IN THIS ISSUE
DON'T SKIP THE PRIMARIES, PART II
In the previous (June 28) UFF USF Biweekly, we observed that important electoral decisions are made in the primaries. So we strongly advised readers to take primaries seriously – which means making sure that one is registered to vote, and actually voting, and maybe making a campaign contribution or two to worthy candidates. But now for the fun part: deciding who to vote for (or against).
If you are a registered member of the Democratic or Republican Party, then this is the election where your party decides who to nominate. And there are some non-partisan offices up for election. As "Silence betokens consent," if you don't vote, then you consent to whatever decision is made by those who do vote.
- Basic Primaries. After making sure you are registered, take a look at your choices. This may involve some homework.
- Other Races. It isn't just primaries on the ballot. We look at some of those other races.
The United Faculty of Florida is an affiliate – through the American Federation of Teachers – of the grand old alliance of the AFL and the CIO. The AFL-CIO endorses candidates in elections. For local elections, it works like this. Union chapters and locals associated with the Florida AFL-CIO's Central Labor Councils send volunteers to meet with candidates. Then volunteers get together at the Florida AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education (COPE) meeting, which produced the list of endorsements we have posted at the UFF USF website.
These are not necessarily the candidates the volunteers personally preferred. The COPE makes its selection on behalf of the unions and their members, so COPE participants must focus on making endorsements (or not making endorsements) that advance the interests and ideals of the unions and their members. In addition, the COPE is practical, and prefers candidates with a reasonable chance for success.
In particular, this year, the AFL-CIO is seeking reasonable people for the legislature.
The union makes endorsements for only some of the races. For example, for Florida State Senate District # 17, which consists of northwestern Hillsborough County and much of southern Pasco County, things were up in the air and the AFL-CIO wound up making no endorsement. However, things have settled down since COPE met, and the UFF USF Chapter has recommended that the United Faculty of Florida Political Action Committee – which is accepting your donations now – support former USF professor Wes Johnson for that seat.
There are two kinds of races: primary elections, where parties decide which candidates to nominate for the fall election, and non-partisan elections, for offices that are technically non-partisan, like school board members and judges. We look at primary elections now, and consider non-partisan elections below.
First of all, make sure that you are registered to vote. Because of redistricting, many people are now in different districts. (Congressional and legislative maps are also posted by the Florida Division of Elections.) New voter cards will give details, but there seem to be some issues with voter card distribution. If you have not received a new card, it may be wise to confirm your registration; most county supervisors of elections have online forms for this. Our list of URLs of nearby county supervisors of elections is on our Election 2012 page.
Next, what are your choices in the August 14 primary election? To find out who will appear on your ballot, you will probably want to start by going to your local county supervisor of elections for a sample ballot. The Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota county supervisors of elections have posted sample ballots.
Next, who to vote for? If a reliable organization (like your friendly neighborhood union) has recommendations (like the COPE endorsements), you may want to consider those. Other sources of information include:
And this being the 21st century, most candidates will have websites. Check them out.
Some candidates the unions endorsed – Kevin Beckner, Doug Belden, Kathy Castor, Janet Cruz, Dwight Dudley, Keith Fitzgerald, Joshua Shulman, Adam Tebrugge, Karen Welzel, and Carl Zimmerman – have no primary opposition (although they probably would appreciate campaign contributions for the fall election). But check out the candidates in your district, and please remember that the union recommends supporting and voting for the candidates on the COPE list of endorsements; of these candidates, Alison Crumbley, Mark Danish, Jim Frishe, Larry Helms, Ed Hooper, JoAnne Hurley, Randy Johnson, Jack Latvala, and Jack Myers are running in contested elections on August 14.
Towards the bottom of the ballot are lots of little races, and we tend to forget how much these elected officers have to do with our everyday lives. These are the city council members who put in streetlights, the judges who decide what to do about the neighbor who drives drunk, and the school board member who votes on budget priorities. Since unions deal with these officials regularly, unions make recommendations about their elections.
Some of the endorsed candidates are not running on August 14 at all; they will be running in the general election. But some are running only in the August 14 election. For those who are running and facing opposition, the drill is the same. One complication is that candidates for these offices seem more prone to go without web-pages. Another is that for some non-partisan offices – especially for judgeships – web-pages will be deliberately vanilla. But there are other sources of information: check the websites of local newspapers and tv stations, searching for the names of the candidates. For judges, there is the Bar, which posted a page on the different jobs of different kinds of courts and a page of links to materials for voters. Media endorsements usually follow an interview, but as many candidates have been around for a while, articles in news archives can give an idea of what the candidates might be like.
But it may be useful to rely on political junkies in organizations that you know, like the union, to go through the ballots and make recommendations. Ours are posted online.