Decision Apopka 2018
By Reggie Connell/Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice
Apopka spoke loud and clear in this election cycle.
Have you heard the phrase “loud and clear” enough by now? I know I have typed it more than I care to. However, with Mayor-Elect Bryan Nelson defeating Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer with 63.4% of the vote, it seems to be the most accurate description of the electorate.
Doesn’t a one-sided rout like this prove that Nelson has a black-and-white mandate to govern on what he ran on? And doesn’t the election of Commissioner-Elect Alice Nolan a few weeks later with 58.95% of the vote over Commissioner Diane Velazquez even further support that mandate?
Perhaps it does, but wasn’t the perceived mandate pretty clear in 2014 when Mayor Joe Kilsheimer and Commissioners Sam Ruth and Diane Velazquez swept into office to move Apopka forward?
While Apopka’s decisions seemed pretty black and white, perhaps the message they are sending is dark grey. Is their message loud and clear? Or are we hearing the noise and not the signal?
What exactly were the voters telling their leaders?
Let’s explore two themes…
In 2010, the Apopka City Council was a pillar of experience. Anchored by Mayor John Land and his 58 years in office, the Council had a collective 131 years of experience sitting on the dais. Commissioners Bill Arrowsmith (31 years), Billie Dean (18 years), Marilyn Ustler-McQueen (16 years), and Kathy Till (eight years) combined for what was quite possibly the most years on a City Council of any municipality in the state.
Then Apopka got fickle.
In the course of eight years and four election cycles, the voters axed six straight incumbents running against a challenger. Two others (Dean and Till) retired from office.
And in the last two election cycles (2016 and 2018), Apopka voted out the second generation of incumbents – Kilsheimer, and Commissioners Sam Ruth and Velazquez. These three were the original incumbent-slayers. Now they are among those slain.
Apopka voters have destroyed a national trend of incumbents in municipal elections winning between 88% to 93% of the contests they compete in against challengers to their seat. Consequently, Apopka has unofficially gone from a City Council with the most experience in the state, to possibly the least.
When Nelson gavels in his first meeting on May 2nd, Apopka will officially have a City Council comprised of five first-term representatives. Commissioners Doug Bankson and Kyle Becker will be the greybeards with two years experience apiece, while Nelson, and Commissioners-Elect Alice Nolan, and Alexander H. Smith will be on day-10 of their terms after their April 24th swearing-in ceremonies.
Congratulations again to Nelson, Nolan and, Smith. Enjoy those seats on the City Council. Luxurious and elegant seats aren’t they? Cushiony and a nice high back that you can just ease into and spend a couple of hours in every two weeks.
But don’t get too comfortable in them. You may not be staying long, considering the track-record of Apopka incumbents, and now you are incumbents.
But is Apopka simply voting incumbents out of office without any other factors?
Budget, Budget, Budget…
“It’s the economy stupid.”
This infamous quote from Bill Clinton campaign strategist James Carville in the 1992 presidential campaign can be applied to most elections, and not just ones involving Commanders-in-Chief.
Nelson talked a lot about the budget, general fund reserves, and fiscal responsibility. Nolan and Smith shared, in part, those core themes, as well as abolishing red light cameras. All three questioned the performance of the current administration as it related to budget spending. All three also ran against opponents who favored the red light camera program.
It could well be that these core issues were the reason voters made another course correction in a post-Land Apopka and not simply a dislike for candidates they voted in favor of the previous term.
Next week, The Apopka Voice will be in search of answers and not theories on understanding the 2018 election. And what better way than to ask our readers to weigh-in? We’re calling it The Apopka Voice Reader’s Exit Poll, and it will be an attempt to get to the bottom of what the Apopka voter was thinking when they cast their ballots.
What were your most important issues? When did you make your decision on who to vote for? What is your viewpoint on incumbents? These are but a few of the questions we will ask.
The poll will begin at noon Monday and conclude at noon on Wednesday. We hope you will participate.