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SRQ Daily Feb 10, 2018

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"Since the city commission has repeatedly refused to allow voters to decide the date of city elections in a referendum, a petition process is necessary."

- Mary Dougherty, Gulf Coast Builders Exchange

[Under The Hood]  An Olympic Finish in District 72?
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

When news broke a special election would be held in state House District 72, the outcome seemed forgone. Before most learned state Rep. Alex Miller would resign, Republican James Buchanan announced he would end his candidacy in a neighboring district and instead run for this open seat. Republican leaders exuded immediate confidence. One suggested this would mean a cleaner election cycle, with Buchanan avoiding a primary with a solid opponent in Bradenton.

But now the Sarasota area election seems anything but certain. Democrat Margaret Good proved to be an outstanding fundraiser, and Friday night announced she now has more money than any candidate in the race, with a stunning $541,701 through Feb. 8, including $257,058 in cash donations the last month. That's compared to Buchanan's $475,099 and Libertarian Alison Foxall's $30,847 (itself a record for Libertarian state House candidates in Florida). A political committee backing Good raised another $185,000. She now has national figures like former Vice President Joe Biden and former presidential candidate Martin O’Malley helping her campaign. On top of that, Foxall’s campaign leaned heavily on business issues, making it likely she erodes Buchanan’s support more than Good’s. Honestly, it likely will take a tremendous Election Day push by Republicans to save this seat from a flip Tuesday.

Why? It’s true more registered Republicans than Democrats already cast mail-in or early votes—315 more as of the end of early voting Friday with 25,969 votes cast. Yet Democrats so far outperfromed in early voting. Plus, stalwart Republicans don’t populate greater Sarasota the way they do Venice and Englewood. Voters in District 72 show a capacity, even a propensity, to split ballots.

Look how voters acted in the election when Republican Miller won this seat in November 2016. Then, Miller won with 50,468 votes, more than 14,000 more than deeply flawed Democrat Ed James, a 16-percentage-point lead. More importantly, she also won more votes than Donald Trump won for president here—nearly 3,000 more. Trump won the district by 4.5 percent. By comparison, in Venice-based District 73, when Republican Julio Gonzalez easily won re-election with 58,502 votes, Trump picked up about 1,500 more votes than that. It’s conceivable nearly every Gonzalez voter backed Trump, but impossible that every Miller voter did the same.

Mix that info with data from a StPetePolls survey showing Buchanan with a three-point lead among likely voters but Good with a 17-point lead among those who cast ballots before Jan. 23. That showed Good winning 53.6 percent of the independent vote, with Buchanan getting 34.3 percent. Republicans need to change those trends by Tuesday in order to win, especially since the survey showed Good getting a higher percentage of Republican votes than Buchanan did Democratic ones.

How did we get here? Buchanan early on ran a conservative (lower-case ‘c’) campaign, relying on name recognition and Republican loyalty to carry the day. That’s not a terrible strategy, mind you. The Republican Party of Sarasota claims hands-down the best get-out-the-vote machine on the Gulf Coast. But with an unpopular Republican president in the White House and voters thirsty for change, that may not be enough.

Buchanan in the last weeks of the campaign made up ground for sure. He did a televised debate with Good and Foxall after realizing his early strategy of sitting debates out only resulted in free media for his opponents. He did better than expected at the debate, though he did not win. Rather, he and Good under the TV lights at ABC-7 looked about equally competent, aggressive and uncomfortable. Foxall proved the most capable in front of cameras, however low her chances of victory may be.

Meanwhile, Good doesn’t shine in media settings but excels on the trail, rallying troops for major canvassing events. Is that enough? To use an Olympics metaphor, imagine Good as a speed skater in the 3,000-meters who started half a lap behind. She has to outpace her opponent, not merely do well. But the advantage she’s got is the ability to sneak up from behind. Data suggests she’s already caught up. The question is whether Buchanan can now kick into gear in time to win this race.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group. 

[GCBX]  Unnecessary Low Turnouts
Mary Dougherty

Early voting ends today for the State House District 72 Special Election. The final vote takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 13. In this case, Gov. Rick Scott required a special election because Alex Miller, the former state representative, resigned her position before her term ended. There is a valid time requirement to do so, even though without a doubt the turnout in Tuesday’s vote will be extremely low. As is the case with all special elections, turnout it abysmally low. It is difficult enough for working families to take time off work for things like doctor’s appointments, school obligations and children’s extracurricular activities. Leaving the house early or asking for additional time off to go vote in an election that is normally not very well promoted and only has one thing on the ballot is just not very convenient.

You may scowl at that statement and claim that people who don’t prioritize voting are abdicating their civic rights and duties but let’s be honest. The facts are clear. Voter turnout in special elections is consistently less than 25 percent. Voter turnout in general elections is usually higher than 70 percent. Additionally, special elections cost municipalities upwards of $100,000. That is why it is so perplexing that if not absolutely necessary, such as the case of the House District 72 election, why any city would continue to hold its elections this way. And yet it is exactly what the City of Sarasota has been doing for years. It is time to stop.

That is the mission of a recently formed local group comprised of volunteers, business owners and organizations in a campaign called “Decide the Date.” It is their goal to address the expensive and low voter turnout in March city elections. Since the city commission has repeatedly refused to allow voters to decide the date of city elections in a referendum, a petition process is necessary. This measure is just to put the issue on the ballot so voters can decide if they want to change the election day. The only way to get this changed is to ask city dwellers that are registered to vote to sign a petition to get the measure on the ballot.

Taking into consideration all factors that affect voter turnout, timing, as in life, is everything. Decide the Date is an effort to allow voters in the City of Sarasota to decide if they would like to move the city elections to the same date as regularly scheduled elections, which would coincide with when these voters are already voting on other issues and offices, including the County Commission, School Board, State Representative, etc.

Additionally, moving the elections to November would increase voter turnout among minorities and younger voters, saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. All you need to do for a case study on this matter is look to our neighbors in the north—the city of Bradenton. After moving its elections from odd number years to even number years in 2010, turnout increased from 14 to 71 percent in 2012, 53 percent in 2014 and 66 percent in 2016. I urge you to vote this week in the necessary special election and then sign the petition for the unnecessary ones in the city of Sarasota. Visit DecideTheDate.com for details. 

Mary Dougherty is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builder’s Exchange. 

[Higher Education]  Idea's Origin Doesn't Legislate its Validity
Donal O'Shea, doshea@ncf.edu

There is an old saying that still waters run deep. That saying usually applies to people, but it is also true of principles. And there is no better example than the principle, “The origin of an idea does not legislate on its validity.” 

This seems innocuous, obvious even. We all know that a genius can champion a stupid idea. Einstein added an extra term to his equations of general relativity to ensure they predicted a stationary universe, a decision he subsequently called his greatest blunder. And a dullard can advance a very good idea. 

But the principle is either unknown or not honored, as the national political (and, regrettably, some widely publicized campus) discourse shows. I learned it in an intellectually intoxicating course in the philosophy of religion from a gifted and demanding teacher, Bela Krigler, who lived the principle and insisted his students abide by it. 

Krigler was a Piarist priest, a member of one of the oldest Catholic teaching orders. He had been prevented from completing his doctoral work in Hungary because the authorities then in charge were suspicious of the order. He fled to the United States to escape the repression that followed the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

Krigler hated Communism and loved God. But woe to the student who dismissed an argument of Marx or Lenin on the grounds it was Communist or who appealed to God or some ecclesiastical authority to justify a religious claim.   

The principle that Krigler taught acknowledges someone, or something, hateful may do some good. A terrible human being may produce great art or conceive a terrific idea. At least two notorious fascist regimes instituted family-friendly policies. And well-meaning, good individuals may espouse badly flawed ideas.  

The principle has radical consequences. Since the origin of an idea plays no role in evaluating an idea, the character, motive, gender, race or any other attribute of a person associated with the idea can have nothing to do with the idea’s validity. Ad hominem arguments have no standing. The principle does not require that one tolerate foolishness. There may be many reasons that lead one to judge an idea foolish, but no idea is foolish because the person advancing it is foolish. 

Adherence to the principle is neither easy nor comfortable. It demands discipline.   

Since the principle is so frequently flouted, how do we know that it is true? The answer lies in experience and in reflecting upon the accumulated wisdom passed from one generation to the next. While it may be simpler to automatically dismiss ideas espoused by individuals we don’t like or understand, history shows that institutions and governments that do so lose out. 

Indeed, the principle of judging ideas on their merits underlies all scientific, academic, rational and judicial inquiry. It is not an overstatement to say this is one of the principles that underlies our civilization. It is the purpose of higher education, and the liberal arts and sciences in particular, to instill this principle and others. This is not indoctrination. Rather, it is the opposite. This principle is central to Western values, and one of the tools that enables our students to contribute meaningfully and lead lives of consequence.

Donal O’Shea is president of New College of Florida. 

[Best Of SRQ Local]  Cast Your Vote For Best Local Happy Hour!

Having more “happy” in your life can’t hurt right? That’s why we have added Best Local Happy Hour as a category in SRQ’s Best of SRQ Local Reader’s Competition. Live every hour like it’s Happy Hour and vote for your favorite hotspot to kick back after work and enjoy a cocktail. 

Vote Here!

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine and edited by Senior Editor Phil LedererNote: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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