Although we have barely entered 2018, it’s not too early for local Democrats to think about the Aug. 28 Primary Election. In view of what happened recently in Virginia, Alabama and elsewhere, there’s reason for optimism.
In St. Johns County, more than 80 public offices will be voted on this year — from the State House to nonpartisan community development districts. And getting viable Democratic candidates to run might be a little easier than it’s been in recent years.
A year-end report from Vicky Oakes, our Supervisor of Elections, shows there are approximately 178,000 registered voters in St. Johns County — about 94,000 Republicans and nearly 84,000 Democrats and “Other.” The “Other” category includes Libertarian, Green, Reform, American, Constitution and Ecology parties, as well as those who choose to register as No Party Affiliation. (Modern-day Mugwump independents).
In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I am a registered Democrat, but for several years was a Libertarian. In fact, when I served as a small-town mayor in California, I was the only Libertarian mayor the state party was able to find.
The Libertarian Party of California, however, is a bit different than Florida’s LP, which is why I’m now a registered Democrat.
In 2008, as the Libertarian Party was filling the California partisan ballot with as many candidates as possible, I was offered a slot for either the State Assembly or State Senate. I was told to take my pick. I chose, however, not to be a candidate for either office. There was zero chance of winning and even a token campaign would have taken too much time away from other things I wanted to do.
As a St. Augustine resident since 2010, I’ve watched Democratic candidates file for partisan office then get clobbered on Election Day — which is what Libertarian candidates experience nationwide every two years. The Libertarian Party might be the third-largest political party in the nation, but it’s a very distant third. (ital)Very distant(ital).
Because party affiliation is not a secret, even Democrats who run for nonpartisan office around here find themselves opposed by Republicans who openly campaign on their party membership. “Make the Right Choice,” for example, would not be a Democratic candidate’s campaign slogan.
But maybe this will be the year local Democrats seriously organize and run solid candidates who have a chance of actually winning, rather than running underfunded, well-meaning candidates just so there’s a Democrat on the ballot.
There are certainly enough local Democratic organizations wanting to help candidates get elected. Under the umbrella of the St. Johns County Democratic Party there’s the Hastings Democratic Club, the Ponte Vedra Democratic Club, the Northwest United for Progress (Democratic) Club, the Young Democrats of St. Johns County, the St. Johns Hispanic Democratic Club and the local Democratic Women’s Club.
In addition, there’s a Democratic Environmental Caucus chapter that meets monthly, and word has it that a county Democratic Black Caucus is being formed. Good — glad to hear it.
There’s also the St. Johns Democratic Progressive Caucus, and weekly Blue Bag lunches at party headquarters, plus several special events each year aimed at getting new Democratic registrations and, by extension, more votes for Democratic candidates.
There’s no shortage of Democratic organizations in this county, that’s for sure, but there’s definitely a shortage of Democrats holding public office — especially when it comes to minority officeholders.
Between the St. Augustine City Commission, St. Augustine Beach Commission and St. Johns County Commission, there are 15 elected officeholders — all of whom are white. And in the case of the county commission, all members are men.
Will this be the year that more Democrats than usual score a few seats at the respective decision-making tables? Sure hope so.
But Democrats — regardless of gender, race or religion — will need good candidates, focused campaigns and maximum turnout. It’s the Holy Trinity of politics.
Can’t wait for election season to begin.
Steve can be contacted at email@example.com