Campaign Policy

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While Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are getting the bulk of national attention right now in the Presidential race, it won’t be long before that particular magnifying glass turns to Florida and our Presidential Preference Primary on March 15th. We’ll soon be inundated with ads in every conceivable format trying to sway our vote.

Here on the beach, we have an election of our own on March 15th. Town Council will have two seats on the ballot this year. Alan Mandel is completing his second term and is not eligible to run this election. Dan Andre, completing his first full term, is eligible for another term and announced this week that he will be running again.

Also on that ballot are the very important Town Charter referendum questions – 21 of them asking for a yes or no vote on each. There are some big issues that will be decided, so we encourage voters to be ready to vote on each one before you head to the ballot box. Watch for our weekly articles on the Charter referendum so you’re ready.

There are two ways to qualify to run for Town Council election: by petition and by paying qualification fees. In the recent past, most candidates have qualified during the qualifying period. This year is a bit different. This year four candidates have qualified early, before the qualifying period even began: Dan Andre, Tracey Gore, Jack Green and Suzanne Katt. We expect more qualified candidates to emerge by the end of Qualifying Week, which begins at noon Monday, January 25 and ends at noon, Friday, January 29th. If you are interested in running, contact the Town Clerk or visit the Town’s website for complete information.

Here at the Sand Paper, we’ve been working on how best to cover the Town Council election, helping voters learn about the candidates in the most effective way possible, while giving fair coverage to all candidates. We feel it’s important to weigh our policy carefully because in this type of local election, we appreciate that we are one of the primary conduits through which voters will learn about these candidates. And that requires taking into account access and fairness, responsibility and duty to our community. As a result, we’ve put our Campaign Policy in print so that we can share it with candidates.

As this affects how we cover elections for our readers, we want to share it with you also. Anyone who would like a complete copy can pick one up in our office or call or email us and we’ll send it to you.

We will open our news pages to candidates in the following ways. We will publish candidates’ announcement of candidacy. We will give candidates two opportunities to publish a guest opinion, letting them tell voters why they should be elected in their own words. We will also publish a series of “Ask the Candidate” questions, giving candidates’ the opportunity to answer questions of interest to voters. All candidates will have the same access to news space. Advertising space is purchased by the candidate and we do not control what is in paid ads.

We will cover candidate forums once the qualifying period ends and we know who all the candidates are.

What can voters do? We hope that voters send us their suggestions for questions to ask candidates. Residents are also encouraged to write letters to the editor to support their candidates.

Letters need to follow our Submission Policy that is found on this page every week. Key points are less than 300 words, signed with a phone number provided for verification. One campaign letter per writer please. We’ll print them as space allows. Any letters that appear to be a result of an organized letter writing campaign will not be printed. We want genuine letters from individuals sharing their viewpoint with our readers.

We won’t print letters from candidates or their families. When was the last time you were persuaded by a “my son is a great guy-vote for him” letter?

That’s our campaign policy. Our goal is to provide fair coverage of local campaigns to inform our readers and prepare them for local elections.

We, of course, sell advertising. That is how this paper exists –to bring you Island news or your favorite column. No advertising – no newspaper. We accept campaign advertising and reach out to qualified candidates and invite them to reach our readers on Fort Myers Beach and in southwest Lee County. Advertisers/candidates determine what they put in their ads, so we don’t have much input on what goes in their paid space in our paper.

Our community is in the midst of some big challenges. We hope voters take the time to get to know the candidates and the Charter referendum questions and go into the voter’s booth ready to vote on March 15th.

Bob & Missy Layfield