Hastings voters will get the chance to decide today whether they want their town government to dissolve.
And with that decision final, it will mark the start of a countdown of sorts to the 2018 election season when St. Johns County residents will head to the polls to have their say in federal, state and local offices up for election.
Among them will be two St. Johns County commission seats, three school board seats, one county judgeship, and three seats on both the St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach commissions.
Local political party officials said they’re already recruiting fresh candidates to run for office.
“We’re looking for [County Commission] candidates who can manage growth,” said Bill Korach, chair of the Republican Party of St. Johns County.
Growth is, and has been, an ongoing concern for the county. St. Johns County has experienced “uncontrolled growth,” and with it new expenses, he said.
The St. Johns County Democratic Party is also looking for new candidates — people have already shown interest in non-partisan races, said Chair Nell Seymour Toensmann. It can be difficult to get participation in partisan races because of pressure from Republicans, especially for business owners who might fear backlash for registering Democrat, she said.
“It can be difficult to get someone to run [in St. Johns County] with a ‘D’ next to their name,” Toensmann said.
Several people have filed to run for County Commission.
Erika Alba, Jeremiah Blocker, and Dick Williams, a county planning and zoning board member, had all filed to run for the District 4 seat. Commissioner Jay Morris, who is in the seat, vacates the seat in 2018.
Commissioner Jeb Smith filed to run for re-election for his District 2 seat. As of Monday, he had no opponents.
One candidate filed for city of St. Augustine Beach commission as of Monday: Rosetta Bailey, who unsuccessfully challenged Mayor Rich O’Brien for his seat in the 2016 elections.
Bill Mignon filed for re-election to the District 3 seat on the St. Johns County School Board, and Kelly Barrera filed to retain her District 4 Seat.
Denver Cook filed to challenge Barrera for the seat after withdrawing from the race for Morris’ County Commission seat.
As local elections approach, the League of Women Voters of St. Johns County has been supporting a change in the law to prevent write-in candidates from closing primaries, said Patricia Gill, group leader.
When only people of one party qualify in a partisan race, such as the County Commission, the vote would be open to any registered voter. But when a write-in candidate files to run, the primary is closed.
Gill said that disenfranchises people from other parties.
Korach said it’s a tactic sometimes used by Republicans, though he said he couldn’t recall when it was last done.
“If we’re trying to block a dubious candidate we’ll recruit a write-in candidate,” Korach said. “That’s a perfectly legal tactic.”
Toensmann said the practice “destroys anything that has to do with good government.”
“[Republicans] do not want the Democrats to have a say in the election at any level,” she said.