My Florida Voting Guide

florida voting guideIf you want the short version of my Florida Voting guide, click HERE to display an easy to read version when you VOTE.

I decided to write my own Florida voting guide for the many friends and relatives who asked me who they should vote for. If I can have an effect on the election or just help a few people who aren’t as up on the political scene as I am decide, I’ll feel it was time well spent. I am considering water quality and the environment in every race and I am voting AGAINST incumbents in MOST cases. I am going to start with local elections and go up the ladder to governor. So without further ado, here we go.

Venice City Council

There is only one contested seat on the Venice City Council. Fred Fraize is the incumbent and he’s being challenged by Helen Moore. Fred is retired, Helen is a local realtor. Fred has been a voice for responsible growth in his time on the council.and he’s my choice. Helen Moore is supported by developers who want to add to our increasingly overcrowded city. Overdevelopment, particularly the poorly managed variety that is Florida’s trademark, is bad for the environment. It adds to nutrient loads which pollute our waterways.

Choice for Venice City Council: Fred Fraize

Florida Voting Guide for Sarasota County

Charter review Board Seats

The Charter Review Board is an elected body of 10 members, two members from each of the five county commission districts, who serve staggered terms of four years. The Charter Review Board reviews and proposes changes to the Sarasota County Charter which are submitted to referendum in accordance with the provisions of Article VI of the Charter. An affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Charter Review Board members is required to submit amendments to referendum.

I will admit, I am not up on these seats, so I am voting against incumbents across the board. Where no incumbent is running, I am voting Democrat. I do this because democrats are generally more in favor of broader political participation. Here are my picks:

District 1: Krista Lohr (no incumbent)

District 2: Mindy Lou Simmons

District 5: Kevin Connelly (no incumbent)

Hospital Board Seats

A community hospital, founded in 1925, Sarasota Memorial is governed by the nine-member elected Sarasota County Public Hospital Board. Because it is a public hospital, it must meet strict requirements regarding governance, taxing authority and the services it provides to the community.

As with the Charter Review Board, I will go against incumbents. Both open seats are held by incumbent Board Members, so I will retire them. Here are my picks:

Hospital Board Central District Seat 2: Miglena Entcheva

Hospital Board Northern District Seat 1: Russ Battiata

Justices of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court Justices aren’t really running, we are voting to retain them or not. Three plan on retiring and our new governor will appoint new Judges. I am going to vote to retain them.

Sarasota County Commissioners

Two County Commissioner seats are open. In District 4, Al Maio (incumbent, R) is squaring off against Wesley Anne Beggs (D). Al is a corrupt commissioner who takes gobs of money from developers and always votes for mismanaged growth, wasteful spending for big corporate welfare (Braves Stadium, Benderson Park etc). He needs to retire. In the District 2 race, the seat is open. We have Christian Ziegler (R) vs. Routa Jouniari (D). I’m going with Christian because he made storm water management a pillar of his campaign and I think I can work with him on the many water issues important to Sarasota County. My picks:

Board of County Commissioners District 2: Christian Zeigler

Board of County Commissioners District 4: Wesley Anne Beggs

State Representative District 74

This is an open seat as the outgoing representative isn’t running for re-election. James Buchanan (R) is running against Tony Mowry (D). This is for the state rep up in Tallahassee. Mowry grew up in Venice and cares about our community. He’s committed to preserving our environment. I’ve met him and his family and they are passionate about our coast. Buchanan doesn’t even live in the district. He’s a carpetbagger who’s riding his dad, Vern’s, coat tails. Easy pick here. And for my friends to the north, don’t vote for daddy Vern either.

State Representative District 74: Tony Mowry

State Senator District 23

This race pits incumbent Joe Gruters (R) against Faith Olivia Babis. Gruters is with the legacy polluters (see what I did there) and he’s the incumbent. Another easy pick.

State Senator District 23; Faith Olivia Babis

Florida Voting Guide Commissioner of Agriculture

This race has Matt Caldwell going against Nikki Fried. Caldwell is part of the “Toxic Trio” of Rick Scott, Adam Putnam (outgoing Commissioner of Agriculture) and himself. These three were instrumental in dismantling water testing, nutrient load enforcement and a host of other polluter friendly policies. As Commissioner of Agriculture, he’d attempt to continue to enable pro pollution policies. Google Matt Caldwell and look at his record of enabling polluters and Big Sugar. Nikki is vowing to make enforcement a real thing again, plus she likes weed! Another easy pick.

Commissioner of Agriculture: Nikki Fried

Chief Financial Officer

Jeremy Ring is the democratic challenger. He has a lot of business experience and he was a state senator. Jimmy Patronis is the incumbent and a Rick Scott appointee. Scott appointed him in June 2017 when Jeff Atwater resigned. Normally I’d pick a republican for this position because they tend to be more fiscally conservative. Even though Patronis has two strikes against him, he was never elected and he’s done a good job. I’ll give him another four years.

Chief Financial Officer: Jimmy Patronis

Attorney General

This race has no incumbent as Pam Bondi is term limited. The race pits Ashley Moody (R) against Sean Shaw (D). I think either one of these candidates would do a good job as Florida’s top prosecutor. Both have good legal backgrounds. That being the case, I am literally flipping a coin on this one. Heads it’s Moody, tails it’s Shaw. RESULT: Tails.

Attorney General: Sean Shaw


This race pits Republican Ron DeSantis against Democrat Andrew Gillum. There are other candidates, but one of these two will be the next governor. Both are Florida natives and self-made men. Both have government experience: Gillum as mayor of Tallahassee and DeSantis as a congressman. With water as my biggest priority, this is a tough choice. Both men say they’ll get the situation under control, the question is who do you believe?

I think Gillum has too many other bold initiatives on his agenda – all of which will face a lot of political backlash – to make water a priority. Since I am originally from Massachusetts, I have a lot of experience with Democratic governors. It took a Republican Governor to get things done – things like Mass Health (a state-run health insurance program). Gillum has some bold ideas, but he’s not the guy to lead Florida now.

DeSantis has leadership qualities I like. I tend to lean Republican anyway, and he makes it easy. He’s against corporate welfare in the form of sugar subsidies and was one of only three Florida congressmen to vote against them (all republicans BTW). He was visiting beaches in south Florida before the algae crisis was in full force and he continued to do so throughout the toxic summer of 2018. He said he’d stand with the citizens of the coastal communities in battling Lake O discharges and he’s a close ally of Brian Mast who has been fighting against the sitting water boards and the Corps of Engineers. DeSantis will put “people who understand our water problems” on these water boards and won’t consider those who aren’t proactive about getting things fixed.

I’ve read up on both men. I met both men. Each of them shook my hand and looked me in the eye. Each answered “yes” when I asked them if they’d fix our water problems. I’ve met many people in my life. Sometimes, when you meet someone, you just know.

My Pick for Governor: Ron DeSantis


Of all my Florida Voting Guide picks, this is the one I have the most passion for. Rick Scott has ignored the Gulf coast in the toxic summer of 2018. He is both culpable and complicit in Florida’s water crisis. Mr. Scott has systematically dismantled environmental regulations, staff, budgets and all semblance of oversight.  He did this while enriching himself and his family, using the governorship to pad his fortune. He’s also a liar. Why do you think we chased him out of Venice in back in September?

Bill Nelson is normally someone I could never vote for. He’s a career politician that is emblematic of everything that ails Washington. Nelson magically appears when there’s an election, but is hard to find. He serves on multiple committees and does miss a lot of hearings, even though many of the skipped hearings are “routine.” While Rick Scott’s negative ads against Nelson portraying him as ineffective are false, I would still categorize him as a part of the Washington swamp. His one saving grace is his environmental record which is overall very good. He recently, in a bipartisan effort with Florida senator Rubio, pushed the EEA Reservoir legislation through the Senate. The Bill was ultimately signed by President Trump.  The reservoir, south of Lake O, is to clean toxic discharges before sending the water south.

As I said, I normally wouldn’t vote for Nelson. I considered voting for one of the lesser candidates or even writing myself in, but I fear doing that is just like casting a vote for Rick Scot and I WILL NOT VOTE FOR RICK SCOTT. As I said on PBS Newshour, “Bill Nelson is woefully ineffective as a senator. Rick Scott has been overtly harmful as a governor. So I will choose woefully ineffective over overtly harmful every day.” Or, as I also said to the PBS reporter, referring to Rick Scott (this comment was cut): “If your pool guy comes to your house every week and takes a dump in your pool, you fire him! You don’t promote him!”

My Pick: Bill Nelson

Florida Voting Guide: Ballot Initiatives

There are a lot of ballot initiatives. Some I will just give my pick for, others I will elaborate on. Note: there is no question 8.

Question 1 Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption: Yes

Question 2 Limitations on Property Tax Assessments: Yes

Question 3 Voter Control of Gambling in Florida: Yes

Question 4 Voting Restoration Amendment: Yes

Question 5 Super Majority Required to impose, authorize or raise state taxes or fees: Yes

Question 6 Rights of Crime Victims; Judges: Yes

Question 7 First Responder and Military member Survivor Benefits: Yes

Question 9 Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling and Indoor Vaping: Yes. This is the Most glaring example of “bundled” ballot initiatives. While I’d love a ban on oil and gas drilling in state waters, indoor vaping is totally unrelated. Indoor Vaping doesn’t concern me at all, but if I have to give it up (yes I do vape) for getting rid of drilling, I am willing to do so.

Question 10 State and Local Government Structure and Operation: Yes

Question 11 Property Rights; Removal of obsolete Provision; criminal statutes: Yes

Question 12 Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers: Yes

Question 13 Ends Dog Racing: Yes

Florida Voting Guide Sarasota County Specific Ballot Questions

County Bond Referendum to Extend Legacy Trail: Yes

Process for Citizen Initiated Petitions for Charter Amendments to be placed on the General Election: NO! This question would make it harder for Sarasota county residents to get ballot initiatives on the ballot. It would DOUBLE the amount of signatures required to get a question on the county ballot and shorten the amount of time citizens would have to do so. This is clearly an attempt by the county government to curtail citizen participation.

Charter Review Board Charter Amendment Proposals to be placed on next general election only: NO! This goes hand in hand with the previous question. Doing this could dilute a question’s ability to pass. Citizens who propose a ballot initiative should be able to choose when the vote on said initiative occurs.

Charter Amendment to Reacquire and Retain Seista Key Beach Road as a Public Right of way: YES! The beach is a public asset, not the property of a privileged few.

Charter Amendment to preserve county owned parks, preserves, beach and water access and waterfront vistas: YES. A “NO” vote would result in the county conducting a fire sale of publicly owned property, likely to developers.  If this is allowed, Sarasota county will lose many of its beautiful open spaces.

Sarasota County Charter Amendment to change County Commission Elections to Single Member Districts: YES! The opposition to this amendment come from big money developers. Currently, to run for county commissioner, you must live in the district you are running for, but you need to be elected county wide. This dilutes representation and makes county commissioners less beholden to the district they represent. It also makes it harder for a candidate to run a lower budget, grass roots campaign as he or she would need funds to compete county wide.

Thank you for reading my Florida Voting guide. Whether you agree or disagree, PLEASE VOTE!

Who and What to Vote for In Florida

florida voting guide

Want to know who to vote for? CLICK HERE for a detailed version of my Florida Voting Guide. Vote for Venice City Council Fred Fraize Vote for Sarasota County Charter review Board Seats District 1: Krista Lohr District 2: Mindy Lou … [Continue reading]

SEO and Site Structure


SEO, short for "Search Engine Optimization, is important to consider when building out a new website from scratch. As I've stated many times, I use the Genesis Framework by Studiopress as my Wordpress theme(s) and I host on WP Engine servers. Where … [Continue reading]

Suncoast Fishing Piers

suncoast fishing piers

Suncoast Fishing Piers is LIVE! After setting the shell site up on WP Engine with my daughter, we got the domain name We decided on the "Brunch Theme" from the Studiopress Genesis Framework (my daughter's choice) and began … [Continue reading]

New WP Engine Website

wp engine

My newest WP Engine website is under construction! My daughter and I are building it together. Since we like to go fishing a lot, we decided we'd do a website about pier fishing in our area of Florida. There are more than a dozen good fishing piers … [Continue reading]

Rob Merlino Dot Com is BACK!!!

about rob merlino

It's been several YEARS since I wrote ANYTHING on Rob Merlino dot com! The reason is, I've been wicked busy with other projects like the Shark Tank Blog. I also had my site HACKED while it was hosted on Hostgator! Long story short: I let Rob … [Continue reading]