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Candidates gear up for the primary

By Staff | Aug 29, 2013

They’re knocking on doors, shaking hands with residents, holding forums and making phone calls.

The candidates for mayor and the District 1 Cape Coral City Council seat are making that one last push before the Sept. 10 primary – as well as the early voting which begins Saturday – in hopes that enough people will vote for them so they can advance to the general election on Nov. 5.

But the question isn’t so much if kissing babies will make a resident vote for them, but maybe if kissing babies will get that resident to vote at all.

Voter participation in local elections has been miniscule. Only 11 percent of registered voters voted in the 2011 city primary, and only 16 percent bothered to vote in the general election.

That hasn’t stopped the candidates from making their rounds, attending meetings and pitching their platforms.

Dan Ashby, 43, a 10-year resident who works for Hertz, said he was ready for the primary in his quest for mayor.

“The campaign has gone well, it’s been awesome meeting and talking to all the citizens and getting their views,” Ashby said. “It’s been a humbling experience speaking with those folks.”

Jim Burch, 62, a consultant and a 21-year Cape resident, who previously served as a council member as well as mayor, is doing things differently in his quest for the District 1 seat. He’s taking old campaign signs and reusing them for this campaign, understanding not many people have extra money.

“We’ve been talking to some businesses and looking at putting a few signs up. I’m not trying to press people for money,” Burch said. “We’re trying to manage our campaign the same way we manage our city, with as little cost as we can.”

Steven Golub, 60, an eight-year resident who works as a teacher, is also running in District 1. He said he is also ready, and is in touch with how the residents feel about the way city government handles things.

“My goal was to run against the good-ol’ boys and the utilities program. There are too many unanswered questions,” Golub said. “This is exactly what I’m running against.”

The calendar is dwindling down to the last few days, starting with city forums held Thursday and tonight at 7 p.m. at City Hall and going all through a week from Tuesday.

For the candidates, their approach isn’t going to change much.

Marni Sawicki, 43, a four-year resident who works in marketing, said the only difference will be that she will ramp up the intensity in her drive for mayor.

“We’re into the home stretch, so we’re really focusing on the undecided voters,” Sawicki said.

Fellow mayoral candidate A.J. Boyd, 46, a 20-year Cape resident who works in real estate, said his plan is simple; to get out and meet as many people as possible, especially those who came after his previous governmental stint as a Cape council member.

“There are those who didn’t meet me in my nine years on council. I want to meet those people and spread the word about getting Cape Coral back on track,” Boyd said.

Graham Morris, 28, an eight-year resident who is a student, is also running in District 1. He said he will do some last-minute things, such as launch a Web site and hold fundraisers to get that 11th-hour push.

“I’m hoping to get a concert fundraiser going. I’m going to go out and use every opportunity I can to get past this primary,” Morris said.

Of course, the candidates want to get residents to vote for them, whether they actually will may be another story. While the candidates don’t agree on everything, they all said it was important to get out and utilize their right.

That right is especially important to mayoral candidate Vincent Cummings, 41, a military chaplain who was born and raised in Cape Coral. Having been in the military overseas and serving his country, he believes to do otherwise is not an option.

“When you choose not to vote, you’re giving your input in public policy making to someone else. In the end, a minority elect the leaders to make the laws,” Cummings said. “Being a veteran, it’s embarrassing that those who have sacrificed everything for our freedom.”

The incumbent, Mayor John Sullivan, 70, an eight-year resident who has championed many causes for military veterans, said 100 percent of registered voters should vote 100 percent of the time.

“They should be involved with the government. Many people made many sacrifices to give them the opportunity to select the government leaders,” Sullivan said. “It’s a crying shame people don’t get out and exercise that right. Many people gave their lives for us to get out and vote.”

Mayoral candidate, David Carr, 46, a resident since 2004, said if you don’t use your right to vote, you have no right to complain, which is why he always tell people to get out and vote in every campaign stop he makes.

“There are a lot of things I don’t think are right in the city, and I’d like to see a lot more people vote. I don’t care if they vote for me, I just want to see them vote,” Carr said.

David Headd, 72, a real estate professional and 25-year resident, running in District 1, said it’s sad, but the reality is that the city should be pleased if 20 percent go to the polls, and offered a solution.

“If you don’t participate, you don’t have the right to complain if taxes are put through you don’t like,” Headd said. “I’m hoping the last election debacle that a lot of people will do a mail-in ballot, which is easier to do and might raise the percentage.”

Early voting will take place from Saturday, Aug. 31, and Tuesday, Sept. 3, to Saturday, Sept. 7. Offices are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Offices will be closed Sunday and Monday for Labor Day.

Early voting will take place at the Constitutional Complex at 2480 Thompson St. in Fort Myers on the 3rd floor, as well as at their Cape Coral office at 1031 SE 9th Place, behind the Lee County Government Building.

You can still call for an absentee ballot, but the deadline is Wednesday, Sept. 4, said Sharon Harrington, supervisor of Lee County Elections.

On election day, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and everyone should go to their normal precincts throughout town.

Every registered voter gets to vote in every race on the ballot in both the primary and the general election: City council races are non-partisan, and all council members are elected citywide although officials must live in the district they represent.