Forget Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Put aside Mike Pence and Tim Kaine.
For Franklin County voters, the biggest election is a local one and it all will be decided in one month.
As usual, the premier races are those of the constitutional officers.
Two incumbents, both Democrats, Property Appraiser Rhonda Millender Skipper, 57, Carrabelle, and Tax Collector Jimmy Harris, 55, Apalachicola, earned another term without being challenged, since neither drew an opponent in their contests.
Two other incumbents, Sheriff Mike Mock and Superintendent Nina Marks, both opted to retire, and so those two races are among the hottest, with a new face, whoever he or she turns out to be, occupying the post beginning in January.
In the supervisor of elections race, the incumbent, a Gov. Scott appointee, has yet to be tested on a countywide ballot, and so that race has drawn lots of attention.
Plus the clerk of courts race pits an incumbent Democrat against a challenger running without party affiliation, part of a continuing trend among office seekers to avoid a primary battle and secure a place directly on the general election ballot.
It all can be a little confusing, but here’s an overview of these four countywide races to help you straighten it out.
The contest for sheriff at the Nov. 8 general election, a job that pays about $103,469 in salary annually, is between four candidates. Both Republican .A.J. “Tony” Smith, 56, Apalachicola, and Democrat Brad Segree, 45, Carrabelle, avoided facing a primary opponent, and each has their party’s backing.
In addition, Terry M. Martin, 55, Carrabelle, and Spencer Massey, 46, Carrabelle, are both running without party affiliation.
As of his Sept. 30 campaign finance report, Smith has brought in over $49,000 in campaign contributions, while Segree has gathered a little over $12,000. Both have actively taken part in campaign forums, as has Martin, who has raised close to $6,000.
Massey, who has not attended any of the prominent campaign forums so far this summer and fall, has raised only about $400. In addition, he has not filed the required campaign reports since Aug. 5. Failure to do so can result in a candidate being penalized by the Florida Elections Commission.
In the race to succeed Marks as superintendent of schools, a job that paid $94,519 in salary this year, it’s a three-way affair. Both Democrat Traci Moses, 38, Apalachicola, and Republican Franklin L. Stephens, 82, Eastpoint, defeated opponents in their respective primaries. Also on the ballot will be Stephanie Howze, 43, Carrabelle, who is running without party affiliation
Stephens has so far raised $11,500, nearly all from personal loans to his campaign, while Moses has raised about $6,300, a mixture of personal loans and campaign contributions. Howze has raised about $2,150.
In the race for supervisor of election, Republican incumbent Pinki Jackel, 58, St. George Island, appointed by Gov. Scott about 14 months ago to fill the remaining term of the late Ida Cooper Elliott, is facing Heather Crum Riley, 44, Carrabelle, who is running without party affiliation.
Riley, who had worked in the elections office under Elliott, and Jackel, who was elected twice to the county commission seat for District 1, each sought the nod from Scott. A Republican at that time, Riley then dropped her party affiliation.
In their bid for the office, which will pay about $94,519 next year, Jackel has so far raised close to $15,000, while Riley has campaign coffers in the $5,000 range.
In the race for clerk of courts, a job which pays $94,519 annually, incumbent Democrat Marcia M. Johnson, 59, Apalachicola, will face Althea L. “Penny” Sutton, 47, Eastpoint, who is running without party affiliation, in the Nov. 8 general election.
Johnson has raised about $7,5000, while Sutton has a war chest of about $2,750.
County Commission Chair William Massey will be returned to office for another four years, since he did not draw any challengers in District 5.
Two of the other county commission races are in dispute, and both have seen vigorous campaigns.
In the race for county commissioner for District 1, incumbent Rick Watson, 68, St. George Island, a Republican, is facing off against Ricky Jones. 45, Eastpoint, who is running without party affiliation after initially planning to run as a Republican.
Watson has amassed a campaign war chest of nearly $39,000, while Jones has a far more modest $3,500.
In District 3, Jimmy Lashley, 32, Apalachicola, is running without party affiliation in the general election, taking on incumbent County Commissioner Noah Lockley, a Democrat. Both will spend the least of all the races, each having raised under $1,5000.
County commissioners each make $26,144 per year.
To round out the ballot for area races, the race to succeed Willie Meggs as state’s attorney pits Democrat Jack Campbell against Republican Pete Williams. For Congress, it’s a contest between Republican Neal Dunn and Democrat Walter Dartland to succeed Democrat Gwen Graham. And for state senator, incumbent Democrat Bill Montford has drawn a Republican challenger in Nancy Miller.
Lastly, there are four proposed constitutional amendments - No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, and No. 5 - that will appear on t the ballot. Those amendments concern solar energy, medical marijuana, and property tax exemptions for disabled first responders and low-income, long-term resident seniors.
The arguments for and against the solar energy amendment are many, with some environmentalists contending that what seems to be a measure to protect Floridians’ right to use solar energy is actually a measure backed by energy companies to eventually limit subsidies and support for such usage.
Medical marijuana has drawn support from the legislature, but the battle over ratification of this amendment is raging. The other two amendments have wide support throughout the state and are expected to pass with little or no opposition.
As is typical in local elections, candidates from all sides have voiced concern about the tactics of their opponents, citing signs placed illegally in the right-of-way, or examples of vandalism or theft.
Jackel said for the most part the instances have been of the sort seen in closely-fought elections, although there have been a few excesses. “We had someone put either human or animal feces on a small yard sign and shove it into someone’s mailbox,” she said.
While her office does not have enforcement powers, she said she would assist residents with handling complaints about election conduct. “If they have any information regarding (unlawful actions), I would be glad to assist them in contacting the sheriffs department and making their concerns known.”
She said if someone sees a wrongly-placed campaign sign, they should call the supervisor of elections office. “We will contact the candidate and let them know and give them ample time to remedy the situation,” said Jackel. “No one can touch another’s sign, and they (candidates) are very cooperative.”
Voters have until October 11 to register for the general election, and can make address changes right up until Election Day. People have already begun requesting vote by mail ballots, commonly known as absentee. Early voting begins Oct. 29 and runs for eight days, up through Saturday, Nov. 5.
Election Day is three days later.