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Updated: Freeman announcement causes stir in Cape mayor’s race

By Staff | Jun 8, 2017

The Cape Coral mayoral race has heated up with the announcement this week that former U.S. Congressional candidate April Freeman will throw her hat into the ring, making her the sixth announced candidate for the seat held by Marni Sawicki, who is not running for another term.

Freeman, who filed her preliminary paperwork Monday, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014 and 2016 as a Democrat.

What does this mean for the November election? That depends on who you ask but political analysts agree – for Freeman, there are pros and cons.

Political consultant Joe Mazurkiewicz, who also previously served as mayor in Cape Coral, said her presence will force the remaining candidates to raise their game as she has an edge in running for a major office.

“I’m happy when anyone puts their hat in the ring for local office. She will probably raise the level of debate because of her experience and practice in debate. I hope she does,” Mazurkiewicz said.

Sawicki also saw Freeman as an interesting candidate, but wasn’t ready to give an opinion one way of the other.

“It will be a matter of what her platform is and what she brings to the table,” Sawicki said, adding she knows Freeman well as a fellow Democrat. “There are enough in the race now where there’s something for everybody. Is it a game-changer? No.”

Many of the debates in which Freeman has taken part have concerned federal issues. There is no formal record on where she stands on local issues such as LCEC or Bimini Basin.

Terry Miller, political consultant, said he’s not surprised to see this “career candidate” run in another race, and her name recognition should help her. But in a mayoral race, where there’s little money to campaign with, it isn’t as pronounced.

“Typically, you would give the advantage to the candidate with the highest name recognition. You won’t see a lot of money in a mayoral race, and what you do see would be incumbents who already have a fundraising base,” Miller said. “The fundraising here is split between many people.”

Miller said Freeman’s party affiliation will work against her although being a Democrat did not affect Sawicki’s bid when she ran for the non-partisan seat four years ago because Sawicki had almost no pre-election name recognition.

“Having run for Congress several times as a Democrat, she will be remembered as one and that will hurt her in the election,” Miller said of Freeman. “She has a chance to get through in such a crowded primary because the top two will go on to the General Election, but it will be hard for her to win, not because she’s a failed Congressional candidate, but because her ideals don’t match with her constituents. They’ll see a liberal Democrat.”

Miller added that mayoral elections have typically seen low voter turnout (it was 17 percent in 2013), which could play in her favor. He said Freeman will have to embolden the base Sawicki went after in her victory.

“Sawicki ran against a very unpopular mayor (John Sullivan) and she ran on views the constituents care about, not as a Democrat. In this instance, Freeman is running in a pack and has a track record, and that will hurt her,” Miller said.

Mazurkiewicz said with or without Freeman, anybody can win.

“When there’s no incumbent in the race, it’s always wide open. She doesn’t add anything or take anything away at this point,” Mazurkiewicz said.

Freeman joins former city council member Derrick Donnell, current council member Rana Erbrick, Michael Hollow, and Kevin Koch on the list of announced candidates. Sherry Leonard on Monday announced her intention to withdraw from the race.

While qualifying has yet to begin for the upcoming Cape Coral City Council municipal election, it now has more than a dozen announced candidates spread among the four seats up for grabs with only the District 1 council seat attracting only one contender thus far.

City Clerk Rebecca van Deutekom said there has traditionally been a flurry of activity as the week-long qualification period, set this year election cycle for July 3-7, comes and goes, but it varies election to election.

“It’s hard to say or compare one year to the next. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a flurry of activity or if this ends up being the candidates we have,” van Deutekom said. “It’s not uncommon for people to turn in paperwork early. I anticipate we’ll have some kind of flurry, but don’t know how many more.”

As of Thursday, the other announced Council candidates, for districts 1, 4 and 6, are:

n District 1 (Incumbent Jim Burch has not announced his intention to run for a second term or not)


James Foraker

John Gunter

Graham Madison Morris

n District 4


Richard Leon (incumbent)

Jennifer Nelson

Jeffrey Jones

n District 6


John Karcher

Rick Williams (incumbent)

John Derrig and Joel Howard have withdrawn from the District 6 race.

Qualifying for candidates will run from Monday, July 3, at 7:30 a.m. to Friday, July 7 at 1 p.m., excluding July 4. Candidates must pay the required fees and complete all paperwork in the Office of the City Clerk during the qualifying period. A financial disclosure form must also be completed and a voter registration card must be presented.

The primary election is Sept. 12. The general election is Nov. 7. Early voting dates for the primary are Sept. 5 to 9 and from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4.

Cape Coral municipal elections are non-partisan, citywide elections, meaning all registered voters may cast a ballot in all races regardless of party affiliation and the district in which the voter resides.

All candidates must be continuous, full-time residents of the city for the entire calendar year preceding their qualification for office and must also reside in their respective districts. Terms are for four years.

The total fee to run for city council is $426, which includes the filing fee of $100 plus the Election Assessment fee of 1 percent of the annual salary of $32,600 ($326). The total fee to run for mayor is $516, which includes the filing fee of $150 plus the Election Assessment fee of 1 percent of the annual salary of $36,600 ($366).