A 20-year local election tradition continued Feb. 26, when Hometown!, a nonpartisan voter education group, presented its first Call for Candidates event at Salute restaurant on Higgs Beach in Key West.

Now in its 20th year, the event invites all candidates for county and statewide offices, whether they’re declared candidates or still deciding about a run, to speak to a local audience for two minutes, introduce themselves and perhaps test the waters.

Hometown! chair Todd German emceed the hour-plus event, introducing candidates for every office from Congress and state representative to the county school board, Key West city commission, county commission and mosquito control board.

German emphasized the number of uncontested races in the Florida Keys as “something to think about” as Hometown continues to encourage people to consider running for public office. As of Feb. 26, the sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector and clerk of court were running unopposed as constitutional officers, along with some judges, school board members, mosquito control commissioners and Key West city commission candidates.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez will have a Democratic challenger this year in retired Navy commander Phil Ehr, who spoke on Feb. 26 while Gimenez was in Washington, D.C.

Florida Keys State Rep. Jim Mooney, who was in Tallahassee for the candidate event, also faces a challenge from Democrat Michael Travis, also known by their drag name Erica Rose, who appeared in full makeup at Salute to emphasize the importance of an “unbiased education for all children in Florida,” human rights, women’s reproductive rights and an end to state preemption that handcuffs local governments and prohibits them from enacting laws that benefit their communities.

Democrat Chris Massicotte is challenging incumbent Republican Jim Scholl for the District 3 county commission seat. Massicotte said he is a fiscally conservative Democrat and former accountant and auditor who questioned the size of the county’s budget and the commission’s passage last year of “the largest tax increase in history.”
Scholl reminded the audience of his experience as Key West city manager and long-time involvement in the Keys community, which started when he was commander of Naval Air Station Key West before retiring here. 

As of Feb. 28, only one of the county school board races is being contested — the seat being vacated by the retiring Andy Griffiths. Key Westers Yvette Mira Talbott and Zach Bentley are running for that position, while Mindy Conn is currently running unopposed for her Lower Keys school board seat.

The county’s supervisor of elections position also is up for grabs with the upcoming retirement of Joyce Griffin.

Former State Rep. Ron Saunders, a Democrat, is running for that job against Republicans Sherri Hodies of Sugarloaf Key and Margaret Romero of Key West.

Saunders pledged impartiality in ensuring election security and transparency, and has received the endorsement of Sheriff Rick Ramsay, a Republican, while Hodies touted her experience as a hard worker and administrator willing to work hard to ensure transparency. Romero was unable to attend the Hometown event.

The full video from the Feb. 26 Call for Candidates is available at hometownkeywest.com. A complete list of registered candidates is at keyselections.org. For more about the Key West city commission races, see page 4.

Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.