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First candidate’s forum draws good crowd

By Staff | Jul 21, 2011

Cape Coral got its first look at the slate of candidates for the 2011 municipal election on Thursday night and found a mix of experience, nervousness and fresh voices, all vying for their votes in the September primary.

Christine Dudley found that the group of 16 candidates present presented themselves well but did not yet find any particular person to endorse.

“I think they did well … but a lot of the time my mind isn’t made up until a couple of days before the election,” Dudley said.

Candidates from all four districts were in attendance, although three of the nineteen running – Erica Nicole Warren, Charles Stanton and James B. McManus – had prior engagements.

For those who could make it, topics ranged from the typical “what would you do if elected” inquiries to more specific topics, including Conservation 20/20 fund contribution and restarting the Utilities Expansion Project.

Councilmember Derrick Donnell was the only incumbent who fully endorsed restarting the UEP, but did so with the caveat that it had to be done “without the spin” and that a variety of payment options should be offered.

“Let’s re-bid it, take it one step at a time and restart it yesterday,” he said.

Meanwhile, District 2 incumbent and Councilmember Pete Brandt said he was capable of more than “one dimensional thinking” and that restarting the UEP will cost the city more now than not to restart it.

Newcomer John Carioscia, also in District 2, said he was impressed with his first candidate forum, although he wished he had more than the allotted time of one minute to answer what he felt were very complex issues, including the UEP.

“It was inspirational,” he said of the forum. “It’s just about what I expected.”

Hosted by the Cape Coral Association of Realtors, the forum was the first of the campaign season. It was also the first time the Association has ever hosted a candidate forum, a “niche” that Chris Berardi said they would like to carve for themselves moving forward.

They won’t be hosting a forum for the general election, but Berardi did say they would eventually endorse, and donate, to candidates from each district once the general election does roll around.

Berardi said he wasn’t surprised by the nervousness of a few of the candidates, especially if they have never spoken in public before.

Overall, though, Berardi was happy with the turnout – about 100 people – and thinks people are going to have tough choices when heading to the polls.

“There’s some really good candidates, some good choices,” Berardi said. “I was a bit surprised about some of the knowledge they had on some of the issues.”

Candidates must live in the district they represent but run at large, meaning registered voters can cast a ballot in each race.

Early voting for the non partisan primary is Sept. 3 – 10; election day is Sept. 13.

Early voting for the general election runs Oct. 31 – Nov. 5; election day is Nov. 8.