It's hatchet-burying time in Citrus
Emptying my brain of the 2022 election while Nicole whispers sweet nothings in my ear:
— Writing about campaigns can get a little dicey because the stakes are so high. Candidates and their close supporters read every single word written about them or their opponents. Sometimes it’s not what they want to read and they react accordingly.
Candidates who I’ve known for years and had friendly, cordial relationships, well, things can fall apart fairly fast in this process.
I wish it wasn’t that way but I’ve been doing this a long time and that’s a fairly consistent pattern. Doesn’t mean anyone is wrong. We’re all playing our part and sometimes those roles clash.
The trick is to leave it at the Election Day doorstep. Campaigns are stressful and have little resemblance to governing, which is what winners do after the election. The winning candidate who holds onto campaign grudges is the ineffective commissioner, councilperson or school board member.
Several years ago I spoke to a winning candidate on election night. It had been an especially difficult campaign with accusations tossed about. This candidate was particularly angry at my coverage and made a point to tell me in extreme detail each time we spoke.
That night, though, he apologized. (I’m not going to say who it was, but you’d be shocked.) We had a nice conversation, the first one in quite some time. We agreed: Campaigning is one thing but that bad blood ends after it’s over.
I sent congratulatory texts to Inverness Mayor Bob Plaisted and County Commission District 2 winner Diana Finegan. Both won their elections by large margins and both also underwent a fair amount of public scrutiny for the campaign. Their names were frequently mentioned in this blog.
I also invited each to join me for Cattle Dog chats soon if they’d like. I hope they take me up on it.
— We had great candidates this year. Couldn’t ask for a better slate, from the primary to the general election. Plenty of community conversation, most of it somewhat positive, as we try to move our county in a positive direction.
One exception, of course, is Library Guy. The fact that Crystal Lizanich defeated him by just 39 votes for Inverness City Council should be a wake-up call, the kind you get at a hotel at 5 in the morning that scares the daylights out of a sound sleep.
This is a candidate with zero value as a potential policy maker. He’s done nothing but bring division to the city, yet 980 of my fellow Inverness neighbors voted for him.
We shouldn’t dismiss those votes as just silly people who fell for his smoke-and-mirrors. Clearly we have citizens in our county who buy what he’s selling and we need to find out why. This person paints a totally inaccurate portrait of our beautiful community and that cannot stand.
You see, I’m not worried about Library Guy winning a campaign. I’m more concerned about a Citrus County that elects him.
— Finally, just a big sincere thank you. Made it through a full campaign as Just Wright Citrus, did some things right, did some things I wished I would have done differently, but mainly I was pretty happy with it.
One change: I won’t take political ads again. I really didn’t think that one through enough, and those of you who pointed out the poor perception of me writing about candidates while taking money. I mean…don’t I write about that stuff all the time? I can say with all sincerity it didn’t make any difference in my writing but I totally buy into the perception.
My goal — community conversation — was 100% achieved. Look at all we’ve talked about the last few months: parkway, turnpike, affordable housing, roads, traffic, environmental protection, street resurfacing, government accountability, poverty, crime, taxes and on and on.
Election campaigns provide an avenue for discussion, debate.
Thanks to the lack of internet Wednesday at Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson, I’m writing today’s blog from Cattle Dog in Inverness. One of my absolute favorite places to meet people, to chat, to discuss ideas back and forth.
This is what politics should be. Conversation. Discussion. Back-and-forth. Cordial. Trying to understand another’s point of view rather than hammer home mine. Find common ground, or at least respect an opponent’s position.
That’s the Just Wright Citrus goal. Today and tomorrow.
Stay safe, friends.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.