Rick Staly said he doesn't feel a need to run any negative ads before the general election.
You might expect that Republican sheriff candidate Rick Staly will have an easy path to a win in the November election, considering Republicans outvoted Democrats by a margin of almost 2-1 in the Aug. 30 primary. Even with five competitors, Staly still earned 4,317 votes, while Democratic winner Larry Jones only got 3,604 votes with just one competitor. Is it over already?
Let’s imagine a scenario in which all the people who voted for Staly in the primary vote for him again in November. That leaves more than 7,000 Republican votes up for grabs, not to mention independents. And if Jones can unite the Democrats, anything is possible.
Lamb stays neutral
John Lamb, who finished second in the Republican primary with 3,815 votes, has decided not to endorse either Staly or Jones in the general election, although he did say he already knows for whom he will vote.
As far as the rest of his supporters, Lamb said, “It’s a mixed bag.” He imagines some will vote along the party lines, but others “are going to vote based on the campaign that I ran and the campaign that I ran against, and they may vote against that candidate.”
Staly, who raised $121,180 for his campaign, including $50,000 of his own money, spent some of that money on robocalls and mailers that criticized Lamb. That angered some voters, who felt the campaign was overly negative. Staly defended the ads, saying they were based on fact, and he said on WZNF’s election coverage that he put his name on all the ads and had documentation to back them up.
Negative ads leave negative impression of Staly
That explanation wasn’t enough for someone like Pat Cody to change her loyalty. Cody, a longtime Republican who was also recently elected to be a Flagler County Republican Executive committeewoman representing Precinct 3, posted on Facebook that although she was a Lamb supporter in the primary, she will not be supporting Staly in November.
“You can mark it in your book as maybe never hearing these words from my mouth again. … In November, I'm voting Democrat for sheriff of Flagler County,” she wrote. “I will not support a Republican candidate who has run an election with malice and vengefulness.”
Sheriff candidates 'need to grow up'
Bob Updegrave feels that a resident like Cody is entitled to support whomever she wants, but if a candidate won’t support the winner of his own party’s primary, “it’s simply wrong.”
Not speaking in his role as a committeeman for the Flagler County Republican Executive Committee but just as a resident, Updegrave said the negative ads shouldn’t be a reason to withhold support for Staly, who won the primary fair and square.
“The negative political electioneering is part of the process, and whether you agree with a candidate or a candidate’s consultant for doing it or not, it’s part of politics,” he said. “And if you’re going to be in it, especially at the sheriff level, come on. A sheriff can’t take some negative advertising? … These are big guys that carry guns. These are tough people. They need to grow up.”
Polling leaves Staly feeling confident
Staly, meanwhile, says he has done some polling since the Aug. 30 primary and is feeling confident.
“Our plan is to run a campaign that is based on qualifications, experience and vision,” Staly said. “Primary campaigns and general election campaigns tend to be very different. Yes, we mailed some opposition mail in the past. I don’t anticipate having to do that this time.”
As far as former Lamb supporters like Cody, Staly believes they’re in the minority. He has been contacted by other Lamb supporters who have said something to this effect: “You weren’t my first choice, but you’re my guy now.”
Sidebar: Dates to remember
Early voting begins Oct. 24 in Flagler County. The Palm Coast Observer's election guide will be published Oct. 13, with endorsements on Oct. 20.