EDITORIAL ANALYSIS OF TONIGHT'S CANDIDATE FORUM
By Reggie Connell
For the first time in this campaign cycle, all six candidates will be in one venue - The CPS Sportsplex at 7:00 PM tonight. This brand new center embodies all that Apopka is and could be, and the candidates will be trying to illustrate how they too can be that shining star in Apopka politics. Incumbent Sam Ruth, Pastor Doug Bankson and Alice Nolan all challenging for Seat #3; incumbent Bill Arrowsmith, Kyle Becker and Young Kim competing for Seat #4 will all be here for the Free 2016 Apopka City Council Candidate Forum.
As you walk into this state of the art facility, you will pass by a martial arts dojo, but the real fight will probably be a little further down the hallway at the Forum. And make no mistake, despite this being called a forum, a debate may very well break out.
In the election for Seat#3, Commissioner Ruth has made it clear what to expect from him tonight. Last Saturday on his Facebook page, Ruth began to "define his opponent" Pastor Doug Bankson by describing him as part of the good old boy network and contrasting his transparency with Bankson's. Do not be surprised to see Ruth talk about Bankson's connection to the John Land Trust. Here is what he wrote to The Apopka Voice on Monday:
"Public purpose and accountability are key for expenditures. This explains my concern over $200,000 of tax money given in early 2014 to a private trust fund. The board members, one being my opponent, for nearly a year refused to release minutes, policies or accounting. I, on the other hand, have insisted on extensive public budget workshops and meeting details posted online."
He will also feature his accomplishments since he took office in 2014.
"I'm looking forward to sharing my message of positive change for Apopka with voters," said Ruth. "It is important people know where the city started in 2014, and how much more we yet must get done."
Bankson has been an articulate, disciplined candidate who leads Ruth in fundraising and has made no public statements about him. At the Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum he said he is not running against anyone, but is running with co-candidates. The question is if Bankson will respond to Ruth's critiques or continue to maintain the strategy he has utilized so far of "running in his own lane".
"I'm looking forward to the Forum and for the opportunity for the voters to hear first hand where we stand on the issues," he said; not referencing Ruth's comments about him.
Alice Nolan will bring her fresh positive approach to the event, and is the final candidate in the Seat #3 field.
"As everyone knows I love people and I enjoy hearing the thoughts of the public," she said. "With this said I’m very excited to connect with even more people in the community Wednesday night. It is valuable to our citizens to hear all sides, so they can make the most educated decision when voting."
The Seat #4 race pits longtime Commission incumbent and Vice Mayor Bill Arrowsmith against two newcomers to Apopka politics - Kyle Becker and Young Kim. Arrowsmith has high name recognition and is well-financed. Becker and Kim will definitely have an uphill battle. Arrowsmith will be difficult to beat in this election and in a debate as well.
"I have had a lot of voters say they are attending it," said Arrowsmith. "I am looking forward to a very positive event."
If Becker or Kim are going to have a shot, they will have to challenge Arrowsmith's 39 years in office. Is he out of touch? Is he part of the establishment? Becker seems to be a more polished and careful candidate. If he is planning on taking it to Arrowsmith, he isn't saying so.
"I am really excited to share my thoughts and ideas with the residents of Apopka," said Becker. "And thank the media outlets for organizing the event, and the Cooper family for hosting it at their facility."
Young is more prone to shoot from the hip. He references a very familiar Old Testament story to describe his battle with Arrowsmith.
"I would compare it to a meeting between David and Goliath," he said "A contest between a smaller and financially weaker opponnent who faces a much bigger and stronger adversary. But when one has enough faith, conviction and belief one can conquer even the greatest opponent."
Arrowsmith has won a lot of elections, probably more than anyone in Apopka history except for Mayor John Land. He has been in office longer than the three commissioners and the mayor combined. But is experience an asset or a liability in this election cycle?
Tonight the answers to those questions will begin to take shape.
Reggie Connell is the Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice
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