Apopka is about to learn a lot about the direction it’s going. Elections do that – especially local elections.
And even though he is not on the ballot, Mayor Joe Kilsheimer’s agenda for the next two years will be at stake. Will Apopka tell him full speed ahead, or put on the brakes?
We might know by the end of the evening, or we may be in for another 30 days of campaigning.
There are four combinations of outcomes that will answer a lot of questions, but first let’s rule out the long shot scenarios.
If Alice Nolan or Young Kim pulls an upset tonight, then all bets are off. There will be no analyzing that outcome, considering their name recognition and fundraising numbers. I doubt we’ve heard the last of these two in Apopka politics, but it would be a surprise if they emerge victorious tonight.
The other four candidates seem evenly matched in fundraising, name recognition in Apopka, or reach on Facebook. It's surprising to mention Facebook with fundamentals like fundraising and name recognition, but welcome to politics in 2016.
Let’s begin with the most likely outcome – the incumbents hold their seats.
If Commissioners Bill Arrowsmith and Sam Ruth win, it will play into a tried and true narrative that incumbents usually win.
Despite the public’s perceived dislike of incumbents, they fare well in elections. The House of Representatives has an 11% approval rating, but manage to win 96% of the time when in office. Senate incumbents win at an 86% clip. In local elections, a study was done of over 10,000 contests in the last five years (School Board, City Commission and Mayoral) in cities about the size of Apopka. In those elections, incumbents were re-elected at an 88.1% rate. But the larger the turnout, the better the challengers fared.
And this might be Apopka’s largest turnout ever.
So let’s jump to the least likely outcome of the four, but still a possibility – both challengers win.
Pastor Doug Bankson and Kyle Becker have run excellent campaigns. It would not be a shock to see either of them win, but because these two have somewhat of a symbiotic relationship with the two incumbents, it makes their combination of wins unlikely. If this were the outcome, one could assume the Presidential Preference Primary election would have played a role.
The final two combinations are where Kilsheimer comes into play more prominently.
Although he has been quiet during these two campaigns, in many ways it’s his vision that this election is about. Victories by Arrowsmith and Bankson would put the brakes on that agenda at least for the next two years, while wins by Ruth and Becker could be seen as a voter mandate for Kilsheimer’s plans for Apopka.
For the voters, it comes down to a simple question – What does your vision of Apopka look like?
If it is slow, managed growth while also building a reserve in the City budget, then Arrowsmith and Bankson are probably your candidates. Both of them have used the phrase “how much will this cost?” to comment on current projects in regards to the City Center and in the Visioning Apopka workshop. That’s not to say they are misers, or part of any "good old boy network", but their ideology is clearly to spend carefully.
If return on investment and "Visioning Apopka" are your approach, then Becker and Ruth are probably your choices. The same disclaimer applies to these two candidates. They will not be spendthrifts with the taxpayer’s money and they are not “yes men” for Kilsheimer. But they clearly share the Mayor's vision for Apopka and would be a more likely “yes” vote for projects that he wants to move forward. Both have shown excitement towards the projects currently on the drawing board.
In evenly matched elections, turnout is usually the difference. The candidates that can get their supporters to the polls will win the day, but with 5,000 plus votes already cast, a heavy turnout is already a certainty. The voters of Apopka will speak loud and clear in these two elections, and with this many voters weighing-in, the true wishes of Apopka will be known.
Either that or we wait another month.
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