Not a day goes by in 2020 where both critics and supporters of our current US President seem to be ubiquitous. Listening to all the arguments can really mess with people’s minds, causing many to become so disgusted that they simply do not participate in the electoral process at all.. On a local level, you may or may not see your politicians out and about, depending in part on the size of your community. In construction, thanks to AGC and ABC, we often have the opportunity to meet politicians who support of our industry. In the past, I had the enriching experiences of serving on a political action committee and visiting the state capital of Tallahassee. It showed me that similar to in our own companies, if someone doesn’t bring proper awareness to policy-making, or makes policies that do not serve the common good, the consequences over time can be immense.
A few weeks ago, we missed a visit to our house from a man named Richard DeNapoli. He left information to let us know he was running for the position of State Committeeman, and asked for us to phone him if we had questions. I decided to call and invite him to our Coaching Center to meet him and invite our team members to an optional lunch and discussion. The participants put together a list of questions for Richard, the first being “what is a committeeman?”
We learned a state committeeman is an unpaid elected official who serves as a member of his political party’s central committee for their county. The members from each county then elect members of the state party’s central committee. On a local level, precinct committeemen and precinct committeewomen responsible for helping identify party supporters within their jurisdiction and encourage them to vote at election time. We learned much more about Richard himself and his paid job of Managing Director and Chief Officer and Chief Fiduciary Counsel of Coral Gables Trust. DeNapoli showed himself knowledgeable as we asked him questions about various topics, and he was also respectful of the audience’s views. The passion for both of his jobs was evident throughout the presentation.
We learned that Florida elections take place in March, August, and November, depending on the locality. This is often different in other states and for special elections. What you are voting for and when can differ in each city and state. You can visit the website of your local supervisor of elections for your election calendar. The Ballotpedia site offers analogous information nationwide.
We learned some interesting statistics thanks to Richard’s presentation, such as the party affiliation breakdown of Broward County voters (where Florida Construction Connection is located. These are available here, and one can plainly see that in this county, Republican candidates do not stand a chance of winning elections without support from Democratic and Independent voters
We learned other facts in the presentation, such as in the president’s margin of victory in the 2016 election in Florida (1.5% of the vote, or 113,000 voters). Former Florida Governor Rick Scott won the Senate election in 2018 by only 10,000 votes. Richard explained that races are often won by very small margins. And decided by turnout just as much as voter registration. Voting in Florida can be done by mail, and many election supervisor offices now have on-line tracking, so you can see when your ballot was received and counted. If your county offers early voting, you may not have to vote at your assigned precinct, so check your local rules. Broward County has 22 locations and multiple days of early voting, and here, you need to go to vote in your precinct on Election Day. Also, even if you received an absentee ballot in the mail, you can still vote in person if you take the ballot to the polling station.
The elections happening in August are primary elections, which I like to think of as semi-finals. Your vote is to narrow the pack to one candidate for each political party. When you vote in the primary election, your ballot will be different depending on your party affiliation. Since Florida is a closed primary state, only voters who are registered members of political parties may vote in that party’s primary election. A person may register with a party or change his party affiliation at any time, but in order to vote for a party candidate in an upcoming primary election, he must register with that party or change his or her party by the registration deadline for that primary election.
We also asked Richard why it is so difficult to set term limits for Congress. Unfortunately, Congress themselves have to vote to amend their term limits via a constitutional amendment. As former US representative Bob Inglis said, “asking and incumbent member of Congress to vote for term limits is a bit like asking a chicken to vote for Colonel Sanders.”
Richard also noted that most incumbents represent districts with a high concentration of voters from their own political party. These congressmen can and often are in office for the rest of their lives, particularly if the voters do not research other options. Although the vast majority of incumbents are returned to office, there was one semi-exception recently, when former Senator Jeff Sessions lost a primary election when trying to win back his old senate seat. His chances in that election were reduced when the president endorsed his primary opponent. DeNapoli shared with us that there have been some Congressional leaders that have voluntarily stepped down despite the race being theirs to win to allow their district to bring in fresh leadership. Whenever a leader in a company, in a government, or in any type of organization recognizes the benefit to both them and their colleagues by allowing for a new regime to ascend to power, they are to be admired. President Harry Truman said that “Term limits would cure both senility and seniority-both terrible legislative diseases.” Healthy candidates in government or business do not become complacent. If we can’t impose term limits, maybe we should add mandatory annual reviews and training on public servitude
In these unprecedented times of the coronavirus and mass protests, people automatically blame the President when issues arise. And yet, America’s governmental system includes a careful arrangement of checks and balances, with powers divided between the federal government, state governments, and local governments. Dictatorships concentrate as much power as possible in the central regime, but the principle of subsidiarity requires that tasks should be executed at the most local possible level. If you want to meet Richard or find out who your local precinct committeeman or precinct committeewoman is, he can be reached at 954-488-1890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your vote counts. Whom you vote for matters, and in many ways, it is no different from being prepared for your next OAC or supervisor meeting. Hopefully you will take time to switch off the news and social media, study the facts and meet the people first hand who want your vote.