How GOP operatives disenfranchise Sarasota voters
Originally published Saturday, December 22, 2012 in SRQ Daily
The arrest of former Sarasota GOP chairman Bob Waechter on a felony identity theft is shocking and sobering. It appears Waechter was filmed at a grocery store obtaining a $500 debit card. Donations to area Democrats were made with the card in the name of Lourdes Ramirez, president of the Sarasota County Council Of Neighborhood Associations and a possible 2014 Republican County Commission candidate. Waechter held a number of leadership positions in our community, including a seat on the Sarasota Bradenton Airport Authority.
It’s noteworthy that this former GOP chair is accused of undermining a fellow Republican. The implication that donating to a Democrat is a career-limiting move for a Republican speaks to the unhealthy attitude that party loyalty is more important than supporting the best candidate. It also reveals that in GOP-dominated Sarasota, t isn’t enough for some GOP operatives that Republicans win; it is paramount certain Republicans win. A so-called “shadow party” works to ensure their anointed candidates have the upper hand.
Where have we seen this before? Most recently in our Supervisor of Elections race, when 24 year-old Victoria Ann Brill entered as a write-in candidate, closing what would have been a universal primary where Democrats and independents could have voted for either Jon Thaxton or Kathy Dent. Brill’s entry into the race denied more than 150,000 Sarasota voters an opportunity to cast a ballot. She signed a candidate oath stating she desired the office, but is on record stating she ran to ensure only Republicans would be able to choose between Dent and Thaxton. As the young Brill was a no-show at campaign events, raised no money and withdrew a few weeks after the Dent-Thaxtoncontest, her claim to have no real interest in the office is credible.
You don’t find many 24 year-olds filing as write-in candidates expressly to eliminate Democrats and independents from casting a ballot. But Victoria is the daughter of Sarasota GOP Finance Chair John C. Brill. It seems a safe bet Victoria’s candidacy was not her own idea. In fitting irony, Mr. Brill has applied to Gov. Rick Scott for Waechter’s seat on the Sarasota Bradenton Airport Authority.
Letting bygones be bygones did not prove a wise move with Waechter. What about Mr. Brill?
A vetting of public records associated with Mr. Brill’s business activities reveals a 1995 court opinion written by the Honorable John C. Ninfo II dismissing a case filed by Brill on behalf of Colony Brokerage Company of Baltimore-Washington. Ninfo called Brill’s petition an “overall bad faith filing in large part made to cure John Brill’s possibly fraudulent and unauthorized conduct” and Brill’s actions “egregious.” Many Sarasota voters consider the disenfranchisement of 150,000 voters egregious and would say a candidate who files and claims no interest in the office demonstrates bad faith. Should these values be rewarded with an appointment to the airport authority?
It is appalling our local politics have become so partisan and divided, even within the Republican Party. Our country wasn’t made great by partisan hacks who manipulate elections.