Politics and Potpourri – April 2016

Councilman Bill Barnett

Councilman Bill Barnett

by Councilman Bill Barnett

This Life in Naples article will be in two parts. The first part you will be reading now, in April and the second part will be in May.

At this time I don’t know what my future in writing articles will be, but the good news is you are guaranteed to read me in May! The following is self explanatory so please enjoy!

As many of you know last September, I announced that I would run against the current Mayor John Sorey for his Mayor’s seat. I don’t have to give you my credentials in this article or my background on why I felt I was qualified because by the time you read this article I will either be your Mayor or I will be retired as our City Council and Mayor election took place March 15th, and today is March 1st.

The good news is if I am elected to be your Mayor which I hope is the case, I’ll still have a job writing for Life in Naples which I thoroughly enjoy even though I don’t get paid a nickel for it but it’s totally fun for me and hopefully for those of you that read my articles.

The following words are most likely going to be the most candid account of this campaign and for that matter any campaign I’ve ever been involved in and I have been involved in six of them totaling 24 years. I have nothing to hold back and I’m not going to.

Let’s start with my announcement to oppose John on September 15th, 2015. I had initially stated that I would run for my City Council seat, which I currently have. I changed my mind over the summer of 2015, and had a lot of support and encouragement to do so.

John was visibly upset that I announced to run for Mayor. He told me I really needed to think seriously about it (which I had) and that I would be a fool to give up my council seat when it was almost guaranteed that I could retain it if I wanted to.

He had been collecting money for his campaign since January of 2015 and had amassed a small fortune when I made my announcement to run. Eighty-nine thousand dollars to be exact, and that was going to be a challenge for me, no doubt. Of course he didn’t want any competition and had figured out that money might very well scare the average person enough so they wouldn’t consider running for his job. John also pretty much guaranteed me that I couldn’t win, but I’m stubborn and I knew I could win.

I started fundraising and the money started coming in. There aren’t many early campaign events during a City election and normally our elections are the first Tuesday in February but this being a presidential primary year the powers that be made our election coincide with the primary and therefore it will be March 15th.

In December I was somewhat surprised when I received word that our Collier County Republican Executive Committee was going to endorse the Mayoral and City Council candidates in this upcoming election in December. My first question was who is this group and why would any group in their right minds endorse a non-partisan race and one that was comprised of all Republicans?

Was it a contest to see who is a better Republican pitting one against another, and what makes one better than the next? Weird stuff! The filing date for candidates to announce was January 15th. What if another candidate announced for Mayor or for Council and they had already endorsed? Then I found out it was the nominating committee of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee that was going to interview me and pass their recommendations on to the Executive committee.

I have been a Republican since I was old enough to vote, and that’s a whole lot of years!

In my long-term political career I had never had any contact with this group and when I asked one of their members why are they doing this his answer was because they could. There are over ninety thousand registered Republicans in Collier County and this group has a total membership of about 153 members. I’m thinking to myself, are they City residents and if the majority of them aren’t then why are they endorsing candidates in the City of Naples? I found out the majority of them are County residents, but I’m a good sport and didn’t want to not show up for the interview. So on December 12th, I showed up at my appointed time to be questioned.

There were about 12 members seated at a big table, some of them I knew, most of them I didn’t. The interview was slated for an
hour and I had submitted a bio and answered a questionnaire prior to attending.

After a brief opening statement by me they proceeded to question me about my Republican background, who were my favorite Republicans and why and a myriad of questions that had absolutely no bearing on City politics. One question in particular really set me off but I kept a pleasant look on my face and answered it candidly. Her question went like this: “Mr. Barnett, after looking through our records we see you have never been involved in any of our party events, is this true?”

My response was brief but strong and I simply told her that for forty plus years in Naples I raised my family, supported them, and had a political career.

During all of that I also explained and named some of the charities that I had been involved with in our community. Anyway I finished the interview, thanked them, and left. I knew that John Sorey was involved with them and I figured because of that they would recommend him to their main board and I understood that.

The Holiday Season was almost finished and it was just before New Year when I received a call from one of the City Council candidates asking me if I was going to the Collier County Executive meeting because they had told this candidate that they were going to actually endorse that evening. Well, I had a hard time believing what I was hearing and I found out the chairperson’s phone number and called him on New Year’s Day.

He told me he thought he had sent an e-mail out to all the candidates, obviously he didn’t, or, maybe my e-mail got lost, whatever. He confirmed that yes what I had heard was true, and I should show up which I did.

They meet at the Collier County Commission Chambers in the evening and I showed up for the meeting. What a zoo! The first order of business was to let each Council and Mayoral candidate speak for a minute and the Chair read our bios.

John Sorey wasn’t there that evening so the Chairperson decided that since John wasn’t there someone could speak for him; what? I have never heard of that happening before and sure enough they had already worked it out and a “guest” speaker came up and gave a glowing tribute about John Sorey.

By the way this was after I had been called up and had no knowledge they were going to do this. Finally the nominating committee gave their recommendations and they had decided to nominate myself and Sorey saying we were both good Republicans and we should both be endorsed. Okay, I could live with that and they then let the members present, about 73 of them, cast a paper ballot in the back of the room, and a few minutes later announced the results.

To this day I haven’t figured out how they tabulated these votes, but Sorey got the nomination. One of their members screamed bloody murder about the whole process, but of course that fell on deaf ears!

To top matters off another two candidates announced before the filing date had ended, they reconvened, and chose Teresa Heitman along with John Sorey. I promise you that regardless the outcome of this Mayoral election I will NEVER have anything to do with that group ever again and believe me it’s not sour grapes. It was the total lack of organization, miscommunication, general chaos and biased opinions that were bizarre and nobody should have to ever endure.

Kind of makes you wonder how a group of people like this could make a decision that affects our City, and most of them wouldn’t
know one thing about City issues.

Next issue will be about the campaign ugliness! I do respond to e-mails at Mayornaples@aol.com

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