On May 13th my blog stated that the big surprise in the campaign so far was the surge in crude oil prices. Then the next day my presumptive incumbent opponent announced he was withdrawing from the race. That's moved into first place in the big surprise category.
Of course, I'll be writing more about what this means for my campaign, but this is a busy time as we reconfigure the race not for an incumbent with a record, but for one, two, three, (or four or five?) political opportunists who may apparently be experiencing a compelling, if not overwhelming, spontaneous urge to serve the county.
I just think it is interesting that no one in Paul's party was driven enough to serve to step up and challenge Paul when Paul was a powerful presence; but, now that the Republican coast is clear, their conviction has suddenly clarified, their resolve quickly solidified and their no doubt longstanding interest in serving as a County Commissioner will finally be revealed. ............
Okay, that was a little snippy. Probably one of those things one should sleep on before responding to. A more gracious way to come at this would be to say that had these new challengers announced earlier, it might have helped Paul reach his decision sooner and therefore given them, the newcomers, a better start. That's better.
The main thing to focus on is the fact that during the few months we were opponents Paul and I went beyond civil and cordial to actually remaining friendly. I sat next to him at a South Venice Civic Association meeting and we both held to our commitments to be aboveboard with each other.
As a commissioner his service to the community comes closer to 168 than 40 hours a week. And I'm sure the salary is long forgotten as a storm like Charley surges up the west coast. And despite our differences, Paul and I shared many traits -- we're both northeasterners with a strong sense of humor and different way of approaching challenges. We came to Sarasota and made a commitment to the community that transcended raising kids and working. I look forward to resuming our non-competitive relationship and, contrary to my initial venting above, I want to welcome others to the race.
Part of of why I am running is to provide Sarasotans with choices and if no Republicans step forward, that goal will have been thwarted. Welcome aboard.
MONDAY MAY 19th UPDATE
Sarasota Herald-Tribune Political Columnist Jeremy Wallace covered the Republican Party's search for candidates in the first district race current Commissioner Paul Mercier exited last week. The column (reproduced below) is more of a list of who isn't than who might. That's not too surprising. Aside from my third of a year headstart in terms of fundraising, voter contact, name recognition, website, blog, endorsements, TV and radio appearances, and grassroots organization, someone wanting to enter the race at this point faces two structural challenges:
1) Paul's timing prevents "carpetbaggers" from renting a place in the first district and then claiming they are residents. That restricts potential candidates to people who actually live in the district -- a good thing in my opinion. As for myself, I've lived in the first district twice, most recently for the past 17 years, which gives me valuable perspective on how the district is changing. (I've also lived in six different locations in the district, which also provide perspective.)
2) It is too late to get on the ballot by petition as I did (see my blog on the subject). That means candidates will have to stroke a check (for $4,665.53 as I recall) and that money must come from some mixture of the candidate's personal funds and money raised in increments of $200 or less. That's a significant threshold whether one is dipping into a personal account or putting a fund raising machine in gear.
I fully expect one or more Republican challengers to enter the race, but it may take a little while for prospective candidates to gauge how much of their time, money and personal life will be consumed the next 169 days. These are not quick and easy decisions, particularly when families are involved - it took me several months to work through all the life-changing implications.