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Candidate Workshops Set For EscaRosa

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Elections officials in both Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties plan workshops next week, for those interested in running for office in 2018.

These workshops are useful because many who seek public office have not done so before, and for political veterans it’s a refresher course.

“We have a lot of people that come into our office; obviously, they’re curious about what offices are up for election and what it means to be a candidate,” said Tappie Villane, Elections Supervisor in Santa Rosa County.

“They a lot of times just have basic questions, so we felt like it was important to have a candidate workshop,” Villane said. “This is our first one that we’ve ever had, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Credit Santa Rosa County Supervisor of Elections
Tappie Villane, Santa Rosa County Supervisor of Elections

Currently, the Santa Rosa Elections Office lists three candidates for County Commission; and one seeking a seat on the School Board. Villane says they’ll provide the nuts and bolts of seeking an elected office next year.

“What it means to become a candidate; the requirements to run for office,” said Villane. “What it means to actually qualify for office; how political advertising works, contributions [and] expenditures. And then of course, everyone’s favorite – all the reporting requirements.”

“The idea is to try to head off some of the more common mistakes that people make. Our goal is to make sure that everybody is in full compliance by the book,” says Escambia County Supervisor David Stafford – who has held several candidate workshops during his tenure. He says Florida’s Election laws are “pretty complicated.” He points to campaign finance reports as an example.

“The exact verbiage that you have to use on your disclaimers, your political advertisement,” said Stafford. “The difference between accepting cash contributions and the levels of cash contributions are versus what’s considered a non-cash contribution, and what’s considered an election.”

Another obstacle on the road to public office is that election law changes with almost every legislative session and sometimes between election cycles – sometimes they’re minor, sometimes they’re significant but all have been emphasized in past workshops.

Credit escambiavotes.com
David Stafford, Escambia County Supervisor of Elections.

“So we just encourage everybody [to attend] – and it certainly can’t do any harm,” Stafford says. “We try to get through it in about two hours. And there’s always at the end some interesting questions that pop up. That’s the intent; they’ve been well-attended and we’ve gotten some positive feedback from them in the past.”

Both workshops are just over a year from the 2018 general election; the timing in part because of the earlier dates that many campaigns begin.

“We figured this was a good time to go ahead, hold this workshop prior to the holidays kicking off,” says Santa Rosa’s Tappie Villane. “Because typically, if somebody’s going to pre-file for office and get that process started, they do it around the beginning of the year.”

Escambia’s David Stafford expects a busy election cycle upcoming, with the Pensacola’s mayoral race, along with other local races to be decided either in the primary or general election. And he reminds voters that they’ll have to make some other decisions as well.

“You also have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to amend the [Florida] Constitution through the Constitutional Revision Commission; that process is ongoing right now and they have the power to put them directly on the ballot,” said Stafford. “There will be a significant number of significant number of fairly important constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot.”

Escambia County’s candidate workshop is set for Tuesday, from 9-11 a.m. at the Central Office Complex. Santa Rosa’s is Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the County Commission Meeting Room in Milton.