proposes partisan elections
PUNTA GORDA – The political imbroglio that temporarily grounded the Charlotte County Airport Authority’s election last August because of a local official’s conclusion that authority members must run in nonpartisan elections would never happen again, under draft legislation proposed by Pam Seay, authority member.
Seay briefed the authority Thursday on her draft, which would consolidate all prior authority enabling acts into one document, with a new clause specifying that authority elections would be partisan.
The board will discuss the proposal at its November meeting before presenting it to the county’s legislative delegation.
The proposal comes a couple of months after Supervisor of Elections Paul Stamoulis disqualified Seay and two other incumbent authority members, along with two challengers, because they were running as Republican candidates in a partisan race. Stamoulis had determined that Chapter 189 of Florida statutes
applied to the authority. That chapter requires special districts to hold nonpartisan elections unless their charters specify they are partisan.
The authority appealed to Gov. Rick Scott, who set a special nonpartisan election for the authority. It will be held as part of the Nov. 6 general election.
The authority’s enabling act calls for elections to be held in the same manner as all other county officials. Seay, a law professor, has argued that Charlotte County constitutional officers have partisan elections, so authority elections also should be partisan.
Authority member Gary Stasko said he has spoken to state Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, about the partisan amendment.
“Both of them seemed to think we will not have a problem getting where we want to get,” Stasko said.
Also at the meeting, a half-dozen supporters of the Punta Gorda Speedway urged the authority to address a concern over parking lot flooding. It’s gotten bad enough to have caused speedway owner Kevin Williams to cancel two months of racing this fall.
The problem seemed to worsen after the county widened Piper Road, said Bill Pearson, speedway employee. A county engineer told speedway officials recently the county was unaware of the need for parking-lot drainage when they designed the road, he said.
The area’s drainage system features a storm drain near the lot, but the drain is 1.5 feet higher than the parking lot, he said.
The authority has offered to provide dirt to fill the lot, but no funding to have trucks deliver it.
County Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch said he expects county engineers to work with airport engineers to come up with a solution.