Editorial Board debates County Commission, School Board, City Council candidates.
Early voting starts Saturday, Aug. 18, and the primary is Aug. 28. Do you know whom you're voting for? Following the Palm Coast Observer tradition, we formed an ad hoc Editorial Board to help us make recommendations.
The Editorial Board comprised some staff members, some community members. Some were women, some men. Some were Republicans, some Democrats. We used the Speed Campaigning section of the Election Guide as our guide, and we all responded to the same statements as the candidates did. Then, we compared our answers to the candidates’ and discussed them. Many of the Editorial Board members also shared personal interactions they’d had with the candidates.
The results are below. Whether you agree with our recommendations or not, we hope that, as you continue your discussions with friends, family and colleagues, these recommendations can help you feel better informed as you vote. A voting community is an engaged, strong community, and that’s what we’re all about.
Editor’s note: Circuit judge recommendation will come next week.
County Commission District 2
Greg Hansen is a good-hearted man who served our country for 27 years in the Navy and was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott as a county commissioner in January 2017. He is currently the chairman of the commission and is seeking to be elected for a full four-year term.
The Editorial Board found it difficult to recommend Hansen after he declined to participate in the Speed Campaigning portion of the Election Guide. It was an opportunity to tell readers where he stands on the issues, and he decided instead to write a letter to the editor, which was published in the Aug. 9 edition. That is at least something, but he still avoided some of the subjects, including his views on the performance of County Administrator Craig Coffey, who, like it or not, has become a debated issue in the campaign.
Hansen has also been willing to make public statements to criticize other government entities, including Palm Coast officials and state officials, which is not productive.
The Editorial Board agreed that a change was in order.
Hansen’s challenger is Abby Romaine, who promises to be a creative thinker, a positive voice, a consensus builder. She has little experience in politics but was praised as being articulate and knowledgeable in interactions with the Editorial Board.
We recommend Abby Romaine.
County Commission District 4
Nate McLaughlin was praised by the Editorial Board as being a kind person. He has served the county for eight years and is seeking a third term. He was instrumental in helping bring water to Daytona North in a time of need, which is one reason we endorsed him four years ago. He also has been a prepared, vocal participant in County Commission meetings.
However, McLaughlin declined to participate in Speed Campaigning, and the Editorial Board felt that showed a lack of transparency. Why is he unwilling to commit on the issues? He followed Hansen’s strategy to submit a letter instead, which is published this week on Page 7. But explanations are less helpful than putting your views in black and white for all to see.
McLaughlin has consistently voted for higher taxes come budget season. The millage rate has risen 54% since he was elected. And although there has been a lot of work put into the Department of Economic Opportunity, new businesses on the tax roll have been few and far between, so the tax burden on residents is only increasing. Could another candidate help to finally make a change in the local economy?
The Editorial Board had a lengthy discussion about Joe Mullins, who is McLaughlin’s challenger in the primary. Mullins is a problematic candidate. The Palm Coast Observer exposed him as having lied to a newspaper in Georgia and then trying to cover it up. He also admitted to lying about golf club membership paperwork in Georgia and tried to cover that up, too.
Furthermore, he was accused by his ex-wife of transmitting a nude photo of her without her permission. He claimed he had never been served any court papers, when, in fact, a divorce document including the allegation was obtained by the Observer, and included a signed statement by the ex-wife’s attorney stating that the document was delivered to Mullins through his attorney.
And most recently, one of Mullins’ former employees shared with the Palm Coast Observer some photographs of two sets of checks. The first set was to Mullins’ campaign, which he reported as contributions. The second set was from Mullins to those donors, in the same amounts, apparently paying them back for their contributions. Mullins denied any wrongdoing.
Can we trust Mullins to be honest as a county commissioner?
Still, the majority of Editorial Board members focused on the need for change in the county. In the Speed Campaigning section of the Election Guide, Mullins promised to be tough on taxes and strong on economic development. Add it all up, and, in the end, the Editorial Board was willing to take a chance to make a change.
We recommend Joe Mullins.
Flagler School Board District 2
John Fischer is about as kind a person as you’ll ever meet. He dedicates his time to visiting schools and helping kids feel important. As the incumbent, Janet McDonald has provided insight on the board, thanks to her strong education background. She is also collegial and dedicated to the district’s success.
But Carl Jones won the Editorial Board’s support. He is a mentor with the African American Mentoring Program and has a good demeanor. He also differentiated himself by saying, in Speed Campaigning, that the School Board should have sold the Corporate One property, which the Editorial Board agreed with.
We recommend Carl Jones.
Flagler School Board District 4
Paul Anderson did not impress when, in the Election Guide, he said his qualifications are “above average reading comprehension” and “average accounting and legal knowledge.” He also had all negative responses on his Speed Campaigning, which did not jive with the Editorial Board's estimation of the district. The Editorial Board feels that the district needs someone more collaborative.
And while incumbent Trevor Tucker could sometimes stand to add some “zing and zip” to his leadership style, he has been a consistent voice for fiscal responsibility. He voted in favor of selling the Corporate One property. He does his homework and deserves another term.
We recommend Trevor Tucker.
Palm Coast City Council District 4
In this race, the Editorial Board was split between Eddie Branquinho and John Tipton, with Tipton getting the final vote.
Branquinho is a strong member of the Portuguese American community in Palm Coast. He understands the importance of smart development and is invested in the community.
Tipton is ambitious and has put in the time to graduate from citizen academy groups around the county to learn how things work. And although there was a general feeling in the Editorial Board that Tipton might do well to spend time on a Planning Board first, one key factor differentiated the two. Both candidates were asked to respond to this statement: "City codes should be amended to encourage construction of higher density housing." Tipton agreed 10/10, while Branquinho disagreed 1/10. The Editorial Board felt strongly that higher density — and therefore lower cost — housing is needed.
We recommend John Tipton.
Do you agree with our Editorial Board’s recommendations? Email [email protected].