Monday, November 14, 2016

Local Elections

A strange thing happened on the way from the elections last week in Monroe County. Everyone voted Republican. It was almost like a straight party-line ticket across the county. A friend of mine asked rhetorically where the progressive Keys had gone...and I wondered if this most recent vote was just another facet of gentrification.
My wife  thought President Elect Trump had coattails because not only did he  win Monroe County just about every other vote went Republican as well. I don't know quite how to explain it all, and in the end most of these votes don't really matter as a winner has won and everyone else lost: so what?  Yet there are a couple fo races that I think had outcomes which may portend change of a a deeper sort across the county.
In Key West as elsewhere across the nation people were talking about Trump's victory, a revolutionary that took the chattering classes by surprise. In Key West that sort of chatter took place at a  Cuban coffee shop or two, and I heard the talk because I was awake unusually early on the morning after the election.
The statewide race that puzzled me was the win by State Attorney Dennis Ward who defeated Catherine Vogel one more time for the top prosecutor's job in Monroe County. Dennis Ward  defeated Vogel's former boss Mark Kohl; two elections ago and as a result Vogel, the chief deputy prosecutor left the county without a job and moved to Ocala. But the rivalry didn't end there. Dennis Ward ended up prosecuting the Schools' Superintendent Randy Acevedo as an accessory to his wife's kleptomania for which she was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing funds from the school district. In the photo below a picture I took during the trial, the taller older Ward withhis chief deputy rosecutor Mark Wilson who defeated...
...Dennis Ward's rival who was defending Randy Acevedo, Catherine Vogel:
It was a long and sordid case but I was not at all convinced Acevedo was guilty- of his wife's guilt there was no doubt. Frankly I still miss Acevedo as superintendent today, but things went the way they did and I don't blame Ward for prosecuting Acevedo as he did. Ward ran on an anti-corruption platform so he left himself no room to maneuver.
The odd part of that long complex story is that the reverberations from that trial led to Vogel running against Ward and defeating him. He was suddenly back in private practice and Vogel had the top prosecutor's job. Which you would think should have been the end of it. Instead they had a rematch this year and Ward, to my astonishment won! Ward was nominally a Republican (he used to be a Democrat), so was that why he beat the women supported most intensely by the Conch voter base in Key West? Were hey outgunned by the rest of the Keys?  Apparently they were and maybe the rest of the Keys turned out in large numbers fired up by their passion for Trump at the top of the ticket.
The Blue Paper  published a devastating story about Vogel's loudest supporter in this story:
When the previous State Attorney, Denis Ward, prosecuted another one of Harry’s sons for lobster trap poaching, the father declared war. Harry Bethel, Jr. was out on bond for arson at the time. He was sentenced to three years in prison.  Dennis Ward lost his job.
“Karma always wins and payback is a bitch,” wrote Harry Bethel in a diatribe published in the Key West Citizen at the time. He had championed Catherine Vogel’s 2012 campaign against Ward: “I worked as hard as I worked in my own campaigns just for the satisfaction of being a part of your DEFEAT,” he wrote in the email to Ward, “I hope that you and your family have as much misery in your life [as] you have put in my family’s] life.” The email was signed, “A loving father.”
So now Ward is back and rumor has it he is warning there will be a clean sweep through the office. There is no love lost apparently between the office factions. 
The other race that puzzled me a bit was the County Clerk's race where the incumbent, elected in the last race when the long time incumbent retired, was knocked out of the primary. With Amy Heavilin reduced to lame duck status the race closed in on Kevin Madok an experienced employee of the office versus Ron Saunders a local favorite who has held statewide elected office and seemed far too over qualified for the Clerk of the Court position which has been badly mismanaged lately. Madok Profile LINK .Luckily Madok won which was a vote for experience and qualifications. Too bad Saunders has been made redundant by term limits but clearly this wasn't the job for him.
One other surprise locally was  a win by Robert Lockwood in the Public Defender's  race. Again this was a Republican beating a much more qualified Democrat for a more or less non partisan job. Trish Docherty Gibson had worked in the office for twenty two years, was the chief assistant and was anointed by the outgoing, well respected Public Defender when she retired at the end of this term. It seemed like a non contest considering Lockwood has only two years experience and outside of an election he would never have been chosen over the much more experienced utterly scandal free Docherty Gibson. So why did she lose? Who knows whether Trump had coattails and more Republicans turned out or if Conchs in Key West are losing their grip on a county who demographics are changing with the influx of money.
One should I suppose be glad the whole cycle is over but it seems at every level repercussions will continue to jar our consciousness if we are paying attention.