In the wake of Tuesday’s primary that clarified his opposition, Democrat Jono Miller held a “green rally” in Venice Wednesday evening that attracted a crowd estimated at fifty to Sharky’s on the Pier. Miller’s remarks consisted of thanking the Sierra Club for a major campaign endorsement, and Miller’s thoughts on the previous night’s primary election results that finally fixed the names that will be on November’s ballot. Following the event, part of the group took a sunset beach walk to enjoy one of Sarasota County’s best beaches.
Sierra Political Chair, Lynn Nilssen, announced the endorsement from the country’s leading grassroots environmental organization, a nod that was not unexpected since Miller has been a well-known local environmental leader for three decades. Known for his common sense and reasonable approach, Miller has made an effort to reach out to other major constituencies and has received significant, but not unanimous, support from local development and business interests, raising some eyebrows among some green supporters.
Miller reflected upon not only the special importance of the Sierra Club endorsement, but also the history behind the fact that enabled the Club to make endorsements. During a bitter fight to save the Grand Canyon from a dam project, the Sierra Club lost its tax exempt status in the 60’s -- a politically-motivated move by the IRS that backfired and ultimately enabled the Sierra Club to be involved in lobbying and politics in ways most environmental organizations are prohibited from doing. He also took time to thank the Sierra Club for all the training the Club had provided him over the past thirty years, stating that the skills learned had provided the basis for his run for the Commission.
Miller did not comment on his choice of shirts for the evening, a white guayabera with an embroidered Leadership Florida logo. Leadership Florida is the Florida Chamber of Commerce's statewide leadership training program. Miller is a graduate of Class XX.
Miller went on to comment on Carolyn Mason’s success, wondering aloud why her long string of endorsements and prior record as an elected official had not resulted in a far wider margin of victory in the primary. He noted that more than two out of five primary voters preferred a candidate with no history of elective service and far fewer endorsements.
Acknowledging that he was ahead by many measures of campaigning, Miller pointed out that it was not success in fundraising or number of blog entries that determined who would be the next commissioner, but votes. He urged those present to get the word out about his candidacy.
Following his comments, a portion of the group went on a beach walk that featured some of the best naturalists in the county, among them noted botanist John Beckner, Ed Freeman, Wilma Katz, and Julie Morris. Florida House District 70 candidate Sam Rosenfeld and his wife Sacha went along as well. The group discovered several rare beach plants that might otherwise have been overlooked, commented on invasive exotic plants, discussed new techniques for protecting sea turtle nests, and speculated about beach dynamics in the area. Sam and Jono lost the outdoor thread for a while, brainstorming instead about the economic potential of additional photovoltaic investment in Sarasota County.
The event put Miller over the 750 contributor mark, raising $1,375 from roughly half the supporters present. Miller took time in his comments to recognize the importance of smaller contributions; stating that while he has many of the crucial $200 maximum contributions that fuel the campaign, he was especially proud of having the lowest average contribution in the District One contest, a fact he attributed to broader support from the entire community.
The event was organized by Ed Freeman, Jennifer Randolph, Gerry Swormstedt, Kelsey Hitchingham, and Julie K. Morris (not Jono's wife Julie K. Morris, the other Julie K. Morris). Special thanks are due the non-profit Wildlands Conservation team and the staff of Sharkys.