GOP endorses Perez in appraiser race
The Charlotte County Republican Executive Committee endorsed one Republican candidate for county property appraiser, Wyvern Hotel manager John Perez, over a fellow Republican candidate, deputy property appraiser Paul Polk, at a REC meeting last week.
The party’s board voted unanimously to consider the endorsement amid “extreme pressure” from members who are concerned that Democrats are switching to Republican in order to vote for Polk in the closed primary, said Bill Folchi, REC chairman.
“It’s very unusual for us to endorse before the primary,” Folchi said. “The only reason we did was because of the extreme pressure from the REC membership to react to the infiltration of the party. The members felt the Republican brand was being violated.”
To endorse a candidate before the primary, party rules require a 60 percent membership vote. The vote at Thursday’s meeting substantially exceeded that, Folchi said.
A majority of REC members felt Polk’s switch from Democrat to Republican two years ago was “opportunistic,” Folchi said.
“Democrats have controlled the appraiser’s office for years and generations,” he said. “There is the opinion out there that Polk came to Charlotte County specifically with the intent to become the appraiser.
“It hasn’t been a pleasant situation,” he added. “But I supported (the endorsement) because the Republican brand should not be up to the highest bidder.”
Polk said decades ago he became a “southern Democrat” when the party represented conservatism. However, he said he was never involved with the Democratic Party. He said he switched to Republican because the Democratic Party has shifted too far left in recent years.
“They’re trying to politicize this position,” he said of the committee’s membership. “You don’t make partisan decisions as a property appraiser.”
Polk said his background makes him the most qualified candidate. A lifelong county resident, Polk has worked for the past 25 years as an appraiser, working for government agencies and private interests.
In one prior job, Polk oversaw the work of all Florida county property appraisers, as a reviewer for the Florida Department of Revenue.
He was promoted to Charlotte County chief deputy appraiser in November.
“Frank Desguin has been Charlotte County property appraiser for
16 years,” Polk said. “He’s done a good job. And if he endorses me, it’s because he feels I’m the most qualified person.”
Originally from Massachusetts, Perez also is a former Democrat. A former Democratic city assemblyman, Perez became a Republican in the 1990s.
“It’s not about Paul switching from Democrat to Republican,” Perez said. “The issue is about cutting the umbilical cord to the Democratic Party.”
Perez pointed out Polk’s supporters on a Facebook page have urged Democrats to switch to Republican in order to vote in the primary. Some 500 Democrats recently have switched to Republican, Perez said.
“(Polk) seems like a genuine person,” Perez said. “But he works for a Democrat, he was chosen to be his successor.”
Perez also said Polk’s experience isn’t required to get the job done.
“I can hire a lead appraiser if I need to,” Perez said.