How do public figures vote?


Published: Sunday, August 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 31, 2004 at 11:59 p.m.
Since the governor and the oft-split state Legislature write the checks, some of Gainesville's top non-elected leaders keep their political orientation to themselves, particularly during election years.
University of Florida President Bernie Machen, Santa Fe Community College President Jackson Sasser, Gainesville City Manager Wayne Bowers, University Police Chief Linda Stump and UF basketball coach Billy Donovan align themselves with no party at all, according to a Sun review of the voting records and party affiliations of nearly three-dozen community and government leaders.
" I don't get involved in party politics and don't financially support candidates. It just doesn't work in my line of work," said Machen, who is vacationing in the Northwest, in an e-mail. "I am a member of the Support Higher Education party!"
The Sun selected each person for review based on their prominence in the community and their government-related roles. The list includes some people working for state and local government agencies as well as others in private industry and active in local politics.
The information shows most high-ranking, public figures in Gainesville are registered to vote and vote regularly.
Most voted in every election they were eligible for and even took advantage of absentee voting when their schedules called them out of town during an election.
Only basketball's Donovan failed to show at the polls regularly since his arrival in Gainesville in 1996, the Supervisors of Elections Office confirmed. And going into her third year as the UF women's basketball coach, Carolyn Peck also is not registered to vote.
Attempts to reach both coaches for comment were unsuccessful.
North Florida Regional Medical Center's new chief executive officer, who took the helm June 1, has yet to register to vote. A hospital spokeswoman said James R. Thomas remains in temporary housing awaiting the renovations of a newly purchased home.
"He told me he has always voted," said Jane Inouye of North Florida Regional. "It's something he has a deep commitment about."
She said Thomas plans to register by Monday, the last day to be eligible to vote in the Aug. 31 primary.
Among the 123,000 or so registered voters in Alachua County, nearly half are Democrats. That translates to a wide majority of elected leaders in Gainesville and Alachua County government counting themselves among the Democrats.
The Alachua County Commission is made up entirely of Democrats. However, County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson had been registered as a Republican before switching to the Democratic Party when he made a run at the office in 2002.
Five of seven Gainesville city commissioners also are Democrats.
Dan Boyd, Alachua County schools new superintendent, is a registered Democrat, as is Alachua City Manager Clovis Watson.
GOP representation Despite the heavy Democratic registration in the county, there is Republican representation here.
Republicans make up about 28 percent of all registered voters in Alachua County, a number that has stayed pretty steady over the years, Supervisor of Elections Beverly Hill said.
The area's two primary law enforcement officers - Alachua County Sheriff Steve Oelrich and Gainesville Police Chief Norm Botsford - are both Republicans.
State Attorney Bill Cervone and Gainesville City Commissioners Ed Braddy and Tony Domenech are Republicans.
Other Republicans in leadership roles in the county include UF football coach Ron Zook and County Manager Randy Reid.
Newly elected UF Student Body President Jamal Sowell is a Republican, too. But he said being registered a Republican doesn't ensure a vote for President Bush in November.
"Many young people are left out of the democratic process and they (party leadership) just assume we will fall in line," Sowell said. "I still haven't decided what's best for the young voter."
No party affiliation Nearly one in five registered voters in Alachua County fall into neither the Democrat or Republican camps. And that does have its disadvantages. In many cases, it means having no say in the selection of candidates through the primary system.
For example, no independent voters could vote in the presidential preference election earlier this year.
"It's frustrating," SFCC's Sasser said. But just because there's an NPA (no-party affiliated) behind certain voters' names doesn't mean they aren't regular visitors to the voting booth.
"I do have personal feelings and commitments, but they remain that," Sasser said.
Janine Young Sikes can be reached at (352) 337-0327 or sikesj@gvillesun.com.

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