The upcoming primary election Tuesday is all about one thing only when it comes to local races: the future of Franklin County education.
Democratic and Republican voters throughout the county will have to narrow down the two candidates for superintendents they want squaring off in the Nov. 8 general election, at which time a third candidate, running without party affiliation, will join in the fray.
In addition, voters Tuesday will have the final say in three non-partisan elections for the school board, as three incumbents each face a challenge.
Eight days of early voting, each with extended hours, began Saturday at two locations in the county, the supervisor’s Apalachicola office at 47 Avenue F, and the Carrabelle annex, at 912 NW. Avenue A.
Supervisor of Elections Pinki Jackel said opening horus each day were moved a half-hour earlier, to 8 a.m., and one-and-one-half hour later, to 6 p.m.
“We wanted to give folks who get off work a chance to vote right after work,” she said.
The early voting wraps up this Saturday at 6 p.m., and so far the pace hasn’t been setting any records. As of Tuesday, about 617 voters had voted by mail, and 167 had stopped by to early vote, lagging well behind the pace of four years ago, in a comparable presidential election year.
“So far it’s been a light turnout,” said Jackel. “I do believe it will pick up as the week goes on and more people become aware.”
Jackel said the 2012 primary drew a total of 53 percent of registered voters to the polls.
“I think we’ll be right around that number if we have real good weather,” she said. “It’s not going to be a record-setting primary. But people are primed and loaded for the presidential election. They’re ready to vote.”
As of now, there are 7,137 registered voters in the county, about 300 fewer than there were four years ago. About 58 percent of these voter are Democrats, 4,126, and 30 percent are Republicans, 2,130, with the remaining 880 voters either members of a minor party or without party affiliation.
While it is not clear what effect it will have, data from the elections office indicates that beginning Jan. 1, far more Democrats have switched parties to become Republicans, than members of the GOP have changed their registration to Democrat.
Since the beginning of the year, 166 Dems have switched to Republican, while only 23 Republicans have changed to Democrat.
In addition, there has been an erosion in the number of unaffiliated voters, with 34 of them joining the Democrats and 46 registering as Republicans.
In terms of new voters, since the beginning of the year, 131 voters have registered as Republicans, 95 have registered as Democrats and 79 have registered without party affiliation.
Five battle for a shot at superintendent
In the superintendent race, the three Democrats battling it out in their primary are Traci L. Moses, 38, Apalachicola; Robert Andrew Murray. 53, Carrabelle; and Glenna Sue Summers, 61, Eastpoint.
Moses, a fourth-grade teacher at the Apalachicola Bay Charter School, has stressed her active involvement as a teacher and a volunteer, and has focused on the need for building teamwork in her plans for addressing the district’s diverse challenges, from at-risk students to the gifted education, as well as sound financial management.
Murray, a former DARE officer in the schools and now a correctional officer, has stressed strong, honest leadership and accountability, and a willingness and ability to work well with parents and staff from all walks of life to forge consensus moving forward.
Summers, a former superintendent in Liberty County and now a top administrator with the Franklin County Schools,a PhD, has stressed her education, leadership skills and experience in a variety of roles in addressing issues in public education.
On the Republican side the contenders are Homer Inman “Mac” McMillan, 55, Carrabelle; and Franklin Lee Stephens, 82, Eastpoint.
McMillan, a church pastor as well as an attorney, has stressed his broad experience as a lawyer, author and educational administrator, and has promised to transform the district by managing as a hands-on CEO.
Stephens, a former Apalachicola High School principal, can point to a successful career in all walks of education, particularly vocational education, where he capped off his career at Haney Vo-Tech in Panama City, creating and overseeing the aeronautics component. He is also retired as a high-ranking officer with the Air Force Reserve.
The victors in the primaries will square off in the Nov. 8 election, joined by Stephanie Howze Jones, 43, Carrabelle, who chose to run without party affiliation.
Superintendent Nina Marks, who decided not to run for election for a third term, earned $94,519 in salary this year.
School board balloting about incumbency
The three non-partisan school board positions, which each paying $25,018 annually, are all up for grabs at the Aug. 30 primary.
Two of the three races feature a fairly well-established incumbent taking on a challenge from a newcomer. The third is marked by a contrast in approaches by a pair of candidates who have tussled before.
In District 5, spanning the broad middle of the county, the rural center between Eastpoint and Carrabelle, including the sprawling campus that is the Franklin County School. Former school board member Carl Whaley, 47, of Carrabelle, is campaigning to reverse the outcome of four years ago, in campaigning to unseat incumbent Pamela Watson Shiver, 45.
In her first term, Shiver has shown herself a go-getter, including election as chair, but that has not been without its downside politically. She advocated for a hired superintendent, a fact Whaley has used in his campaign. Shiver stresses that her primary consideration was to have the people decide the matter by holding an election.
In District 3, Barry Lee Hand , 48, Apalachicola, is waging a spirited battle against four-term incumbent Teresa Ann Martin, 51, Apalachicola. At all the debates, Hand has been vigorous in his challenges, citing existing problems with the district and summoning others to the resolve to fix them. Martin has countered that her brand of steady, active leadership, has been needed for the board to work effectively.
In District 1, Melonie Inzetta, 59, Eastpoint, is challenging incumbent George Thompson, 56, Eastpoint, in a quiet contest between a longtime, outspoken member of the board and a busy administrator of the after-school program. Inzetta, who runs the district’s Nest after-school program, has presented herself as a contrast to Thompson, as the two appeal for support in the district, that runs from the heart of Eastpoint and encompasses St. George Island.
In races that encompass the rest of the region and the state, Republicans will decide whether they again want Marco Rubio as their nominee for senator, or to turn to South Florida developer Carlos Beruff, who is trying to outflank him from the right. There’s a third guy on the ballot, Ernie Rivera, who is likely not to figure into the contest.
For Congress, those in the GOP will decide whether to choose Panama City physician Neal Dunn, former federal prosecutor Ken Sukhia or Tallahassee attorney Mary Thomas as their nominee to replace outgoing Re. Gwen Graham, who is not running for re-election.
Among the Dems, the choice for U.S. Senate comes down to one of five candidates, Reps. Patrick Murphy or Alan Grayson, the two front-runners, as well as Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, Reginald Luster or Pam Keith.
For Congress, it’s a choice between Tallahassee attorney Walter Dartland and North Florida forester Steve Crapps.
There is a race for state attorney from the 2nd Judicial Circuit, between Jack Campbell, and Sean T. Desmond, who formerly worked in Franklin County as an assistant state attorney.
The one constitutional amendment on the ballot, No. 4, which provides for a tax abatement for solar devices and renewable energy source devices.. The amendment would prohibit taxation as tangible personal property, nor for assessing the value for ad valorem tax purposes, of all such equipment. If passed the amendment would take effect Jan. 1, 2018, and expires on Dec. 31, 2037.