Martin's Campaign Contrasts
By Sally Swartz - Palm Beach Post Columnist
Palm Beach Post © Post Editorial
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Martin County Commission candidates Doug Smith, Patrick Hayes and Ed Ciampi, all Republicans supported by the growth industry, seem to be running as a team and acting as if they've scheduled their victory party.
A single worker placed their signs together last week, pounding them into the ground at locations around the county. It's not surprising that campaign-finance reports show that more than 20 donors gave to all three. With just 16 days until the election, the razzle-dazzle to dress up these wolves in environmental sheep suits is just beginning.
The Palm City Chamber of Commerce endorsed the three caballeros, and invited the men to a "quick fire forum" lunch last week with a "speed-dating" format. Each sat and talked to chamber members for five minutes, then moved to another table. Other candidates who asked to attend were turned away.
Mr. Smith, the only incumbent in the trio, has his usual big-budget billboards in place, showing him lounging in shirtsleeves with a watery landscape in the background. Mr. Smith got only 8,847 votes in the primary, beating Henry Copeland by 187 votes - not exactly a triumph in a primary that drew only 27 percent of Martin's 101,007 voters. Mr. Smith is the top fund-raiser, logging $158,505 through Oct. 1. He spent most of that in the primary, but quickly is replenishing his depleted resources.
Consider that his two opponents, Republican-registered Joan Wilcox, now billing herself as a no-party candidate, and Democrat Tom Fullman reported campaign chests of $13,400 and $12,200, and you get a general idea of who's likely to win. Mr. Smith ignored Mr. Fullman's demand for a debate and didn't attend a recent citizen-sponsored candidate forum in Palm City.
The barrage of slick postcards has begun, with Mr. Hayes portraying himself as a Wall Street financial genius two decades ago - something that he failed to bring up in his previous, unsuccessful bids for office. If that financial savvy remains, it seems odd that he reimburses himself for every $10 and $20 "networking" meal and chamber breakfast. Mr. Hayes and Mr. Ciampi both have accepted money from the sugar industry directly or through political action committees. Indiantown-based "Your Friends & Neighbors in Martin County" helped Mr. Ciampi with $40,000 from the sugar industry and King Ranch, a Texas conglomerate that is Martin County's biggest landowner.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fullman's backers are waving signs on street corners. Linda Green, Mr. Ciampi's opponent, is campaigning in letters to the editor. Martha Bennett, running against Mr. Hayes, is campaigning aggressively door-to-door. Her signs are on lawns beside signs for both John McCain and Barack Obama, indicating that she has bipartisan support in predominantly Republican Martin.
And while Jupiter Island Town Commissioner Finn Caspersen supports Mr. Hayes, a letter from former Time magazine publisher Bernie Auer and retired investment banker Robert Garrett, both island residents, backs Ms. Bennett and Mr. Fullman. Mr. Auer for years has advised islanders on local elections, so it will be interesting to see whose endorsements prevail in one of America's richest ZIP codes.
I'm rooting for Martin voters to wake from the lethargy that paralyzed them in the primary. Other South Florida counties have settled for the best government that special-interest money can buy. The arrogant team trio is convinced that green-leaning Martin is ready to give up and join the crowd.
Sally Swartz is a former member of The Post Editorial Board. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Martin County Democratic Executive Committee has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Martin County Democratic Executive Committee endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)