Daytona Beach, FL - 2020 is still a couple of months away, but some candidates are hitting the trail already in preparation for the campaign season.
The information provided below is current as of October 14th, 2019
In Volusia County, 14 people have filed for candidacy in nine different spots. In Flagler, 10 have filed in seven different spots with five seeking reelection. And five candidates in each county are seeking reelection.
Right now, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood looks to stay in his position and remains unopposed in the run for Sheriff. Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly, has also filed for reelection and it seems that no other candidates have filed yet.
Billie Wheeler is in a similar situation and remains unopposed in her reelection run for the District 2 spot on the Volusia County Council. David Sullivan, Vice Chair and District 3 Flagler County Commissioner is seeking reelection with no opponent filed.
Lisa Lewis and Kaiti Lenhart, the supervisor of elections for Volusia and Flagler, respectively, have both filed for reelection.
Dr. Maria Barbosa is running unopposed in her reelection run as the District 5 Board Member for Flagler County Schools.
Edward Danko has filed for the Palm Coast City Council District 1 spot currently held by Robert Cuff and remains unopposed.
Will Roberts, who filed to run as Volusia County's first candidate for the tax collector position in June, remains unopposed as well. Roberts is the first candidate in 50 years that has run for the position.
He spoke on the Marc Bernier Show not long after he filed for candidacy. You can find the interview below.
As it stands right now, Wheeler is the only Volusia County Council member who has filed for reelection and remains unopposed. Two other council members have already filed and face an opponent.
Both County Chair Ed Kelley and District 4 Council Member Heather Post are seeking reelection with a bit of competition on the field. Currently, Kelley is opposed by Jeffrey Brower, who filed before Kelley back on September 17th. Kelley filed a couple of weeks later on October 3rd.
Both have no monetary contributions filed at this moment.
As for Post, she is currently running against Barbara Bonarrigo. Post originally filed for reelection back on February 13th with Bonarrigo filing a couple of months later on June 28th.
And according to the recent filings from the Volusia County Department of Election, Bonarrigo has received over $24,000 in monetary contributions for her campaign while Post has accrued over $7,000.
Lary Bartlett and Chris Miller have also filed for reelection for Property Appraiser and County Judge Group 6, respectively. Both do have some opponents on the trail, with Bartlett running against Bill Christen and Miller against Nora H. Hall.
The only candidate in Flagler County seeking reelection with an opponent is Donald Thomas O'Brien Jr., who is now running against Bob Jones for the spot of county commissioner for District 5.
At the state level, the Division of Elections from the Florida Department of State shows that State Attorney R.J. Larizza (Republican) is seeking reelection for his position, unopposed.
Senator Travis Hutson of District 7 (Rep), which encompasses half of Volusia County and all of Flagler and St. Johns, looks to run again for reelection.
Four candidates, three Democrats and one Republican, have filed for the Senate District 9 spot that's currently held by Senator David Simmons, who is also the President Pro Tempore for the Florida Senate.
Those candidates are Frederick Ashby II (Democrat), Jason Brodeur (Rep), Alexis Carter (Dem) and H. Alexander Duncan (Dem).
In both District 24 and 25 of the Florida House of Representatives, only one candidate has filed against the incumbent in each spot.
Thomas Morely (Dem) has filed to run against Representative Paul Renner (Rep) in District 24. And in District 25, Joe Hannoush (Libertarian Party of Florida) seeks candidacy in the position currently held by Representative Thomas Leek (Rep).
Hannoush recently made a guest appearance as a "Volusionary" on the Marc Bernier Show. You can find that segment below.
Similar to Senate District 9, four candidates have filed to run for District 27. Those candidates are Webster Barnaby (Rep), Erika Benfield (Rep), Zenaida Denizac (Rep) and Carol Lawerence (Dem).
Representative Elizabeth Fetterhoff is running unopposed as the incumbent for District 26.
There's been heated debates in the county council chambers for months and it comes from two council members who have been in the spotlight already for disagreements they've had about a certain amendment.
Over the past year or so, Kelley and Post have been opposed against each other's views on the hot button issue of Amendment 10, which was passed back in 2018 by a majority of Volusia County voters (53%).
That amendment, which is expected to be fully implemented by 2021, says that counties are required to hold elections for offices such as that of Sheriff, and it also prevents the ability of “charter” counties – which includes Volusia – to “abolish, transfer duties or change the terms” of those offices.
Post, a former employee of the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, is in support of the amendment along with the current Sheriff, Mike Chitwood. Ed Kelley, however, is opposed to the amendment, saying that while it passed statewide, it didn't pass by 60% or more, which is required in Volusia County's charter.
The county's other fear with Amendment 10 is the fact they believe it could cost $9 million to implement.
Sheriff Chitwood has been long outspoken against Kelley and his view on Amendment 10. Almost a year ago, Chitwood labeled council members Deb Denys, Pat Patterson, Joyce Cusack, Billie Wheeler, Fred Lowry, Kelley and County Attorney Dan Eckert "Scumbags of the Week" because of a vote to renew the county's legal challenge against the amendment.
Since then, Amendment 10 has made its way back to Tallahassee in the past months, that's because of another legal challenge brought on by the Volusia County Council.
Its fourth and most recent challenge, which was taken to the First District Court of Appeals last Thursday (October 3rd), Amendment 10 was heard by a three judge panel but was not ruled on at its hearing. It's still unclear when the court will return a ruling.
Outside of the challenges, some are wondering what would happen if the courts overturn Amendment 10 and how could affect how people vote for the County Council next year.
WNDB host and political analyst Marc Bernier thinks that the courts will most likely leave Amendment 10 alone.
"I don't think the courts would overturn it," said Bernier. "Secondly, I think that if the courts overturn the will of the people, the voters will take it out on the candidates next year."
On the topic of voters, some wondered if the Amendment 10 challenge could affect Ed Kelley's chance at reelection since he's has been one of the most outspoken council members against it.
But some residents have already come out and said that they've supported the county's motions. That leaves a split down the middle when it comes to opinions.
"I think you're going to have angry voters regardless and they're going to be demanding to know who pushed the agenda," said Bernier.
Bernier also said that people are going to remember the $9 million price tag Amendment 10 supposedly carries along with the changes it needs. That alone might not affect Kelley's chances, according to Bernier.
"That could ring in their ears, but I don't think it stops the chairman from being reelected. This is not going to be the issue that prevents him from being elected."
Kelley faces a challenger in his race for reelection since Jeffery Brower also filed for the County Chair position. Marc says that those who feel they weren't "heard" by the county council could gravitate towards Brower instead of Kelley, but that still doesn't leave Kelley without a base of supporters.
"I think by and large you're going to see the mainstay people in business surround the chairman," said Marc. "I don't see a lot of those people being peeled off for the challenger."
It's still too early to accurately predict what might come of the 2020 Election Season. Between now and November of next year, candidates can be added or subtracted from the race, bills can be proposed and the entire election can change.
Marc Bernier can be heard live on WNDB, Monday through Friday, 3-6 p.m. on FM 93.5 and AM 1150. You can also find archived interviews and audio on his website, MarcBernierShow.com