Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Get Ready to Vote on Amendment 4

Vote-By-Mail ballots are out! I know this because three friends emailed this afternoon to ask how I plan to vote on the two ballot items I haven’t written about yet: U.S. Senate and Amendment 4. In this post, I’ll write about Amendment 4. In another, I’ll write about the Democratic and Republican primary choices for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Marco Rubio. Stay tuned.

Amendment 4, a proposed amendment to Florida’s Constitution, is titled “Solar Devices or Renewable Energy Source Devices; Exemption from Certain Taxation and Assessment.”

It is an amendment proposed by the “citizens’ initiative process,” which this year requires 683,149 petitions to be signed by registered Florida voters from at least 14 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts in order to appear on the ballot. In other words, a lot of work went into getting this proposed amendment on the ballot. (I signed one of the petitions. Did you?)

According to Floridians for Solar Choice, the grassroots group behind the amendment:

Amendment 4 would exempt solar panels and other renewable energy equipment from the real property tax and the onerous tangible property tax – currently huge barriers to installing solar in Florida. This policy will lower the cost of solar, increase clean energy jobs, and greatly expand solar development across the state!

League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) President Pamela Goodman and Deirdre Macnab, Chair - Natural Resources/Solar, explained the amendment in a recent Guest Commentary in the Pensacola NewsJournal:

A remarkable battle is shaping up in Florida. On the one side is the utilities who have raised over $16 million to protect their monopoly fiefdom, and on the other a ragtag army of a vast array of citizen groups ranging from the Tea Party, Christian Coalition, League of Women Voters, and the Sierra Club.

What has drawn these civic groups together? A desire to help Floridians lower energy bills and create a free market for clean renewable energy power.

Yes, the LWVF, a nonpartisan POLITICAL organization, is one of the supporting organizations of Floridians for Solar Choice.

The LWVF is also spearheading a Solar Smart Policy Campaign to educate voters about this Amendment 4 as well as another, Amendment 1, that will be on the ballot in November that, the League says, “is almost fully funded by the utilities who have raised an incredible $16 million to place it on the ballot and reach voters. Because it places new barriers to solar, it is strongly opposed by a diverse army of citizen groups.”

Florida is one of only four states that prohibit citizens from buying electricity from anyone other than a utility, along with North Carolina, Kentucky and Oklahoma. I agree with the LWV that this prohibition limits customer choice and blocks the growth of solar power. The choice to harness solar power should be available to everyone.

I will vote YES on Amendment 4 in August.



Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Get Ready to Vote for U.S. House of Representatives

If you live in Congressional District 25, there will be no August primary for your representative, because only one Republican (incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart) and one Democrat (Alina Valdes) are running for that seat. The winner will be decided in the November general election.

If you live in Congressional District 19 (CD–19) and are a registered Republican, you’ll have the opportunity to vote in the closed August primary for one of three Republicans running for the seat currently held by retiring Curt Clawson: Dan Bongino, Chauncey Goss, and Francis Rooney. The winner will face Democrat Robert Neeld and two write-in candidates in November.

Find your congressional district here.

Because Florida is a closed primary state, I encourage you, as I’ve written before, to consider registering as a Republican so you can participate in the Republican primaries. If you aren’t familiar with my rationale, please read here and here.

In this post, I’ll tell you about the three Republicans running in the CD–19 primary, and who I plan to vote for.

Dan Bongino
Dan Bongino, of Palm City, FL, is a former New York City police officer (1995 - 1999) and Secret Service agent (1999 - 2011). He left the Secret Service to run in 2012 for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, winning the Republican primary but losing badly in the general election. In 2014, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland, and was endorsed by libertarian Rand Paul. He lost in a close race. (More here.)

He has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the City University of New York and an MBA from Penn State. He is the author of Life Inside the Bubble: Why a Top-Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked Away From It All (2013) and The Fight: A Secret Service Agent’s Inside Account of Security Failings and the Political Machine (2016), and hosts a podcast called The Renegade Republican.

Bongino describes himself as “A No Excuses Conservative Candidate for Congress” and says he is running for Congress because “The real fight isn’t Democrats versus Republicans, it’s between the sell outs in the D.C. insider class and the rest of us.” He wants to “sweep D.C. clean” and promises to “leave the congressional office I occupy less powerful over your life when I leave.”

His Palm City address makes me wonder why he’s running for a seat representing Collier and Lee Counties. (Palm City is on the Treasure Coast of Florida, in Martin County.) And why Florida, after two unsuccessful runs for office in Maryland? According to the Sunshine State News, shortly after moving to Palm City, he “promptly started getting asked questions about his political future.” Surprisingly, there is no federal requirement that a congressman live in the district in which he/she is running. The Constitution only requires that a member of the House live in the state, but not the district. And state statutes that required residency have been overturned as unconstitutional.

Bongino’s website is www.bongino.com, his Facebook Page is here and he’s on Twitter @dbongino. He has no LinkedIn Page.

Chauncey Goss
Chauncey Goss, of Sanibel Island, spent 8 years in Washington, D.C., as a senior staffer, Office of Management and Budget (2002 - 2005), and then Deputy Staff Director for the U.S. House Budget Committee (2005–2010), where he worked closely with Congressman Paul Ryan. Returning to Florida, he founded Goss Practical Solutions LLC, a consulting firm that provides policy analysis, budget forecasting, and political analysis to “demysfity federal government spending and regulatory activities.” He began his public policy career as Executive Director of the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association (1992–1998), then worked for three years as a Deputy Division Manager at SAIC, a large federal government contractor based in McLean, VA.

Goss is the son of former CIA Director Porter Goss, who served as a Republican member of Congress from 1989 - 2004 representing a district that at the time included Naples. Previously Goss Sr. served on the Sanibel City Council, including as its first Mayor, and was subsequently appointed to the Lee County Commission by then-governor Bob Graham, a Democrat.

Goss has a B.A. from Rollins College and a Master’s in Public Policy from Georgetown University.

Goss says he’s running for Congress “because Southwest Florida deserves excellent representation from someone whose primary focus is Southwest Florida.” He is a self-described “fiscal and Constitutional conservative” who wants to cut federal regulation, “repeal and replace Obamacare”, “fight to secure our borders” and “vigorously defend the second amendment.” He will “fight for the rights of the unborn” and “religious and economic liberty,” and “will fight the Department of Education and it’s heavy-handed treatment of our local school districts.”

Goss ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012, defeated by Trey Radel in the Republican primary. In 2015 he was elected to the Sanibel City Council, where he serves as liaison to the Sanibel Planning Commission and the Lee County Horizon Council. Last week, he announced that he was endorsed by 75 local leaders, including Paige Kreegel and Michael Dreikorn, competitors in his prior run for the District 19 seat.

Goss cares about water quality. He says he will “fight for funding to make sure Everglades restoration is fully and aggressively funded” and says he will “work tirelessly to ensure water storage solutions are aggressively pursued around Lake Okeechobee so the environment … will no longer be threatened by water releases.”

Goss’s website is www.GossForCongress.com, his Facebook Page is here, his LinkedIn Page is here, and he’s on Twitter @ChaunceyGoss.

Francis Rooney
L. Francis Rooney of Naples, is CEO of Manhattan Construction Company, the fourth generation of his family to own that company. Among its notable projects are the George Bush Presidential Library and the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Rooney is also chairman of Rooney Holdings, Inc., a building and construction management company working in the oil and gas, manufacturing, aviation, transportation, retail and environmental industries. He served as the ambassador to the Holy See from 2005–2008, appointed by President George W. Bush.

Rooney has been and remains a major GOP fundraiser. According to an article in the News-Press, he “raised millions of dollars mostly for Republican politicians across the country” and is “known for having a network of wealthy friends who can raise a lot of money in single events for candidates and the GOP.” Citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the article says Rooney, his wife and his companies have contributed at least $6.2 million since 2003 to federal races, and employees from his companies have given nearly $600,000 of their own money to campaigns during that same time period.

Among the 2016 recipients of contributions from Rooney through June are the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Speaker Paul Ryan’s Prosperity Action PAC and candidates Jeb Bush, Carlos Curbelo, John Boehner, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Kelly Ayotte and Paul Ryan.

Rooney has a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

Like Bongino and Goss, Rooney wants to “take on a dysfunctional and broken Washington.” He pledges to sponsor “No Balanced Budget, no Pay” for Congress legislation.

According to the Naples Herald, both Rooney and Goss support using federal funds to buy up lands to restore the lake’s natural flow into the Everglades, while Bongino is “more skeptical.” A post on Rooney’s website outlines his “Solutions to Halt the Lake Okeechobee Discharges.”

Rooney has been endorsed by former Sen. Connie Mack and former Rep. Connie Mack IV, both of whom represented Southwest Florida in Congress, as well as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), Gov. Rick Scott and former presidential candidate Ben Carson.

Rooney’s website is www.FrancisRooney.com, his Facebook Page is here and he’s on Twitter @FrancisRooney. He has no LinkedIn Page.

The Money

If the race will be decided by who raises the most money, there will be no contest.


Notice that Rooney contributed $1.5 million to his campaign. In addition, according to the Naples Daily News, $137,750 of Rooney's individual contributions came from the 34102 zip code, which includes Port Royal, "where Rooney owns a $20 million house, according to the Collier County property appraiser's office. Many of Naples’ politically connected appear as donors on Rooney’s disclosure, including Miles and Parker Collier, venture capitalist Joseph Fogg III, former Planters President Dolph von Arx, attorney Tom Grady, real estate developer John Allen, real estate attorney John Passidomo, Kraft Construction founder and Manhattan Construction Chairman Fred Pezeshkan." More about contributions to Rooney, Goss and Bongino here. Search the Federal Election Commission website of candidate filings here.

Rooney began running 30-second TV ads on June 9 and reported campaign spending of $1.16 million through June 30. And it’s early days. The winner in August will go on to face Democrat Robert Neeld and two write-in candidates in November.

Who I’ll vote for

Since all three candidates espouse an anti-government, anti-abortion platform, I don’t expect to agree with any of them on most of the issues I care about. But I do expect that one of them will be my next Congressman, so I looked for differences to help me decide who to vote for.

I’m not the least interested in Bongino, who just wants to “sweep DC clean,” with little seeming knowledge or interest in the people or needs of the district he wants to represent.

I like that both Goss and Rooney are from SW Florida, and that both claim to care about the Everglades.

Rooney has more global experience, both from his business career and the time he served as ambassador to the Vatican. His business expertise might provide useful in fighting for SW Florida on environmental issues in Washington as Clawson did. But I am offended by Rooney’s “Defending Life” TV ad in which he has Jim Towey, President of Ave Maria University, comparing him to Mother Teresa “defending the sanctity of life and defunding Planned Parenthood.” I am also put off by his being record as a major political fundraiser and his $1.5 million contribution to his own campaign – although it pales in comparison to the $75 million contributed by Rick Scott to his own 2010 campaign for governor.

Goss comes from a family that believes in public service, and chose a career in public policy. He no doubt learned a lot about the federal budget through his time working with Paul Ryan on the Budget Committee, and the connections he made then could prove helpful.

A USA Today/Naples Daily News article summed it up well:
In some ways, Goss is the flip side of the Washington coin from his chief GOP rival, former ambassador Francis J. (sic) Rooney of Naples. While the low-key fiscal wonk labored quietly for Washington’s power brokers, the flamboyant Rooney, his wife and his companies were donating millions to them and winning one of the highest forms of patronage: a diplomatic posting to the Vatican.

Based on what I’ve learned to-date, I plan to vote for Chauncey Goss for Congress District 19.



Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Get Ready to Vote for State Senate

In last week’s post about the State House races, I wrote about the last-minute write-ins that caused the District 80 and 106 races to be closed to all but registered Republicans, and said the same thing happened with the State Senate District 28 race.

Collier County Republican Party leaders have been accused of rigging the House primaries by coercing the write-ins. Democrats and voters without party affiliation are shut out, leaving nearly half of Collier’s voters with no say in these important elections. Two last-minute write-in candidates filed for the Senate District race, with the same effect.

A Republican will represent us in the state Senate, whether we vote in the primary or not. I wrote about candidates Matt Hudson and Kathleen Passidomo in an April post; today I’ll provide some additional biographical information and links to their social media sites, summarize campaign contributions they received to-date, and tell you how I plan to vote.

Matt Hudson

Matt Hudson
Hudson served the maximum eight years in the Florida House, and is now running for Senate. He had a 20-year management career at Walgreens and subsequently became a licensed real estate broker. He has lived in Golden Gate Estates since 1990. He served as President of the Rotary Club of Collier – Golden Gate, and on the Collier County Productivity Community, the Collier County Revenue Commission and the Golden Gate Community Emergency Response Team.

His campaign website describes him as “a conservative champion in the Florida House of Representatives.” His Facebook pages are here and here, his LinkedIn page is here, his YouTube channel is here, his TV commercial "The Right Call" is here, and he is @RepMHudson on Twitter. Take a few minutes to check out the Facebook and Twitter pages in particular for an illuminating glimpse at his personal style, interests and issues.

Kathleen Passidomo

Kathleen Passidomo
Passidomo, too, served in the Florida House, representing District 106 since 2010. Unlike Hudson, she is not term-limited, but chose to give up a sure reelection to challenge Hudson for the Senate.

Passidomo has lived in Naples since graduating from Stetson University College of Law in 1978. Upon moving to Naples, she opened her real estate and business law practice. She has served as president of the Collier County Bar Association and the Collier County Women’s Bar Association and, according to her website, "helped almost 100 business, civic and charitable organizations with their corporate documents and governance structure.” She created the Collier County Juvenile Justice Council, co-chaired the Community Engagement Initiative of the Education Foundation of Collier County-Champions for Learning (“Connect Now”), served as president of the Southwest Florida Land Preservation Trust, and chaired the board of The United Way of Collier County. She also participated in Leadership Florida, Leadership Collier and Leadership Marco Island, and served on the Leadership Collier Foundation Board.

Her website (www.kathleenpassidomo.com) showcases her 2013 Defender of Liberty Award from the American Conservative Union, and lists endorsements from former State Senator Garrett Richter, former State Representative Dudley Goodlette and longtime Naples resident and Hodges University benefactor Thelma Hodges. Facebook posts show support from Naples Mayor Bill Barnett, former County Commissioner Jim Coletta, State Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano and House Majority Whip Jim Boyd.

Her Facebook page is here, her LinkedIn page is here, her YouTube channel is here, her TV commercial "Fed Up" is here, and she is @Kathleen4SWFL on Twitter. Again, spend a few minutes on her Facebook and Twitter pages to get a sense of what she chose to share with the public during her campaign.

The money

Hudson reported monetary contributions of $468,249 and expenditures of $179,306, leaving almost $290,000 left to spend as of June 24. Of his 1,165 contributions, 85 were from“political organizations” and 50 listed “government relations” (aka lobbyist) as their occupation. He loaned no money his campaign.

Passidomo reported monetary contributions of $483,780 and expenditures of $221,515, leaving almost $262,300 left to spend as of June 24. Of her 1,248 contributions, 64 were from PACs and 8 reported the occupation “government relations." She contributed $100,000 to her campaign in April, saying, "If I’m asking people to contribute … then I have to be invested in it myself.”

This chart summarizes and compares the campaign finances of the candidates through June 24:



We can see that Passidomo’s contribution was critical to her competitiveness in the money game. Hudson has significantly more PAC and lobbyist support and out-of-state money, as well as more big-money donors.

Not included in these amounts is spending by political committees outside the candidates’ campaigns. For example, I have received two large, glossy anti-Hudson mailings paid for by Better Florida Fund Corp., Tallahassee, with the tag line “Matt’s Not Conservative”: “All hail, Matt Hudson, the king of corporate welfare!” and “Matt Hudson and Charlie Crist, teaming up to raise your taxes!!!” I have received three large, glossy pro-Passidomo mailings paid for by Taxpayers in Action, Tampa: “Conservative Kathleen Passidomo is stopping taxpayer money from going to illegal immigrants,” “Kathleen Passidomo is making it a top priority to stop incentives that promote illegal immigration” and “Conservative Kathleen Passidomo will defend our 2nd amendment rights against liberals trying to take away our freedoms.” And most recently I received a large glossy mailing paid for by Working Together for Florida PAC, Venice, FL, highlighting Passidomo’s local endorsements, position on issues (100% pro-life; 100% opposed to amnesty; eco-friendly; repeal + replace Obamacare). I’ve received no similar mailing from Hudson supporters.

My decision

Both Hudson and Passidomo received A grades on the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Report Cards each year they were in office, indicating that they voted nearly lock-step with the Chamber’s position on Florida Business Agenda bills.

I compared their votes (Hudson’s here; Passidomo’s here) on what Vote Smart calls “Key Votes” between 2011 (Passidomo’s first year) and 2016, and they voted the same way in all but a few cases which I detailed in a prior post.

Both want to limit access to legal abortion, oppose Medicaid expansion and limiting access to guns, and want tougher immigration laws and border control. Passidomo herself said, “Matt and I have similar voting records. The main thing that distinguishes us is our personalities."

So how to choose? While I disagree with many of Passidomo’s positions on issues, I respect her years of service in our community, as well as her choices of organizations to support.

On the other hand, I am not impressed by the way Hudson presents himself on his website and in social media, or by his decision to appear recently on the conservative talk radio Joe Whitehead Show.

I also respect that Passidomo made a significant financial contribution to her campaign. While her net worth is considerably more than Hudson’s ($5.6 million vs $175,552 per their most recent Financial Disclosure filings), his failure to contribute anything at all to his campaign is troubling.

I’m not sure how significant it is or how long it will continue, but the fact that Passidomo has received less money from out-of-state and from PACs/lobbyists, and fewer $1,000 contributions, suggests that she may be less beholden to special interest groups.

Finally, in scanning the detailed list of contributors to each campaign, I noted several to Passidomo from people I know and respect, but none to Hudson about which I could say the same.

A few friends have said they would rather not vote at all than to vote for one of these candidates. That’s their choice. But it is possible that the race could be close, and just as with the 2014 School Board elections, those who don’t vote may later wish they did.

For these reasons, I will vote for Kathleen Passidomo for Senate District 28.



Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Get Ready to Vote for State House of Representatives



In previous posts, I wrote about the August 2016 local School Board elections here and here, Board of County Commissioners elections here, and the County Constitutional Officers elections here. I began the series about the August elections with some basic things Collier voters should know. 
In this post, I turn to state House Districts 80, 106 and 105 and tell you who will be on the August ballot to represent Collier County. Find your District here
Hang on to your hats – it’s a wild ride!
Last-minute write-ins deny 42 percent of Collier voters a say
Ten days ago, I thought this would be a straight-forward post to write. But as the result of filings on the last day of the qualifying period by “write-in” candidates in House Districts 80 and 106, the Republican Party primaries in those Districts will be “closed” and only registered Republicans may vote in them. The same thing happened with the Hudson/Passidomo State Senate race, which I’ll write about in my next post.
To explain: write-in candidates run without party affiliation, and all write-in candidates appear on the General Election ballot. (I learned this from the Collier County Supervisor of Elections Candidate Qualifying and Campaign Handbook, here.)
Had the write-ins not jumped in, those primaries would have been “open” to all registered voters in those Districts, regardless of party affiliation, since the state Constitution provides that when only candidates from one party qualify to run for an office so that the election is decided by the primary, everyone can vote in that election. 
So what has happened is that the write-ins have effectively denied the 51 percent of District 80 voters and 44 percent of District 106 voters who are not registered Republicans the opportunity to participate in the election of the people who will represent them in Tallahassee. 
This “write-in loophole” is an administrative interpretation of the state Constitution that was written in 2000 by Florida’s Division of Elections under then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris. If the primaries were open, the candidates would likely have to moderate their rhetoric to appeal to Democrats and NPAs, and “Republicans would no longer compete to out-conservative each other. (See ”Let’s close the phony write-in candidate loophole.") 
Which of the Republican candidates in those Districts stand to benefit most from the write-ins? Who might be behind it? 
According to NBC–2.com, Emily Jeanne Thoemke, a GOP political consultant in Collier County, has heard that there are "certain individuals in leadership, specifically upper leadership of the Republican executive committee in Collier County that paid college students to write in their names and close their primary.” The documents filled out by the write-in candidates for the two seats were both filed in Tallahassee on the same day at the same exact time.
The Florida House has been firmly under Republican control since 1996. Regardless of party affiliation, all Collier residents should pay attention to these primaries – and the candidates’ campaign rhetoric, as the winners will likely to go on to win in November. 
Issues at stake
Public education (funding and vouchers, testing and standards), guns (violence prevention and ownership), immigration, health care (for women, for the uninsured, choice, and Medicaid expansion), the environment (protecting the Everglades, growth management, sea level rise) and energy (drilling, fracking, solar) are just some of the legislative issues I follow at the state level. All are likely to see significant action in the coming years.
District 80 (map here)
Two Republicans and one write-in candidate have qualified for the District 80 seat currently held by term-limited Matt Hudson: Byron Donalds (R), Joe Davidow (R) and Anthony Joseph Centrangelo Jr. (WRI). 

According to the Naples Daily News, both Republicans were “recommended” by the Republican Executive Committee; Donalds got the endorsement. Donalds and Davidow will be on the closed August primary ballot; the winner will face Centrangelo in November.
Joe Davidow
Joe Davidow is a trial attorney at Willis & Davidow, LLC; his legal focus is on business disputes and federal criminal defense. He has an undergraduate degree in political science and history from Virginia Tech and a law degree from St. Thomas University. He is an executive board member of the Collier County Men’s Republican Club, the Collier County Republican Executive Committee and the Republican Jewish Coalition. He serves on the executive boards of Collier Child Care Resources and the Naples Gulfshore Sunset Rotary Club, and on the Harry Chapin Food Bank Collier Action Committee. 
Davidow ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012. He finished last among the six Republican candidates in Collier County and District-wide, and did not run in 2014. 
On his website, Davidow says, “We need more state leaders with a track record in private business, true conservatives who will keep bureaucrats off the backs of our job creators and who will recognize that a quality education is the best investment we can make in Southwest Florida’s future.” His Facebook page is here; his LinkedIn pages are here and here, he is @JoeforFlorida on Twitter.
Regarding the suspicious last-minute write-in candidate, Davidow told NBC–2, “It’s highly questionable…. It’s of a concern.”
The money: Davidow reported monetary contributions of $41,654 through May 31 of which seven percent was from out-of-state. His one PAC contribution was from the Collier County Medical Society PAC. 
Byron Donalds
Byron Donalds is a Financial Advisor at Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC where his areas of focus include education funding and estate and retirement planning. He has a B.S. In finance and marketing from Florida State University. In 2014, he was appointed a trustee of Florida Southwestern State College (formerly Edison State College) representing Collier County by Governor Rick Scott. He is an Advisory Board member for the Salvation Army of Collier County and a youth leader at Living Word Family Church
Like Davidow, Donalds ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012, coming in fifth among six GOP candidates District-wide but winning Collier County with 28 percent of the votes. Trey Radel ultimately won that election but resigned in early 2014 after pleading guilty to a cocaine charge. While Donalds was mentioned as a possible successor, he declined to run, saying the timing wasn’t right. Curt Clawson ultimately won the seat.
Donalds went on to start, with his wife Erika and Kelly Lichter (who were both elected to the School Board in 2014), the Mason Classical Academy public charter school and continues to serve as its Vice President. He is also a guest host and commentator on three local conservative talk radio programs: Daybreak with Drew Steele, The Bob Harden Show, and The Joe Whitehead Show. In addition to being endorsed by the Collier County Republican Executive Committee, Donalds was endorsed by the conservative Eagle Forum PAC.
According to his campaign flyer, Donalds offers “Conservative Leadership for Florida’s Future;” his platform issues are economic growth, educational excellence, less taxation and strong families. 
But at a candidate forum I attended in April and at a Republican Party event reported on by the NDN in May, among other events, Donalds makes clear that education is the issue he is most focused on. He believes that “economic growth is solved through education reform, and, for him, the key to reform [is] giving more power to parents on where to send their kids to school. Donalds praised private schools and prep schools, claiming they outperform public schools.” (Obviously this is a hotly debated issue. See, for example, “Turning Conventional Wisdom on Its Head: Public Schools Outperform Private Schools,” Harvard Graduate School of Education Letter, 2015, which states “The differences in student performance across school sectors apparently have little to do with market forces such as competition and autonomy and much to do with the demographics of the students served. In fact, after considering demographics, the public schools appear to have a pronounced advantage in student performance.” See also “Yes, Private Schools Beat Public Schools,” The Cato Institute, 2014, which states “School choice programs consistently produce similar or better results for much less money.”) 
At a recent candidate forum, Donalds said he did not support spending state funds to purchase and maintain environmentally-sensitive lands south of the Everglades. “The reason why we are in this quandary is because we’ve completely undone what the Everglades were supposed to be. It can never go back to that,” he said
The money: Donalds reported monetary contributions of $109,058 through May 31, of which four percent was from out-of-state and $5,500 was from these PACs:

Other contributions of note:
  • $1,000 from retiring Florida Congressman Curt Clawson, who made a similar contribution to the 2014 School Board campaign of Erika Donalds;
  • $1,000 from RAI Services Company (parent of the RJR Tobacco Company);
  • $1,000 each from local Anheuser-Busch beer distributors Suncoast Beverage and Coastal Beverage;
  • $1,000 each from Lane Beatty and Pam Beatty, president and secretary respectively, and $150 from William Carufe, vice president, of Sports Club, the after-school child care provider that has sued the Collier County School Board;
  • $150 from Michelle Bracci, wife of Sports Club attorney Steven J. Bracci;
  • $500 from Collier County Commissioner Tom Henning;
  • $250 from Naples City Council Member Teresa Heitmann;
  • $50 from World Changers of Florida, Inc., the group that distributes bibles in Collier schools on Religious Freedom Day.
Donalds’ campaign website is byrondonalds.com, his Facebook pages are here and here, his LinkedIn profile is here, his Twitter page is @ByronDonalds and the YouTube channel from his 2014 unsuccessful run for Congress is here
District 106 (map here)
Three Republicans - Bob Rommel, Lavigne Kirkpatrick and Nick Ballo - will face off in the closed August primary for the House seat currently held by state Senate candidate Kathleen Passidomo. The winner will face write-in candidate Connor Maguire.

The Republican Executive Committee recommended Rommel, but not Kirkpatrick. Ballo had not filed to run at the time of the REC vote.
Bob Rommel
Bob Rommel is a local businessman who sold the mortgage company he co-founded and moved to Naples in 2002. He co-owns three restaurants – two in southwest Florida, one in New Jersey. He describes himself as “a successful businessman concerned about our future and determined to make a difference.” He attended Brookdale Community College in NJ.
Rommel is the past president of the Caxambas Republican Club, a Marco Island group dedicated to identifying Republicans and encouraging them to vote, and a member of the Collier County Republican Party. 
In a candidate forum on Marco Island in May, Rommel said he is running because “I love our country, but I really hate the direction our country is going. Maybe that’s why Donald Trump is the Republican nominee.” A self-described unabashed Republican,“ he says ”his vision for Florida’s future is simple: economic opportunity, personal responsibility and limited government." His issues are the economy, lower taxes, education, and smaller government. 
Regarding education, he says he will “fight for local control of our schools, directing dollars into the classrooms, a return to students mastering the basics and classroom discipline.” He is against Common Core.
In an August 2015 letter to the editor titled “School near you,” Rommel wrote: “Across the country, educators seem more like progressive activists rather than teachers and administrators. When did schools decide they know better than parents what their children should eat? When did the schools decide they were going to teach progressive social issues instead of history? In some schools, you would be shocked by the curriculum…” 
In the same letter, Rommel challenged the teaching of climate change and the District’s participation in the Blue Zones Project. 
At another recent candidate forum, Rommel, like Donalds, said he opposed government funding to purchase land to protect the environment. “Whether it’s the state of Florida or the federal government, buying more land is not going to fix the problem,” he said.
According to his Facebook post on June 29, Rommel was endorsed by Collier Commission Donna Fiala. 
Rommel’s campaign website is www.bobrommel.net, his Facebook page is here, his LinkedIn page is here and his Twitter page is @RommelForRep.
The money: Rommel reported monetary contributions of $102,761 through May 31, of which 33 percent was from out-of-state, primarily Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Ohio. He received $8,500 in contributions from PACs:

Other contributions of note: 
  • $1,000 each from RAI Services Company (parent of the RJR Tobacco Company), Coastal Beverage LTD and Suncoast Beverage Sales LTD,
  • $1,000 from Kitson Babcock, LLC, the developer of the nearby Babcock Ranch community;
  • $1,000 from The Celebration Company, a Disney subsidiary and developer of Celebration, FL., and $1,000 each from Disney Destinations LLC, Disney Gift Card Services Inc, and Disney Vacation Development Inc.;
  • $540 from frequent School Board and Blue Zones critic Dr. Joseph Doyle;
  • $25 from Collier County School Board member Kelly Lichter, whose occupation is reported as “education reformer”
Lavigne Kirkpatrick
Lavigne Kirkpatrick, a registered nurse for over 32 years, is an educator and specialist in End of Life Care Planning. She worked at Avow Hospice for almost 12 years, most recently as External Affairs Manager, and is a past Chair or the Florida Board of Nursing. 
Kirkpatrick has an Associate’s degree in nursing from Broward College, a Bachelor’s degree in social science and public policy and a graduate certificate in county and city management from Florida State University, and is a candidate for a Master’s in public administration from the University of South Florida. Her community leadership activities include current or past service on the Collier County Public Safety Authority, Champions for Learning’s Golden Apple Selection Committee, the Collier Senior Resources Board and the Leadership Council on Aging.
Kirkpatrick has long been locally active in Republican Party politics. She worked on the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush in 2004, John McCain in 2008, Herman Cain in 2012 and Ben Carson in 2016, and ran unsuccessfully for the Board of County Commissioners in 2014. She was a member of the Collier County Republican Executive committee for 10 years, and served as a state committeewoman from 2008 to 2012. 
The principles that will guide her if elected to the House include: “respect and protect individual freedom;” she believes government should promote free enterprise and individual initiative, be fiscally responsible and “allow its people to keep more of the money they earn,” and provide only “those critical functions that individuals or private enterprise cannot provide.” 
Like Donalds and Rommel, she does not favor purchasing land to protect the Everglades, saying “Money is not the answer.”
Kirkpatrick was recently endorsed by the Collier County Medical Society PAC and by the conservative Eagle Forum PAC. Regarding the last-minute write-in candidacy of Connor Maguire, she told NBC–2 that if elected, she will fight to get rid of the write-in loophole.
Her website is at lavignekirkpatrick.com, her Facebook pages are here and here, her LinkedIn page is here, and her Twitter page is @LavigneAnn
The money: Kirkpatrick raised $14,950 in monetary contributions through May 31, virtually all from local supporters. She received no contributions from PACs. 
Nick Ballo filed to run for this seat the day before the end of the qualifying period. He is co-founder of Gnarly Harley Paddleboard Rentals serving Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach, but lists no current employment. He has a Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and is currently studying law at Florida International University. 
Ballo was a self-described “political operative” for the Republican Party of Florida, and worked to elect Jacksonville, FL, Mayor Lenny Curry in 2015. 
In 2006, while a high-school senior, he ran briefly for the Collier County School Board District 1 seat then held by Pat Carroll. A NDN editorial said he had been “briefed on the fundamentals of the office” by School Board member Linda Abbott. (Readers may recall that Abbott, along with Steve Donovan and Richard Calabrese, supported the 2007 firing of then-Superintendent Ray Baker; Carroll and Kathy Curatolo opposed the move.) 
Having started and managed a business in Naples, Ballo says he has “a working knowledge and understanding of how effective laws implemented at all levels of government can encourage business development and support the livelihood of its residents and business owners.” 
His campaign issues are: jobs; education (“Nick personally experienced the challenges that the Florida Common Core standards present for students”); repealing “Obamacare;” support for police and firefighters; safety; and health care.
The money: Ballo’s campaign paid a filing fee of $1,781.82 on June 22, but it is too soon to see his first monthly campaign finance report. 
His website is nickballo.com, his Facebook page is here and his LinkedIn page is here
District 105 (map here)
With only one Republican and one Democrat running, there will be no House primaries for District 105 voters. Incumbent Carlos Trujillo (R) will face challenger Patricio Moreno (D) in November. 
The filing by Moreno is one of a series of just-under-the-wire qualifications to challenge Republican incumbents who would otherwise have been unopposed for reelection. 
As of May 31, Trujillo raised $193,912. Moreno has yet to file any campaign finance reports.
My recommendations for August
Researching the candidates for the three State House primary elections that Collier County voters will have an opportunity to vote in has been an intense and evolving multi-day effort. 
It is important to know how the candidates portray themselves in their campaign websites and social media, but scrutinizing their campaign contributions and online presence has been even more informative and critically revealing. 
Based primarily on my strong support for public education and educational standards, my discomfort with the PAC contributions received by Donalds and Rommel, my suspicions about the seriousness of Ballo’s last-minute filing, and Kirkpatrick’s track record of community engagement and grassroots organizing, I recommend that registered Republicans vote for Joe Davidow for District 80 and for Lavigne Kirkpatrick for District 106. 
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