We’re going to spend some time this week talking about politics and I’ll try not to make that as dull as it sounds.
First off, where I’m coming from: Elections are sacred to to me. They are a holiday that takes place every two years. I vote on Election Day. Not the day before and certainly not two weeks prior. I wear a tie on Election Day.
I can’t think of a single act that makes me more American than voting.
My Election Day writing history in Citrus County goes back to Wilma Anderson and her fuzzy slippers, punch card ballots and an enthusiastic employee I got to know named Mo Baird.
Then Susan Gill was elected and started talking about new-fangled computers that could record the ballot moments after I finished voting.
Taking the guesswork out of voting was never more apparent than the 2000 election. I sat, with others from the public or political parties, watching the recount in the elections office downtown. We didn't have nearly the excitement as counties to our south.
Gill, meanwhile, earned a solid reputation statewide for running efficient elections with timely election night results. Plus, her knowledge of election laws was always unmatched. I know that because we debated them frequently.
So, as you can see, I don’t like when people mess with elections or question their integrity.
In a video making the rounds, Citrus County Commission candidates Rebecca Bays, Winn Webb (District 4), Diana Finegan and Stacey Worthington (District 2) were speaking to a local conservative Republican organization when they were asked if the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.
Finegan and Webb: Yes, the election was stolen.
Bays and Worthington: No, the election was not stolen.
(District 4 candidate John Murphy was with his family on a cruise that week. When he returned, I asked him this same question and his one word answer: “No.” So he goes in the column with Bays and Worthington.)
Numerous people approached me in the last week asking that I write about this. My first thought was, who cares? These are four Republican candidates at a Republican gathering, where they’re all trying to out-conservative each other. Candidates pandering to audiences is nothing new.
And, while I have my thoughts on the 2020 presidential election, I’ll keep them to myself.
(As I wish many others would as well. A recent recruit to the Library Guy Gang walked up the microphone at a county commission meeting and bluntly stated the election was stolen.
“It’s been proven,” he said smugly.
By who? The Easter Bunny?
But I respect those opinions, no matter how far from reality they are.)
Candidates, though, that’s another matter. Candidates for office should be aware of the message they are conveying to voters when they cast doubt on the veracity of an election. No one is saying Finegan, Webb or any other candidates have an issue with the Citrus County Supervisor of Elections, but if you ask Mo Baird, she’ll say it all falls under the same umbrella.
No one ever accused fraud in the Citrus County elections office, but that didn’t stop the office from being inundated with phone calls from voters throughout spring and summer in 2020 who believed their votes wouldn’t count.
Candidates should do more than try and secure votes. I’d hope they set a community standard based on sound judgment and reasoning.
I doubt the needle will move much for Winn Webb and Diana Finegan on saying they think Trump’s election was stolen. They’ll each pick up votes solely for that reason and they’ll lose votes as well.
Proof yet again that this year’s Citrus County election is like none other.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.