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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Why do Florida cities have to pretend their elections are non-partisan?



...."Anyone who has ever knocked on a door for a campaign, in either party, in the last 15 years will tell you it is the first or second question the person answering the door asks," said St. Petersburg City Council member Charlie Gerdes, a Democrat and Kriseman supporter.

Urban reformers in the early 20th century pressed for nonpartisan elections under the theory that fixing potholes and installing sewer lines are nonpartisan issues, and party machines breed corruption.

Darryl Paulson, who taught politics and urban government for nearly 35 years at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, said that dubious premise made even less sense in the 1990s as mid-sized cities like St. Petersburg moved from governments led by city managers to full-time "strong mayors" running day-to-day city operations.

Paulson thinks Florida law should be changed to allow partisan city elections.

"What you end up with is a situation where everyone knows the partisan affiliation of the candidates, but it is illegal to conduct partisan local elections," Paulson said. "Stop making both citizens and candidates pretend that local elections are nonpartisan."...

....Brian Hughes, a Republican consultant who works with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, thinks the whole debate over partisanship in city elections is nonsense.

"A pothole may not belong to a party, but the philosophy of the person in charge of fixing it matters," Hughes said. "If the candidate is a labor-endorsed Democrat, their idea of how city services are managed is likely different than a pro-business, conservative Republican. Why wouldn't those philosophies and the ways they will influence leadership be a factor?"

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[Last modified: Friday, August 11, 2017 8:01am]


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