Iguana primary election picks
September 1996

Tuesday, September third will be the day for primary voting in Alachua County. There are some important races, and the key issue locally which seems to be on peoples' minds is the proposed cement plant just west of Gainesville. The current county commission approved the plant, but strong citizen outcry against the plant has created a full field of candidates.

County Commission District 1. Three Democrats. Tough to call based on the circumstances of the incumbent Margaret Eppes, who progressives worked hard to put in, but since she sided with the commission on the cement plant, she has fractured her base. NOW has endorsed Eppes. Roger Mallard is a long-time paramedic with political experience as an Alachua City Commissioner with a pro-environment voting record on environmental and development issues. He is the only candidate fully against the cement plant. People for Alternatives to Landfills has endorsed him. Chuck Clemons is the establishment candidate, and he also received the Central Labor Council endorsement, even though he's a financial consultant. The Gainesville Sun also endorsed him. He is pro-cement plant. The winner of this race must have 50%, which may not happen in which case a runoff of the top two would occur on October 1. We are definitely opposed to Clemons, and wish we could support Margaret again, but her position on the plant and her tendency to go along with the county manager makes us go for Roger Mallard.

County Commission District 3. Five candidates; one Republican, Tom McKnew sails right to November. Whoever emerges from the four Democrats we'll support wholeheartedly against him. Of the Democrats, we like Penny Wheat a lot. John Martin has run on his dad Sid's reputation and connections and has gone negative on Penny because he knows how strong she is. A runoff between these two will not be pretty, because you'll get Republican money coming in to keep Penny out. Jancie Vinson is a first-time candidate and we hope she runs again. We endorse Penny Wheat because of her sterling record as a commissioner on government responsibility, accountability, and the environment. (Wheat first got active in politics because her well water was contaminated with gasoline and it was causing illness in her family, and she still appraoches things as a citizen-activist, not a self-serving politician). Wheat also has NOW's endorsement.

County Commission District 5. This will be over between the two Democrats on September 3 as there is no Republican running. Charles Chestnut has been an office holder on and off for a long time, both on the school board and now on the county commission. He has a long history of service to the community, including the Civil Rights Movement. NOW has endorsed Chestnut. Several recent votes, including his vote for the cement plant, cause us to back his opponent Mark Dunmore. Dunmore is a founding member of People for Alternatives to Landfills and has been going through a crash course in politics during this campaign season. He's a resident of Orange Heights and a small business owner with political experience through participation on advisory boards. He opposes the cement plant.

Sheriff. Three Democrats are lining up for a shot at Steve Oelrich, our Republican sheriff, and we hope one of them succeeds. Of the three, we like John Tileston for his broad experience and familiarity with the law. We found him very accessible when he took the time to come forward and talk about his involvement with the Johns Committee and publicly state that what the Committee (known as Florida's "little HUAC") did was wrong, and that he regretted his participation in it. His firm but laid back style is more in tune with Alachua County. Freddie Dampier, long time Police Chief in Alachua, is a good second choice that labor backed. Stan Morrisey is the third Democrat, and was perturbed that we didn't mention him in our last Iguana. Sorry, Stan, but now we are, and we don't think a former long-time DEA investigator who at the Hippodrome candidate forum was both caustic and negative to his fellow democrats is who we'd like to see as sheriff. However, Morrissey has NOW's endorsement. NOW states, "He greatly appreciates the problems of women, especially in the area of spouse abuse."

Judge races finish out the ballot. In the Martha Lott-Jim Nilon race, we support Martha Lott. She's not popular with lawyers, but it's partly because she forces them to not postpone hearings and drag out cases. Any doubts we had about supporting her over her opponent were erased by the sleazy silhouetted "Lott you don't know" mailing which Nilon backers sent out. Lott may not be our ideal, but Nilon's more of the same good old boy network. Gainesville Area NOW endorses her, although they objected strenously to a radio ad her campaign aired which stated something like 'She can cook like Aunt Jemima and she's not bad looking, either.' The campaign pulled the ad after objections. We hope she recovers from her case of Hillary Clinton-chocolate chip cookie syndrome in time to regain the bench.

The county judge race has two candidates we really like. Four people are running. We've known George Schaefer for years (since before he ran for State Attorney). He is committed to good lawyering for the people. He set up the North Central Florida AIDS Network's pro bono legal services program, and was legislative affairs chair of the League of Women Voters last year. Phyllis Kotey we don't know as well, but also feel positive toward her based upon what we've heard and her statements at the Hippodrome forum put on by the League of Women Voters. We support George Schaefer, who has both NOW and the Central Labor Council's endorsements.

If you want to work on a runoff or on the general election, you should know that the Democratic Party has two offices open, one at 1105 NW 5th Ave and the other at Butler Plaza at the opposite end from Publix, facing toward Archer Rd. There's probably a Republican office somewhere too, but they're gonna lose in November and if you like them, you'll have to find it yourself.

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