If you live in Key West or the Lower Keys and haven’t been paying a lick of attention to the Upper Keys county commission race, that needs to change. The same goes for Upper Keys residents who haven’t been listening to candidates in the two Lower Keys races.

Every voter in the Florida Keys elects every county commissioner, regardless of where the voter lives, but the candidates must live in the district they wish to represent.

Diane Beruldsen, who lives on Stock Island, has been campaigning for Democrat Annalise Mannix in the District 1 race against incumbent Republican Craig Cates. She’s been knocking on doors from downtown Key West to Sugarloaf and beyond.

“In speaking with people around Key West and Stock Island, I realized how many of them think they’ll only be voting for either Craig or Annalise, but that’s just not the case,” Beruldsen said. “I imagine many people in Key Largo also think the same thing — that they’ll only be voting for Mike Forster or Jose Peixoto. If people don’t know they’ll be voting for all three county commission seats, they could very well go to the polls, or get their ballot in the mail and see choices and names, but not know who the person is.

When she puts on her mask and gloves and knocks on doors, Beruldsen introduces herself by saying, “You’ll be voting for my county commissioners,” she said. “And a lot of them, at first, look at me with confusion, especially because it’s different from the Key West city commission races.”

In Key West city commission races, only voters residing in one of the six city districts can vote for that district’s commissioner. In county commission races, all Florida Keys voters elect all county commissioners, regardless of where the voter lives.

To review:

In the Nov. 3 general election, Key West voters who live in the city’s downtown District 6 — and only those in District 6 — will elect either incumbent city commissioner Clayton Lopez or challenger Ryan Barnett. 

Also on Nov. 3, all voters in the Florida Keys will choose three county commissioners:

Incumbent Republican Craig Cates or Democratic challenger Annalise Mannix for District 1; incumbent Democrat Heather Carruthers or Republican challenger Eddie Martinez in District 3 and Republican Mike Forster or non-party affiliated Jose Peixoto in District 5.

Additional local, state and national races will be on all ballots.

Information about each candidate is available at the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections website at keys-elections.org. The website also includes information about voter registration, polling locations, sample ballots and each candidate’s campaign donations and expenditures.

Additional details about each candidates’ opinions, philosophies and political positions have been discussed at length during three televised forums hosted by Hometown!, a non-partisan organization that aims to educate voters about all candidates and their positions.

At each of the three Hometown forums, candidates answered questions posed by four panelists. Videos of each forum are available at Hometownkeywest.com.

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