Former Cape mayor seeks judgeship
Former Cape Coral Mayor Eric Feichthaler is running for a seat as a Lee County judge.
Feichthaler filed paperwork Tuesday with the Lee County Supervisor of Elections Office. He opened a campaign file for the Group 4 seat, currently held by Lee County Judge Archie B. Hayward Jr.
Feichthaler explained that his passion has always been “to serve the public, public service.” In a Cape Coral Daily Breeze article from 1994, he is quoted as listing his future plan as to “eventually enter politics or become a judge.”
“It’s something I’ve always contemplated,” he said of being a judge.
Hayward is seeking to retain the Group 4 seat.
He declined comment on Feichthaler’s entry into the race and his own campaign Tuesday, citing a concern about violating the rules and regulations for judges and candidates. He did say he was appointed to the seat from a field off six people and previously worked for Florida Rule Legal Services as an attorney.
According to the elections office Web site, Lee County judges serve for six years. The original term for the Group 4 seat ran from 2004-10. Hayward was appointed to the Group 4 seat for two years in 2008 by Gov. Charlie Crist.
Feichthaler feels that during his time as mayor, he proved his leadership skills and his ability to make decisions on legal matters. He said the council handled quasi-judicial cases, particularly in regards to land use. Feichthaler added that in those cases, he demonstrated an ability for impartiality.
“Combined with the fact I’ve been able to handle very challenging, complex issues,” he said, explaining why he is right for the Group 4 seat.
Feichthaler said people have told him for years that he should run for a judge’s seat, and that he believes the timing is now right. He said he picked the Group 4 seat because Hayward was running
unopposed while the Group 3 race already had four candidates.
“He has not been elected to the seat before,” Feichthaler said. “I thought it was fair to challenge him.”
“The important thing is that people have a say in who is their judge,” he said. “I want to make sure people have a choice.”
Feichthaler added that the timing for him to run is also right for his family.
“Politics are just so hard on the family,” he said, adding that winning the seat would enable him “to keep serving the community” while sparing his family from the difficulties associated with politics.
Feichthaler is married and has three children under the age of 5.
He highlighted his ties to the community as a plus. Feichthaler graduated from Mariner High School in 1990. He is on the board of Cape Coral Housing Rehabilitation and Development, the Cape Coral Charter School Foundation, Community Coordinated Care for Children Inc. and the Cape Coral Mayor’s Scholarship Fund.
“I went to high school and came back to the community to serve it,” he said.
Feichthaler plans to appear on the ballot by petition. To qualify for a race, candidates can pay a fee or collect signed petitions from 1 percent of the total registered Lee County voters in the last election — Feichthaler needs 3,207 signatures by March 29 to qualify.
“I believe we’re going to be able to do it,” he said. “Most people don’t qualify by petition because it’s challenging, but we’re going to give it our best shot.”
“I think this is a great opportunity to meet the voters and have a lot of people assist with collecting those signatures,” Feichthaler added.
He said he does not expect to do a lot of fund-raising for the judge’s seat.
“It’s more about meeting people and talking about what I can do for the county,” Feichthaler said.
Feichthaler served as mayor from 2005-08, before resigning to run for the Lee County Commission. He was unsuccessful and has been working as an attorney and certified circuit civic mediator since 2008.
He graduated from the University of Miami, the Georgetown University Law Center and the New
York University School of Law.
According to Bernice Felicano with the Lee County Supervisor of Elections Office, the qualifying period runs from noon April 26 through noon April 30. Candidates can open a campaign file to run up through the qualifying period.
The primary election is Aug. 24. Judges do not run on party affiliations so all registered voters in Lee County can vote in those races, regardless of party affiliation.