The differences between the three candidates running for supervisor of elections are more a matter of background and experience than their stances on the issues.
Leon County voters decide between an elections technician, a politician and a criminal justice advocate in August. From early voting to voting rights for ex-cons, they all support making voting easy and convenient for all.
Mark Earley, a systems manager supervisor in the Leon County Supervisor of Elections office, said his experience and know-how sets him apart.
“I know what I’m talking about,” he said. “I know elections. I started in 1986 right after a really big problem where the supervisor of elections was removed from office. I saw firsthand what can make elections go wrong. I saw the importance of having a deep understanding of not only election law and election procedure, but elections technology and how that all interacts to make elections fail or succeed.”
Alan Williams, a four-term state representative, said, “It boils down to leadership. Earley understands the equipment. I understand the community. I have developed leadership and trust over the years. If the voters put their faith and trust in me, I will work to be their voice and to represent their values.”
As a state legislator, Williams said he is very proud of his work for election reform.
“I was most proud that my work was not partisan. I worked with Republicans and Democrats to form common sense solutions to election reform,” he said. He said he passed a bi-partisan online voter registration bill and an amendment giving Florida the most early-voting hours in the state’s history.
Tena Pate, outgoing chair of the Florida Commission on Offender Review, said that Earley’s type of experience is not the be-all end-all for the Supervisor position, “I believe you have competent people vying for this job with different and varied backgrounds that will bring something to this position that Mr. Earley doesn’t possess,” Pate said.
“I am confident in my intellect and investigative abilities,” she continued, “I think after 28 years, our elections office will benefit from being looked at with a new set of eyes. I have been an advocate for citizens’ rights for many years, served the administrations of four governors, been a trusted state leader, and have served in a non-partisan manner always protecting and advancing the rights of our citizens. I will bring that same passion to my role as supervisor of elections.”
Williams and Pate agree that while it was not illegal for the current supervisor of elections Ion Sancho to endorse Earley in June, it was not appropriate.
“Sancho is not retiring,” Williams said. “He is simply being term-limited. It was not proper for Ion to endorse Mark. The people have put their trust in Ion but that trust can’t be transferred. The supervisor should never do that. It puts a stain on this race that shouldn’t be there.”
Pate agreed, “Sancho crossed the line endorsing Early. He should be neutral. It interferes with the integrity of the process. Sancho doesn’t know my skill set. I have an award-winning team skilled in implementing changes to bring about better things. Sancho has short-changed the capabilities of Williams and myself.”
Earley responded, “My opponents are trying to paint Sancho’s endorsement as a bad thing. It really isn’t. Ion has been a hero of democracy. But it’s not just Ion. 16 other current or former elections supervisors throughout Florida have endorsed me because they know I really know how to do this job.”