Why Aug. 30 is Sarasota's Election Day

Guest Correspondence

BY CATHY ANTUNES SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUL 30, 2016

Crucial races will be decided in Sarasota’s Aug. 30 primary election. No matter what your party affiliation, voting in the school board race is critical. With only two candidates vying for the non-partisan school board (not the usual three or four), there will be no November runoff. All registered voters can cast a ballot in the August school board race. For GOP voters, the District 1 County Commission primary is another pivotal election. Sarasota’s County Commission has been 100 percent Republican for nearly 50 years, making the August GOP primary a de facto County Commission election.

Sarasota’s nonpartisan School Board District 2 race on August 30 between incumbent Caroline Zucker and challenger Teresa Mast is the actual school board election, and may also determine whether our school board is run by a PAC-supported majority.

Sarasota’s other open school board seat (District 3) will be filled by Eric Robinson, whose two challengers withdrew from the race. For those opposed to Citizens United, Robinson’s unopposed run for School Board is particularly cringe-worthy. Robinson’s work managing millions in state and local GOP political action committee money, the lucrative accounting and consulting fees he has gained from PAC management, don’t align with a nonpartisan elected office.  Robinson joins Bridget Ziegler on the Sarasota School Board, who benefited from over $45,000 in donations from out-of-state entity Phoenix Media, which doesn’t need to report its own funding source, to a PAC that supported her 2014 School Board victory.

Given Robinson’s and Ziegler’s connections to opaque PACs, concerned voters would do well to pay careful attention to the Zucker-Mast race. Zucker has served on the School Board for 17 years, and has never been supported by this type of money. As a newcomer, Mast’s source of  support is less certain. We’ve seen mailers and robocalls with opaque PAC funding enter local races in the final weeks of a campaign, making it next to impossible for the non-machine candidate to effectively respond.

Since 1970, every single Sarasota County Commissioner has been a Republican. Winners of the August GOP Sarasota County Commission primaries have gone on to become our County Commissioners for the past 46 years. About 28,000 Sarasota Republicans voted in the 2014 primary, just over 10 percent of the total electorate.  Those who vote in the August GOP primary have, as a practical matter, been picking our County Commission for nearly 50 years. 

GOP candidates Nancy Detert and Charles Hines are running for the County Commission without opposition from within the GOP—or outside their party. 

But in the District 1 County Commission race, GOP voters have a choice between Frank DiCicco and Mike Moran. DiCicco is a local leader who says he will work for “responsible growth” and is tired of “business as usual.” Moran is supported by the development machine—Pat Neal, Randy Benderson, Carlos Beruff.

Monday is the deadline to register to vote or to change parties, to vote in the Aug. 30 primary election. www.sarasotavotes.com

Our quality of life and our children’s education are on the ballot on August 30.  Vote!

Cathy Antunes serves on the board of Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government.

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