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Sarasota News Leader April 26, 2013 OPINION sive response to the many more counties where Republicans shut out Democrats and NPA voters by putting up "straw" opponents in the general election by means of write-in candidates. These write-in candidates almost never did any campaigning or spent money on advertising, and they typically dropped out of the races once the primaries had been decided, ceding victory to the primary winners. Page 68 posing a simple solution to the inherent unfairness of our local electoral process: make county offices nonpartisan. With prospective county commissioners and other county officeholders running in nonpartisan races, every voter would have the opportunity to have a say in choosing the winners. Certainly, candidates' party affiliation still would be known, and perhaps trumpeted by prospective candidates. That seems to be the case in municipal nonpartisan races here and in other states. But, while the voters might weigh party affiliation or ideology in making their choices, no one would be denied the right to vote because of a cloistered electoral methodology that is antithetical to the democratic process. The most recent example in Sarasota County was the Republican primary battle between Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent and challenger Jon Thaxton, who was term-limited from retaining his County Commissioner seat. As no Democrat filed to run in the general election, the Republican primary should have been open to Democrats and NPAs, since the primary became, for all intents and purposes, In our article, we quoted Joe Gruters, Republican Party of Sarasota chairman, voicing opthe general election. position to the idea, because he claimed all But Republican bigwig Jack Brill had his races were indisputably partisan. He did not 24-year-old daughter enter the race as a write- explain why the partisan affiliation of candiin candidate, shutting out all but Republican dates and a nonpartisan race were mutually voters and denying Jon Thaxton the moderate exclusive, perhaps because, as we already voters he needed to oust the unpopular Dent. have observed, that would be a ridiculous Party ideology trumped electoral fairness. claim. To rub salt in the wound, Victoria Brill conceded publicly, when she withdrew her straw candidacy, that she never had any intention of actually running for the office. She only wanted to prevent almost 70 percent of Sarasota's voters from having a voice in the election of a supervisor of elections. Bill Zoller, a Republican and president of Citizens for Sensible Growth in Sarasota County, was identified in our article as a leading advocate for a shift to nonpartisan races. After the fake candidacy of Victoria Brill and the arrest of Republican stalwart Bob Waechter for identity theft in an effort to falsely impugn another Republican, Zoller wondered, "How In the April 5 issue of The Sarasota News much worse can it get? That's about as low as Leader, we reported on the efforts of the Pub- you can go." lic Interest Coalition — made up of groups including the Sarasota County Council of Neigh- Apparently, Jack Brill took exception to borhood Associations, the Sarasota Audubon our article and sent an email that stated the chapter and the Sierra Club — which is pro- following:

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