BY THE DAYTONA TIMES STAFF
Since the year 2000 campaign year, the Daytona Times, the Florida Courier and WPUL-AM 1590 have maintained a consistent editorial policy of not recommending candidates – whether national, state or local and regardless of race – who chose not to promote their candidacies through our media when they have media budgets available.
We find it ironic that candidates, their consultants and ad agencies can get in contact with us via e-mail, “snail mail” or telephone, or even stop by unannounced at our Daytona MLK Blvd. offices when it comes to covering campaign events as news stories or appearing on WPUL’s talk shows. But when it comes to paid advertising, we hear, “We can’t get in contact with you,” or “We will use our campaign budget to reach Black Volusians a more cost-effective way,” we were told by the Derrick Henry campaign.
It’s also strange to occasionally hear from some candidates’ representatives that “We didn’t know you existed.” What does that say about someone’s ability to learn about and represent a sizable Black constituency if they or their support staff don’t even know that East Central Florida is one of the few communities in America that has had its own Black-owned newspaper for almost 35 years and its own Black-owned radio station for almost 25 years?
We make NO RECOMMENDATIONS with regard to Democratic or Republican Party committee candidates that appear on the August 14 primary ballot.
We make NO RECOMMENDATIONS with regard to Democratic or Republican Party primary races for the U.S. House and Senate and the Florida Legislature because none of the candidates, regardless of party, have attempted to reach out to Black voters.
We do note, however, that longtime U.S. Rep. John Mica is in a primary race that has drawn national attention. It’s unfortunate that he has not reached out to the relative handful of registered Black Republicans in Volusia County who could be the difference in a close race.
We make NO RECOMMENDATIONS with regard to the local races for County Council chair and most of the seats; Democratic or Republican Party primary races for the U.S. House and Senate; and the Florida Legislature. Virtually none of the candidates, regardless of party, have attempted to reach out to Black voters.
To maintain consistency with our political advertising policy espoused on the front page, we will, however, provide information on candidates and races that we believe are of particular interest or importance to East Volusia’s Black community and make recommendations as necessary.
Information was gathered from candidates’ websites and in some cases responses to questionnaires or previous news stories.
Mayor of Daytona Beach
Four people vie for the seat including, Edith Shelly, Gwen Azama-Edwards, Derrick Henry and Fred Hoffman.
In the city’s “weak mayor” form of government, the mayor is essentially just another vote. But the mayor does have the ability to set the tone and establish a theme for the city’s future, as the late Mayor Yvonne Scarlett-Golden used her “It’s All About Respect” campaign instead of zero-tolerance policing to tone down the raucous Black College Reunions.
One issue every mayor must grapple with is decades of deferred maintenance and crumbling infrastructure that disproportionately exists in Black communities spread across three city zones. The reason: previous city commissions took tax money from Black homeowners to build the rest of the city.
Shelley is currently the city’s Zone 1 commissioner and has been in public servant for 18 years. She wants to encourage economic opportunities, provide safer streets, improve infrastructure, make government more accessible and improve customer service. She was awarded the local NAACP chapter’s Trailblazer Award last year.
Azama-Edwards is a former Zone 5 city commissioner and is a former city clerk. She is also a radio talk show host and runs a small consulting firm. She wants to bring in higher-paying jobs, clean up the city, reduce crime, balance the city’s redevelopment and growth, provide activities for youth, and preserve historic buildings and heritage sites.
Henry is a former educator and basketball coach. He wants to create good paying jobs, improve infrastructure, provide safer streets, make government more accessible and efficient, and improve the quality of life.
Hoffman is self-employed. He wants to run the city like a business, bring jobs, make the city green, donate red-light camera profits to non-profit organizations and bring back tourism and special events.
Had her chance
After decades of neglect, chickens have come home to roost in the long-term slum and blight that Daytona Beach refused to fix before the 2008 recession hit and city revenues crashed. And of the four mayoral candidates, only one – Azama-Edwards – had the opportunity to move the city in a different direction when she served as the crucial fourth vote in 2003-’05, the only time in history to date that Daytona Beach had a majority-Black commission: Azama-Edwards, the late Charles W. Cherry, Sr., the late Yvonne Scarlett-Golden, and Dwayne Taylor.
Individual commissioners must look out for the needs of his or her respective zone within the context of the larger needs of the city. Azama-Edwards refused to do so, ostensibly because she represented a predominately White district that she won by only one vote. She could never be counted on to vote to begin to fix what had been ‘broken’ in Black Daytona for years, even though focusing resources on slum and blight has always been in the entire city’s best interest.
Azama-Edwards then placed her own ambition ahead of what was best for the city when she forced 78-year old Scarlett-Golden to needlessly expend energy during the 2005 mayoral campaign primary by running against her. She refused to drop out, telling anyone within earshot that “God told me I would run and win.”
God evidently had other plans. Azama-Edwards lost badly. Scarlett-Golden eventually won a punishing runoff – and was dead 13 months later of bile duct cancer. The majority Black commission is now a historical blip, with no lasting signature accomplishments.
In the years after the loss, Azama-Edwards – who ironically had been the city clerk, one of Daytona’s highest-ranked Black staff – bided her time, became a radio talk show host, and plotted another mayoral run. She silently watched as Daytona Beach’s top managers, including highly qualified Black managers recruited by Scarlett-Golden and Cherry, Sr., were slowly purged from City Hall. Given her lack of historical judgment and understanding and her unwillingness to fight for right, she has not earned your vote.
Hoffman, the only candidate without commission experience and who did not respond to a Daytona Times questionnaire, has details on his website that involve city operations. His ideas deserve further consideration.
Henry and Shelley are glib local politicians with well-deserved reputations as ‘shoe-leather’ campaigners who are willing to aggressively campaign door-to-door and event to event.
Shelley, a Republican, is backed by the usual downtown/beachside power structure whose historical mess is still being cleaned up. Though Henry easily won two Zone 5 elections before quitting his seat as a consequence of trumped-up criminal charges, we have received complaints from Zone 5 constituents about no-shows at community events and poor constituent service. He has also refused to pay at least one local vendor for services rendered to his campaign.
Volusia County Clerk of Court
Incumbent Diane Matousek faces challengers Steve deLaroche and Christine Sanders.
Matousek has held the office since 1992 and has been working in it since 1973. This is the first time she is running opposed. She is running on her experience and her strides for making the office one of the most technology-friendly in the state.
DeLaroche, a Republican, is a former prosecutor and judge. He wants to make the system more digital, in line with the Florida Supreme Court’s mandate that courts be completely paperless. He says he supports saving money by using less postage, making the office available by phone to all court workers, making the office accessible by computer to the public, and keeping more jobs.
The question is whether the public wants a new face or is pleased with the clerk they already have.
Volusia County Supervisor of Elections
Incumbent Ann McFall faces challengers Teresa Apgar, Beaulah Blanks and Andy Kelly.
McFall, a Republican, opposed Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s voting purge law, which would have taken voters off the registration list. She also pointed out irregularities in absentee ballots that in one case eventually led to former commissioner Derrick Henry’s resignation from office after wrongly taking a public position, as an elections official involved in the case, against Henry.
Blanks is a Black female who is a former attorney and educator. She opposes McFall’s handling of the office and accuses her of sitting on the sidelines while discriminatory voter registration laws were passed. She also wants to provide cost-effective technology to keep voters informed.
Apgar, a former account executive for the Daytona Beach News-Journal, has worked with several organizations and served on several community boards. Apgar wants to donate part of her annual salary, modernize the office, continue paper ballots with receipts, remove felons and deceased from voter rolls in a timely matter and continue consolidating polling stations to save money.
Kelly, a former accountant, has served on the Volusia County Council and as water and conservation supervisor. He wants to enhance voter education, make the office more open and accessible, and treat all requests equally.
Volusia County School Board District 2
Incumbent Dr. Al Williams faces challenger Ida Duncan-Wright.
Williams has been the lone Black voice on the board for years, and has served as board chairman. He wants to build on what he believes are past successes, help children learn and gain appreciation for education, and address challenges to the school system.
Wright is an instructor at Bethune-Cookman University and serves on the Midtown Redevelopment Area Board. She wants to fight for adequate funding and doesn’t want politics to hamper children’s educational growth.
Despite Williams’ longtime tenure, no notable achievements come to mind, and he has been silent with respect to how to improve the generally lackluster academic performance of Black students in Volusia County.
Volusia County Council District 2
The incumbent Joshua Wagner squares off with businessman Ken Ali and former Ponce Inlet Mayor Nancy Epps.
Wagner, a young attorney, did well during his first term fighting to lower taxes, bring in jobs and on matters of equality. He wants another term to continue his efforts.
Ali owns an aviation business and is a former county employee who is also a minister. He wants to lower the tax rate, provide better service, create trade and cultural relations between the county and Caribbean nations, control spending, re-boost tourism and bring jobs.
Epps has served as Ponce Inlet’s mayor for several terms. She lost the same race to Wagner by 77 votes four years ago. Epps wants to lower taxes, resolve storm water problems, acquire preservation land, restore parks, and create jobs.
Wagner has served the county well, and he deserves the opportunity to continue to serve. Ali’s negative campaigning reflects poorly on him and on his ministry.
Volusia County Judge, Group 8
Michael McDermott wants to unseat incumbent Judge Bryan Feigenbaum.
Gov. Charlie Christ appointed Feigenbaum after Feigenbaum served in the State Attorney’s Office for 20 years. McDermott has been an attorney for 26 years. There’s no evidence that Feigenbaum should forfeit the privilege of continuing on the bench, especially given his relatively short tenure on the court.