Unfortunately our present county commission does not meet those three criteria. Three of our commissioners were unopposed the last time they ran, one had token (write-in) opposition and the one that was elected in the most competitive race (where Democrats and no party affiliation and other party affiliation actually got to vote) was a three way contest in a primary.
This reality (the lack of truly competitive races) is not a swipe at our current commissioners -- after all, they stepped up and volunteered to run. If anything it is a criticism of those Democrats who failed to mount a challenge. I do want to honor and recognize the Democrats who have stepped up, most recently Jennifer Cohen, Fredd Atkins, Bill Bishop and Tom Price. They deserve credit for working to re-establish a two party system around here. And all Sarasota Democrats should be inspired by Bill Carey, the most recent Democrat to serve on the Sarasota County Commission (1966-1970). His service motivates me every day.
When Paul Mercier decided not to pursue re-election anymore, it apparently set off a concerted effort to find a Republican to challenge me. Meanwhile my campaign has been reworking itself to compete against one or more unknown contenders. And with each passing day there was an increasing chance no one could be found, in part because of the steep financial hurdles posed by our County Charter. [More on this in a subsequent blog.]
Bottom line: In order to deliver on my promise of a real choice someone had to challenge me. As a result, the last two weeks with no Republican opponent have been somewhere between ironic and embarrassing. Finally, last night Sarasota Herald Tribune political reporter Jeremy Wallace broke the story that the Republicans have identified a candidate.
While it means more work for me, it gets us all closer to having a real two party system and real choices for our county commission. Had I been seated with no opposition I would have been saddled with four years of "Who elected you?" -- and that would have been a fair question.
I welcome my new opponent, Carolyn Mason, and look forward to a principled contest based on the challenges and opportunities facing our county.
Now we both wait to see if any more contenders step forward. We'll know in three weeks when qualifying ends.