2020 Chance For Voters To Shape Future

Under The Hood


A presidential election means much of the political conversation at holiday gatherings and restaurants corners this week hinged on players in one particular 2020 contest. Political candidates of all parties and philosophies, regardless of office sought, will tell you that singular headline show dominates much of their conversation when they walk door to door.

But voters should remember heading into perhaps the most inescapable conversation of the coming year that there are countless contests up for grabs, and candidates should be judged on their own merits, flaws and vision for the community future. It’s worth educating yourself on the actions of Congress, the state Legislature, county and municipal government and the countless elected district boards in the region. And there’s fortunately a ton of individuals competing for office major and minor that will tell you both what those entities do and what their own vision may be.

Spoiler alert: very few have any say over whether to impeach the president. Florida residents this year will only vote on one person, their own Congressman, who weighs in on that. If that’s important to you, please let the candidates running for House of Representatives hear your hopes and concerns. But please, leave the poor Soil and Water Management District candidate be.

The thing is, there’s a huge amount of opportunity for voters to weigh in with officials this year differently than they’ve seen before. If you are lucky enough to be voting in a Sarasota County Commission district in 2020 (roughly 60 percent of voters still are), you will get to press candidates fighting for a smaller, focused district constituency.

Meanwhile, voters in the city of Sarasota will be participating in a higher turnout election thanks to a move to even-numbered years and a November vote. The greatest fear around this was always that national politics might drown city conversations out. Voters don’t need to let that happen. And they get the chance to demand a city government responding to mainstream concerns rather than small and perpetually changing pools of super voters.

And there’s the regular host of offices from School Board to water districts that continue to shape the immediate and long-term needs and future for the community. A Superintendent search will likely drive renewed interest in two School Board seats up for vote in 2020 in Sarasota County.

Sarasota may be home to the hottest Florida House seat in the entire state. With state Rep. Margaret Good now running for Congress, District 72 has already drawn a significant number of candidates, and I suspect at least one more major entry will come before qualification week next year.

Additionally, a Florida Senate seat based in Manatee County, vacated by the retirement of Senate President Bill Galvano, means voters there must choose who fills some very big shoes.

Those are the only open seats in the area, but remember every House and Senate seat for Sarasota and Manatee will appear on the ballot in 2020. I expect every incumbent to draw a challenge, some stronger than others. Regardless, races give an opportunity for voters to interface with their lawmakers in a direct and personal way—and when those pols quite frankly have the greatest incentive to keep constituents satisfied.

The 24-hour news networks and barrage of stories on social media can make politics seem intimidating or even nauseating. The truth is American democracy allows a personal contact between society’s leaders and the common man that’s the envy of the world. Use that to your advantage in 2020.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group.

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