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10/30/2008

Columns > Happytown

HAPPYTOWN

 

You may not have heard, but there’s an election coming up Nov. 4. Suddenly you’re asking yourself, “Who and what would my dear friends at Happytown™ vote for?” Wonder no longer. It’s endorsement time.

National

President: Barack Obama One guy is a washed-up warmonger who has run a sleazy campaign and picked a twit for a running mate. The other is a constitutional lawyer who has organized and run one of the most disciplined and inspiring campaigns in American history – and he can speak in complete sentences. This one isn’t close.

Congress, District 8: Alan Grayson Grayson can be condescending, childish and egomaniacal, but he’s also the smartest guy in any room he enters. U.S. Rep. Ric Keller, on the other hand, has spent the last eight years licking President Bush’s boots. We deserve better.

Congress, District 24: Suzanne Kosmas The Republicans have abandoned U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, the far-right congressman who palled around with Jack Abramoff and routinely ranks high on lists of corrupt politicians. His exit is long overdue.

Congress, District 7: John Mica Faye Armitage is more aligned with us ideologically – ending the Iraq War, universal health care, etc. – but U.S. Rep. Mica has spent the last 16 years gaining all-important seniority and becoming the region’s mass transportation point person. We need better mass transit, and that means we can’t afford to lose Mica.

State

State House, District 35: Dean Cannon Cannon may be in bed with UCF President John Hitt and his military-industrial complex, but at least he didn’t start his own freak party that excludes blacks and Jews. Opponent Tom Kelly is a dangerous wingnut.

State House, District 36: Scott Randolph Randolph’s tireless work for the environment and the little guy (not Rich DeVos), along with his grasp on political common sense, have made us a lifelong fan. His Republican opponent, Stephen Villard, is so ridiculous that his own party won’t touch him.

State House, District 40: Todd Christian Christian’s grass-roots campaign could be paying off. The openly gay military veteran has proven himself adept (and ubiquitous) in speaking to the larger concerns of Floridians – the economy and education – and endeared himself to a district that’s slowly trending blue. Republican Eric Eisnaugle has been almost silent and is rumored to have already blown a lot of cash on thank-you cards for his anticipated victory. Measuring the drapes, so to speak.

State Senate, District 19: Belinda Ortiz This one hurts. While we’ve witnessed Ortiz’s lack of economic understanding firsthand and we’re tempted to shove her into the Sarah Palin paper-doll category, we cannot bring ourselves to endorse the shenanigans of wild-eyed Democratic incumbent Gary Siplin.

State Senate, District 24: Kendall Moore Another surprisingly competitive race – although one that carries more of a Brevard County influence – this one has gotten attack-ad ugly, with Republican Thad Altman waving the “He’s going to tax you broke!” flag a little too heartily. Moore seems more adept at swinging with the times.

Constitutional Amendments

Amendment 1: Vote yes Strikes an ancient provision from the state constitution allowing the Legislature to ban foreigners from owning property. No-brainer.

Amendment 2: Vote no Why would you take bigotry out of the state constitution (see above), then put it right back in? Gay marriage is already illegal in this state. Only wingnuts want to enshrine it in our highest document. And they’ll trample whomever they have to – domestic partners in this case – to get it done.

Amendment 3: Vote yes This one prevents home improvements that make your place more hurricane-proof or energy-efficient from raising your taxable value. It’s prone to abuse and fraud, but a good idea nonetheless.

Amendment 4: Vote yes This would provide a tax break for landowners who pledge never to develop environmentally sensitive land. Like Amendment 3, it’s open to abuse and fraud, but it’s still a good idea.

Amendment 6: Vote yes Same deal as above. This one makes sure commercial waterfront property – marinas and the like – are appraised at their present value and not their potential value, so marina owners aren’t paying condo developer rates.

Amendment 8: Vote yes Should counties have the ability to let their voters decide if they want to impose a sales tax to support community colleges? Sure. Good luck with that referendum, but if a county wants to bolster its educational options, who are we to prevent them?

Orange County

Orange-Osceola State Attorney: Mercedes Leon The fact that Leon’s former boss, public defender Bob Wesley, refuses to support her speaks volumes, but Lawson Lamar has been in office for 20 years. He’s double-dipping on the taxpayers’ dime, collecting both salary and retirement funds to the tune of $20,000 a month. He’s an unflinching supporter of the embarrassing Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation. Could a neophyte do worse than a vainglorious Boss Hogg? No.

Sheriff: John Tegg We’re glad Kevin Beary is hanging up his sheriff’s hat, but on his way out Beary endorsed Jerry Demings, the former Orange County Public Safety director whose wife, Val, heads the Orlando Police Department. That’s too much establishment for our taste. Tegg has always struck us as a straight-up, no-nonsense guy, which is exactly what the sheriff’s office needs after 16 years of Beary.

Orange-Osceola County Circuit Court: Fred Schott There isn’t a whole lot to go on when evaluating prospective judges, and both Schott and Jim Turner seem qualified. That said, Schott gets the nod because his focus on the causes of juvenile crime and his commitment to community engagement are much-needed.

Clerk of Courts: Lydia Gardner Seen any major screw-ups over at the courthouse? Neither have we.

Supervisor of Elections: Bill Cowles No sooner will we endorse Cowles than Orange County will become ground zero in some Election Day debacle and we’ll have to eat our words. But to date nothing’s gone FUBAR on Cowles’ watch.

Property Appraiser: Bill Donegan The job of property appraiser tends to be the one you notice when something goes horribly wrong. Otherwise, it’s a low-profile gig. In his six years in office, Donegan has revamped the appraiser’s website into a first-class research tool, and in 2006 he tried to get the Holy Land Experience to pony up its share of taxes before the Florida Legislature shut that down. Donegan deserves another term.

Tax Collector: Earl K. Wood Wood is 92 and has held this office for 40 years. He probably should retire, and according to the Orlando Sentinel he rarely shows up for work anyway. Still, after four decades you’ve earned the right to go out on your own terms, especially when your challenger, Jean Ruiz-Sandor, isn’t anything special.

County Commission, District 1: Scott Boyd We like Teresa Jacobs, but she’s term-limited. Both Shannon Gravitte and Boyd want to put more deputies on the streets, which is fine, but Gravitte spent years playing lackey to and presumably learning from the detestable U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, and that’s enough to disqualify her. Boyd, meanwhile, presents an economic platform based on more than spending cuts. The last thing the county commission needs is another Fred Brummer.

County Commission, District 3: John Kelly Harris Mildred Fernandez is the intellectual lightweight of the Orange County Commission. Moreover, she was all too happy to shill for the Orlando Magic arena and to lend her name to the McCain campaign’s misleading attacks – the “lipstick on a pig” non-story. Harris doesn’t blow us away, but Fernandez needs to be retired.

School Board, District 7: Laura Keller Longtime district volunteer and accountant Keller might not have all the credentials, but her platform, which includes keeping communities intact, is solid, and she’s a step ahead of opponent Christine Moore Curtis, a candidate with a plastic grin and a kid in private school.

Elected School Board Chair: Vote no Touted as a plan to bring accountability, the election of a school board chair – a countywide position that would require big campaign spending – will only dilute the power of school board members by giving the chair an almighty tie-breaking supervote.

Soil and Water District, Group 1: Jessy Hamilton

Soil and Water District, Group 3: Andy Anderson

Soil and Water District, Group 5: Carl Howard These three Democratic upstarts are as persistent as weeds in their promotion of all things dirty, wet and liberal. Fertilize them now; they’ll be your next congressmen.

Party with us!

Don’t spend yet another Election Night drunk, alone and bitter. Instead, why not spend it with us and be drunk and bitter? Oh yes, it’s Orlando Weekly’s Cry in Our Beer ’08 Party, and it starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, at the Clubhouse (100 E. Pine St.), a sports bar that will be transformed into a star-spangled imbibery, with TVs and games and crap like that.

There’ll be happy-hour prices all night long, a buffet until 7 p.m. and all the company you’ll need to celebrate or commiserate, depending on the results. The party goes until we all pass out, or 2 a.m., whichever comes first. Remember, what happens on Election Night stays with you for four years, so best to enjoy it, we think.

happytown@orlandoweekly.com
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