An Open Letter to Martin County Regarding Chase Lurgio and Write-In Candidates
re-posted with permission from the River Guardian
From the Founder of The River Guardian LLC
I have lived in Martin County since the late nineties. I moved to Martin County because it was everything most of South Florida wasn’t. It was (and still is), a beautiful, peaceful, civil community. I immediately fell in love with everything this place had to offer.
I quickly became aware that people take their politics seriously in Martin County. There are, and have been, passionate views on all sides of every issue that affects our county. I’ve respected all sides as I’ve watched those debates unfold, regardless of my position on the issues.
I have always respected Doug Smith and have voted for him each election cycle since I’ve been here. But what has unfolded in this election has me dismayed. Not only because of the use of the write-in tactic and its effect on the outcome, but all the politics surrounding it. It presents a very ugly side of Martin County. Not the civil, beautiful Martin County that I moved to, but a no-holds barred, win at any cost, political atmosphere that shouldn’t exist.
Let’s be honest, Martin County. It strains credibility that an 18-year-old high school student would walk into the Jensen Beach Chamber of Commerce with a few days left before the filing deadline, tell the executive director he was “pro-business”, ask the executive director to complete his qualification forms, and then ask the executive director to personally walk him into the Supervisor of Elections’ office to file the forms and close the primary election.
Ronald Rose, a political operative (we shouldn’t have them in Martin County by the way) has received tens of thousands of dollars from the same special interest groups that support Doug Smith, who almost certainly won the primary, and now likely the election, because of Chase Lurgio.
Ron Rose’s version of the events, known only since the facts were recently disclosed, doesn’t add up. If he was providing help to a young man with political aspirations why not help him with any sort of a campaign? Why didn’t Ron Rose “defend” Chase Lugio during the primary when many questions were raised by the public about Chase and his involvement in the race? Why didn’t Chase Lugio recognize Ron Rose’s assistance when he vociferously denied any “outside influence” and claimed he entered the race “for fun”? Did Ron Rose advise Chase Lurgio that his lack of any campaign would at a minimum have the appearance of gaming the system? Did Ron Rose advise Chase Lurgio that his candidacy would close the primary and therefore would almost certainly be controversial? One can only conclude that Ron Rose’s “guidance” had nothing at all to do with helping an aspiring young man, and was instead intended solely as a sham to close the primary and help his friend Doug Smith by depriving thousands of Martin County residents of their ability to vote.
Chase Lurgio only re-emerged from a long summer slumber after The Write-In for The River protest vote campaign started. One can imagine why. Is it because, had he not embraced a campaign in support of him, his candidacy could seem illegitimate? Would it be embarrassing? Regardless, no reasonable person can conclude that Chase Lurgio was running a legitimate campaign prior to October 12.
Similarly, no reasonable person can view Ron Rose’s recent public “support” for Chase Lurgio, which included writing a highly partisan letter to the Stuart News under Lurgio’s name, with anything but skepticism. Ron Rose’s support for Chase Lurgio’s “campaign” was non-existent until his involvement was disclosed through investigative social media (and then the Stuart News).
The concerns here are many. We deserve better than this level of dark politics in Martin County. This can’t be a place where the need to “control” the county commission devolves into engineering the obvious sham candidacy of an 18-year-old high school student. Moreover, if the political machine is going to use these tactics and argue that they are both legitimate and legal, then they need to own up to them, not hide behind a twisted cover story. If this strategy is fair and ethical then let the public know you were involved, tell them precisely what you did and why you did it, and they can decide whether they approve of your actions and strategy when they vote.
It is true that the law, as it exists today, permits a write-in candidate to close the primary, and I am hopeful that it will change one day. The fact that ballot candidates have many significant hurdles to overcome (that write-ins don’t) create an asymmetry that is totally inequitable in its ability to close the primary and instantly disenfranchise so many voters. Write-ins and ballot candidates are not equal, and therefore write-ins should not be able to have the same impact on the outcome as those who endured the burdens of qualifying for the election and mounting serious campaigns to talk about the important issues facing our community.
Since the law has not changed, something needs to be done. While I’ve never been a political “activist” before, this situation motivated me.
After understanding what had happened, I decided to launch a campaign that would, at a minimum, send a message to folks who might execute this strategy here and elsewhere that concerned citizens will speak out against such unethical behavior and naked political gamesmanship. Some will inevitably call it sour grapes or sore losing. Some will say just change the law. Some will say get over it. But that’s not how our system works.
The same system that allows for the write-in strategy allows for other activist strategies. When the system is gamed, occasionally someone steps up and decides to do something about it. The result may be uncertainty, inconvenience or embarrassment for the professional politicians in our county; but with any luck, that result will effect change. And given what’s happened in this election, something needs to change.
I decided to pursue this effort anonymously for two reasons. First, this campaign is not about me. I am not a candidate for office, nor am I involved with the political machine in Martin County. I am not a “powerful” special interest. There is no reason for me to be a distraction from the real issue. The second reason is that very powerful interests have a lot to lose, and I have a genuine concern about reprisal.
In any event, the Write in for the River initiative is bigger than one person; it’s about every person in Martin County. It is a gut check as to whether we have gotten to the point where notwithstanding right and wrong we want to live in a place where we can excuse anything, where we can allow any end to justify any means. Is that what we want? Is that the lesson we want to teach our children? If so, where does it end?
I stand behind my protest. I implore anyone in Martin County who feels slighted by the fact that their vote was taken from them, anyone who was forced to change their party affiliation simply to cast a ballot, or anyone who wants to speak out against the kind of political gamesmanship we have seen here, to join me.
You will only see one name on your ballot for the County Commission District 1 election. Protest that fact. Write in CHASE LURGIO for Martin County Commission District 1.
The River Guardian LLC
For more info on Write In for the River