITORIAL: Pasco Sample Ballot Voting Guide–Our Suggestions, Early Voting

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NewsPortRichey.org urges all of our readers to vote in each and every election, and aims to help our readers make an informed choice in the easiest way possible. That said, today I’d like to simply outline who is running in which elections in Pasco County, and make our suggestions about who you might want to vote for in races where you might not be as familiar as you are likely to be in the Presidential category.

In this article (Click on each link to easily navigate):

Step One: Where, When, and How to Vote

Regular voting is Tuesday, November 8th, 2016. Polls will open at 7 AM and will close at 7 PM.

Google has an excellent tool to tell you where and when you can vote by simply entering your address. Click here to try that out.

Google has another tool that will tell you what you need to bring with you to the poll in each location or at each time. Click here to view that.

You can also see this release from Pasco’s Supervisor of Elections, Kurt Browning:

Pasco County FL – Early voting for Pasco voters who wish to cast an early vote for the November 8, 2016 General Election begins Saturday, October 29th, and ends Saturday, November 5th, at eight locations countywide.  Hours are 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. daily at the following locations:

EAST PASCO GOVERNMENT CENTER
14236 6th St
Dade City, FL 33523

NEW RIVER LIBRARY
34043 State Road 54
Zephyrhills, FL 33543

HUDSON LIBRARY
8012 Library Rd
Hudson, FL 34667

REGENCY PARK LIBRARY
9701 Little Rd
New Port Richey, FL 34654

LAND O LAKES LIBRARY
2818 Collier Pky
Land O’Lakes, FL 34639

SOUTH HOLIDAY LIBRARY
4649 Mile Stretch Dr
Holiday, FL 34690

NEW PORT RICHEY ELECTIONS OFFICE
8731 Citizens Dr
New Port Richey, FL 34654

QUAIL HOLLOW COUNTRY CLUB
6225 Old Pasco Rd
Wesley Chapel, FL 33544

“Early voting continues to be a popular option because of the convenience,” said Supervisor Corley. “To accommodate the predicted high voter turnout in this election, we are offering early voting 12 hours per day for eight days.”

Voters must present a photo and signature ID when early voting, or vote a provisional ballot. In order to expedite voting, voters who are registered in another Florida county but are now residing in Pasco are encouraged to update their address with the elections’ office prior to voting by calling 800-851-8754.

Maps, directions and wait times for all early voting locations are available at pascovotes.com.  Early voting turnout will be available beginning opening day and will be updated every ten minutes at pascovotes.com.

Brian E. Corley, Supervisor of Elections
pascovotes.com
#votepasco

Step Two: Research Your Candidates and Races

Google has a great tool for telling you which races are on your ballot, and providing easy links to each candidate. We used this tool heavily in writing this article. Try it out for yourself by clicking here.

United States Senator (Federal):

Candidates:

  • Marco Rubio (Republican)
  • Patrick Murphy (Democrat)
  • Paul Stanton (Libertarian Party)
  • Tony Khoury (No Party)
  • Bruce Nathan (No Party)
  • Steven Machat (No Party)
  • Basil E. Dalack (No Party)

There are a lot of names in this race, with two “headliner” candidates from the main parties. Marco Rubio obviously has a history of political grandstanding and party loyalty over the interests of Florida. There have also been accusations of non-attendance to Senate duties, as well as Rubio’s own admission that he does not enjoy the position of Florida Senator. Those issues, combined with an ideological willingness to “do nothing” (not always a bad thing for Government), as well as his “settling” for a Senate race after seeking the Presidential nomination, means we are not willing to suggest a vote for Rubio. Patrick Murphy represents a Democratic party that has repeatedly demonstrated itself as weak in Florida, with little to no interest in state legislature races and only showing up for Presidential or National level races and candidates. Murphy has a wide platform that generally supports the national Democratic platform, which means it’s very generic and lacks specifics. The best platform of the candidates above is Tony Khoury, who advocates for a number of very specific changes including sensible tax reform, minor gun control that many of those with 2nd Amendment concerns would agree with, and healthcare reform of a different type.

Our Recommendation: If you want to toe a party line, vote for Patrick Murphy, or avoid the parties and vote for Tony Khoury.

United States Congressman: Gus Bilirakis (Republican) vs. Robert Matthew Tager (Democrat)

With only two candidates in this race, this choice comes down to a difference in platforms versus Bilirakis’ established voting record as a long-term incumbent. Bilirakis is running for his sixth consevutive term to the U.S. House of Representatives. In that time, Bilirakis has made positive votes as well as votes that may have served the Publican party over the interests of West Coast Floridians. Among those has been his support for the Trans Pacific Partnership, and his failure to address Veterans Administration reform. Perhaps most telling (and importantly), Bilirakis has very little information available for voters on his campaign website and Facebook page that detail his actual platform and what he plans to do in his sixth term. Robert Tager, Billirakis’ opponent, has been largely critical of Bilirakis’ positions–though Bilirakis has seemed not to want to engage, including refusing a proposed debate with Tager. The Tampa Bay Times made a “recommendation” of voting for Bilirakis, short of an endorsement. This is a tough one, but we side with voting for removing the career politician who votes with the party in favor of a challenger with little support, and hopefully then little allegiance to a weak Democratic party. That said, there is some legitimacy to a vote for Bilirakis with his significant investment with the Republican party and his current seat on the House Committee for Veteran Affairs which gives him a powerful voice in a crowded House.

Our Recommendation: Vote for the challenger, Robert Tager, but you can’t go too wrong either way.

Local Races

Pasco County Clerk of Court: Paula O’Neill (Republican) vs. Roberta Cutting (No Party Affiliation)

Here is an excellent summary article from the Tampa Bay Times on this race.

Our Recommendation: Vote for Paula O’Neill (Republican) — Ms. Cutting is clearly unqualified for the position and there are apparently some minor concerns about ethical issues in some volunteer work she did at the Clerk of Court office.

Pasco County Property Appraiser: Jon Sidney Larkin (Democrat) vs. Gary Joiner (Republican)

Our Recommendation: Vote for Jon Sidney Larkin (Democrat) — Mr. Larkin is running as a political outsider and has an impressive business resume in Pasco County in agribusiness (citrus) and real estate. The Tampa Bay Times also mentions that he has experience in property assessments, taxes, and planning. Mr. Larkin’s opponent, Gary Joiner, has worked at the Pasco County Tax Appraiser’s office for some time and has had disciplinary issues relating to an extramarital affair he had in 2008 with a coworker. He apparently disobeyed initial workplace guidelines that ordered him to end contact with the coworker, and was reprimanded again in 2014.

According to the Times:

When questioned about his actions, Joiner lied to investigators. When the truth came out, instead of losing his nearly $100,000 a year position, he was no longer allowed to be alone with any female employees at the Pasco Tax Collector’s office.

Mr. Larkin calls the position of Property Appraiser “nonpolitical,” and we agree. We suggest you vote for Mr. Larkin in this race.

Florida State House of Representatives (District 36): Amanda Murphy (Democrat) vs. Amber Mariano (Republican)

Incumbent Amanda Murphy originally won the seat in a special election after Mike Fasano’s retirement in 2013. Since that first election, Murphy has since won a second hotly contested election after only a partial term in office. In her tenure in the State Legislature, Murphy has shown an ability to work in a bipartisan manner to get a surprising amount of work done. Murphy has also pushed for a repeal of the Duke Energy fees associated with the Crystal River nuclear plant fiasco, an effort for which we applaud her, even if her Republican colleagues thought it was better to side with a large corporation (and a public utility at that) over their constituents.

That said, there are some concerns with Murphy’s responsiveness in the community, and she has not developed the same reputation for constituent assistance for which, for example, Richard Corcoran’s (Republican) office is known. While there is certainly room for improvement in Amanda Murphy’s candidacy, she is well qualified for the role compared to her opponent and has a track record of making bipartisan votes and pushing a sensible agenda (though we absolutely opposed Murphy’s outlandish vote for a law allowing “open carry” during a State of Emergency). Murphy’s campaign website is also outdated and she has not pulled resounding endorsements for this campaign–though she seems not to be too worried about her challenger.

Murphy’s opponent, on the other hand is far less qualified. Amber Mariano is the daughter of current County Commissioner Jack Mariano (who is running in his own re-election race unopposed except by write-in). Ms. Mariano is currently attending Florida State University majoring in political science, but has never before held public office. Mariano has been criticized for a platform that very closely mirrors that of her opponent, Murphy, as well as many of her father’s platform elements. Despite these criticism’s, Ms. Mariano’s website says she has “fresh ideas” and a “unique perspective.” The Times also alleges that Ms. Mariano swapped races with just a few days before the registration deadline, and was previously planning to run in Orlando.

This is a pretty easy call to make, even if there are a lot of behind-the-scenes forces at work here, and even if not everything is on the up and up.

Our Recommendation: Vote for Amanda Murphy (Democrat).

Pasco County Commissioner (District 3): Barry Horvath (Democrat) vs. Kathryn Starkey (Republican)

Incumbent Commissioner Kathryn Starkey is a strong proponent of the Ridge Road Extension, a project we oppose. She also does not hold a college degree, though she did study at Florida State University, and it is listed on her LinkedIn profile. Mrs. Starkey has made some positive moves, including her efforts with the Pasco County Food Council (which she helped form), but her actual voting record and actions have pointed more toward a willingness to sell Pasco County’s future for keeping present taxes low. Barry Horvath brings a stronger, but not overwhelmingly impressive, resume to the race, and a change in policy is needed on the poor development planning in Pasco County.

Our Recommendation: Vote for Barry Horvath (Democrat).

Pasco County Commissioner (District 1): Dimitri Delgado (No Party Affiliation) vs. Ron Oakley (Republican)

In this race, Ron Oakley is the more qualified of the two. Dimitri Delgado is a former JROTC instructor with Pasco County Schools at Pasco High School who was let go after last year because of concerns about his decision making. After having reviewed the incidents that the School Board referred to in terminating Mr. Delgado’s employment, we agree with them. That said, Ron Oakley has publicly made views about Pasco’s Enviornmental Lands Aquisition Program (ELAMP) that are cause for major concern. Mr. Oakley also seems to be for unhindered development without raising taxes. It is likely that Mr. Oakley represents just another in a long line of Republican Commissioners bent on using Pasco County’s resources simply to line the pockets of developers and those in power. Strangely, Mr. Oakley’s campaign page, RonOakley4Pasco.com seems to direct to an erotic website in japanese. It looks like the campaign must have lost control of the domain and for some reason a Japanese registrar company purchased it. This does not reflect well on Mr. Oakley’s organizational skills with $150,000 in campaign funds at his disposal, and confirms the image of “just another Republican Comissioner.”

Delgado is proposing a building moratorium on residential homes until infrastructure can catch up. Oakley says he wants more construction in order to pay for infrastructure improvements, but opposes raising impact fees or other taxes to pay for the measures.

Our Recommendation: This one comes down to a matter of policy over experience, demeanor, or qualifications. We recommend you vote for Dimitri Delgado.

Pasco County Commissioner (District 5): Jack Mariano (Republican) vs. Bruce Thomas Hall (Write-In)

There seems to be no official opponent in this race for County Commission District 5. The only name that comes up is a write-in candidate by the name of Bruce Thomas Hall. We cannot find much information on Mr. Hall or his candidacy, and so unfortunately cannot gauge his qualification for this office. According to the Times, Bruce Hall is allegedly a Mariano supporter who is running as a distraction so that Mariano could run unopposed and in a closed primary (to keep Democratic voters out of the primary). That said, incumbent Commissioner Jack Mariano has a history that we cannot ignore, and makes us wish for a qualified opponent. Mr. Mariano is an embodiment of Pasco County’s issues, from his failure to foresee and solve stormwater issues over a long tenure, to appearances of corruption in his push for Pasco’s new SunWest park (where he has pushed for an operation contract by a company owned by his long-time friend).

Mariano and the Pasco (heck, let’s just go with the entire party Statewide) have also been accused of being willing to close the primary election by running supporters as “Write-In” candidates to prevent the primaries being open to all voters. Here’s a great piece on that by the Times’ C.T. Bowen.

Our Recommendation: Write someone’s name in other than Jack Mariano. Perhaps, a previous Republican primary challenger? Anyone will do.

Pasco County Mosquito Control District 1: Sandra “Sandy” Applefield vs. Jerry Wells

There is little to no information available about either of these candidates. We can’t make a recommendation here.

Our Recommendation: You’re on your own with this one. Maybe try giving them a call?

Pasco County Mosquito Control District 3: Shanon Holm vs. Gary “Buck” Joiner

There is not a wealth of platform information available for any of the candidates in the Mosquito Control race, but it does appear that Gary “Buck” Joiner is an incumbent that has enjoyed the benefits of being on a paid, elected board. Mr. Joiner has no platform information available online other than that he is a lifelong Pasco County resident and a Rotary Club member. Mr. Gary’s opponent, Shanon Holm, said that he has attended meetings of the Mosquito Control Board and saw wasteful spending. He is promising to reduce needless spending and make the organization more effective.

Our Recommendation: Vote out a long time board member and vote for the challenger, Shanon Holm.

Justices

All of the candidates (6 for the District Court of Appeals, 3 for the Florida Supreme Court) have avoided any concerns about their qualifications, and are all highly rated by an annual poll from the Florida Bar Association, showing that many of the lawyers who practice with these judges are satisfied in their ability. Florida’s merit system for continuing the appointment of judges is meant to retain judges after appointment that are competent, and to keep the process from becoming political. It is our opinion that this system is working appropriately and you should vote yes on all justices on the ballot. The Orlando Sun-Sentinel agrees.

Florida Constitutional Amendments

Number 1, “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice”

Our Recommendation: Vote No – This amendment has been widely derided as being put forward by the power companies to reduce the impact and expansion of solar power in Florida, and those opponents are correct. This amendment is worded in a way to attempt to get citizens supportive of solar to vote against their own interest. This amendment would restrict the ability of future legislators (or voters) to make changes to laws regarding solar power and electricity utilities in general, which would undoubtedly be very bad for Florida. This amendment is supported by companies like Duke Energy, Florida Power, and Tampa Electric (big surprise!). With that in mind, if you are for expanding and encouraging solar power and solar panels in the State of Florida, vote against this amendment. Vote no!

Number 2, “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions”

Our Recommendation: Vote Yes – This amendment is good for patients, good for Florida’s economy, and a step in the direction toward a discussion of whether or not Floridians want to legalize marijuana use. This amendment does not allow for recreational use of marijauana, but simply gives legal access to patients who are likely already using this drug. This will ease the burden on caregivers as well as patients from a legal perspective. There are very few rational reasons to vote against this amendment, though you could make an argument for a “slippery slope” theory, something we think is a false flag argument.

Number 3, “Tax Exemption for Totally and Permanently Disabled First Responders”

Our Recommendation: Vote No – This amendment allows “totally or permanently disabled” police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and military personnel to be exempt from property taxes under the homestead exemption. They would pay no property taxes. Unfortunately, this amendment would adversely affect local governments and services in an “undetermined amount.” A more appropriate action would be for the state legislature to increase assistance to disabled emergency responders so that local revenues would not be affected.

Number 5, “Homestead Tax Exemption for Certain Senior, Low-Income, Long-Term Residents; Determination of Just Value”

Our Recommendation: Vote No – This amendment would provide retroactive payments to “certain” senior citizens who home values exceed $250,000. The implementation of this amendment would cost local governments upwards of $5 million over the next seven years. Similarly to Amendment Number 3, this amendment would disproportionately and adversely affect local governments. A more appropriate action would be for the state legislature to provide more relief to these citizens should they need it. That said, we’re not sure that seniors in homes exceeding a value of $250,000 are in desperate need of additional property tax exemptions. We are also concerned that this definition would extend to “low-income” seniors who may own more than one home and do not qualify for homestead exemption because they live in another state.

Step Three: Tell and Inform Your Friends!

However you plan to vote, try to help your friends and family become informed. This article has great information, and even if you don’t agree with the viewpoints here, there are at least great tools for helping you to make educated choices with your votes. Share this article on Facebook, Twitter, and via e-mail! Good luck!

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