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General election recommendations
October 26, 2016

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Mail ballots have gone out and early voting for the Nov. 8 General Election began Monday.

While the presidential race is the big ticket item for many voters, there also are a number of key local, state and federal offices on the ballot this year as well as four state constitutional amendments and a local, non-binding referendum.

Breeze recommendations on the amendments appeared on these pages last week and our recommendation on Conservation 20/20 - the very last item on the ballot - appeared the week before. (Our summaries are included at the end of this editorial.)

While The Breeze believes every race is important, we do not do blanket endorsements and always endorse in every race. We have, however, offered - and will continue to offer - recommendations where we believe another viewpoint can be helpful.

To that end, in the General Election, we targeted three non-partisan races - Lee County Supervisor of Elections and the at-large, everyone-votes Lee County School Board seats 6 & 7 - for possible endorsement. We will endorse in all three.

Our recommendations:

Supervisor of Elections:

Vote Tommy Doyle

A promise of change is all well and good but a candidate who challenges an incumbent must demonstrate something more: The ability to not only do the job but the potential to do it better.

We believe Tommy Doyle, candidate for Lee County Supervisor of Elections, has that potential.

A lifetime resident of Lee County with a strong business background, Mr. Doyle says he will improve both the service and the processes at the Supervisor of Elections Office by implementing a business-based, cost-analysis approach that includes written procurement policies with appropriate safeguards. The process overall would "focus on excellent customer service, scrutinize every dollar and embrace innovation" with careful study first.

Mr. Doyle is also open to ideas that puts voters before operational habit of ease.

That includes the idea of actually again allowing municipalities to select their own election cycles.

Communities like Cape Coral were bumped from the even year, General Election election cycle more than a dozen years ago by the previous supervisor of elections, Philinda Young, who determined that ballots had gotten "too long."

Off-year election turnout has since been abysmal for city elections throughout Lee County, but the incumbent, Sharon Harrington, continues to maintain it is not an option to "go back" due to ballot length. Instead, she would like to see the state Legislature give cities the option for all-mail ballot elections.

The option of all-mail ballot elections is certainly an idea worth consideration.

But so is giving municipalities back the ability to control their own election timing - something Mr. Doyle said he would consider given two facts. The first is a majority of voters are now opting for mail ballots anyway, making ballot length less of a consideration.

The second is cost to the taxpayers. Pushing municipal elections off the cycle that includes federal, state and county races not only decreases turnout, it forces cities and towns to bear hefty election costs.

We endorse Tommy Doyle for Supervisor of Elections. He has done his homework, he is willing to listen to the needs of the community, and he is ready to go to work.

Also running: Sharon L. Harrington, incumbent

School Board Member District 6:

Vote Jane Kuckel

This is a critical time for public education in Lee County. Leadership - proven leadership - is needed at the top.

For the new at-large District 6 seat, we believe the candidate who has best demonstrated that ability is Jane Kuckel.

Ms. Kuckel, who holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education, a master's in education leadership and supervision, and a doctorate in curriculum and education leadership, previously served 12 years on the board.

Ms. Kuckel, who opted not to run again four years ago, says she decided to seek the newly established seat's two-year term because she was asked to by members of the community who told her, "I think we need your help back here again."

Saying she is proud to have earned a reputation as a "voice of reason," Ms. Kuckel stresses what she says is her proven ability as a team builder and mediator.

These two things, she believes, will help the district through its transition from a five-member, all-elected-at-large board to one that has seven members, five to now be elected by district, with only two elected by voters countywide. Team building skills and the ability to mediate difference of opinion also will help the district refocus on academics and a return to the grade A designation the district lost in the last few years.

We agree.

We endorse Jane Kuckel, for school board member, District 6.

Also running: Don H. Armstrong

School Board Member District 7:

Vote Cathleen Morgan

In 2014, when the Lee County school board threw the district into upheaval with an ill-conceived, knee-jerk vote to "opt out" of unpopular state-mandated testing, there were two voices of reason on the board.

One was Jeanne Dozier.

The other was Cathleen Morgan.

Although she says, in her bid to secure the new at-large District 7 seat that she does not support certain aspects of what has come to be known as "high stakes" testing, Ms. Morgan took heed of the advice of School Board Attorney Keith Martin, who warned against the action, and then-School Superintendent Nancy Graham, who implored against it.

Immediately faced with the possibility that students would not be able to complete state graduation requirements needed for a high school diploma and would not be able to receive class credits, and facing funding cuts for students most at need, the board reversed less than a week later.

Kudos to Ms. Morgan, who thought of kids, not politics, who urged the development of a replacement plan rather than the black hole of a blanket "no."

This is the kind of thinking that has value anywhere and it is the kind of thinking sorely needed on a transition board that has numerous challenges before it.

Her background and experience are also assets.

Ms. Morgan holds a bachelor's degree in political science and two master's, one in business administration and the other in education. She has the experience garnered in her four-year term in the District 3 seat, now districted in the voter-mandated restructuring.

She has focused her current platform on achievement - quality governance, fiscal responsibility, innovative classroom methods and effective teaching and learning techniques that lead to at-grade-level accomplishment on the part of students. She recognizes that Lee County cannot reach its long-stated goal of becoming a world class school district without providing students with a strong educational foundation and preparing them well for the challenges ahead.

It is for these reasons we endorse Cathleen Morgan for school board member, District 7.

Also running: Chris Quackenbush

Earlier Recommendations recap:

- Simply put, Conservation 20/20 is a stellar success story.

We urge a resounding "YES" vote on the Conservation 20/20 Non-Binding Referendum.

Our environment - and our children and grandchildren who will enjoy its preservation in the future - deserve no less.

- Amendment 1, Rights of electricity consumers regarding solar energy choice: Do not be fooled by this ballot initiative: it is NOT pro-solar. Vote NO on Amendment No. 1, solar energy.

- Amendment 2, Use of marijuana for debilitating medical conditions: As we did in 2014, we urge a YES vote for Amendment No. 2, medical marijuana.

- Amendment 3: Tax exemption for totally and permanently disabled first responders & Amendment 5, Homestead tax exemption for certain senior, low-income, long-term residents; determination of just value. Both are expansions of exemptions already on the books. Although we have some concerns philosophically, we are comfortable with a YES votes for Amendments 3 & 5.

- Island Reporter editorial

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