Challenging This Martin County Commissioner Wasn't for Sissies
Around the State
NOTE FROM EDITOR NANCY SMITH: An inconvenient truth is never "shameful."
Sadly, in Wednesday's Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, incumbent Martin County Commission Chair Sarah Heard, District 4 election winner by a shade under 3,000 votes, was given the opportunity to say otherwise with no opportunity for her opponent to reply.
“We’ve never seen such a poisonous and shameful campaign as we saw in this election and I’m just grateful that it's over,” Heard is quoted as saying on page 1. “It was unworthy and shame on the people who mounted the campaign."
Because Sunshine State News has covered this race at least in part -- including stories of ethics complaints filed against Heard that still are being reviewed in Tallahassee, I think Martin County residents in particular might want to hear from the other side, from the candidate who lost the race, Barbara Clowdus.
Below is an email Clowdus sent to me a week before the election. Sunshine State News is printing it with the candidate's permission. I believe, had the newspaper phoned for her comments Tuesday night, the reporter might have heard this:
When you think about it ... really think about it ... what my friends and supporters tried to do is almost comical: Throw a politically untested grandmother of few resources in the path of an entrenched, powerful incumbent with nearly unlimited resources, and think we could win! Yet, in spite of the odds, we nearly did it. That's amazing.
No wonder good people do not run for office. It's nearly impossible to fight the lies and distortions that get told ... and repeated ... as fact.
So many people, both as individuals and as businesses, have told me they support me and will vote for me, but they cannot support me publicly because of their fear of retribution. I've learned that their fears are not groundless.
As soon as I announced my candidacy, I found a dead bird in my mailbox, and I've had two tires destroyed -- once from a sidewall puncture when I was parked at the administration building and another time, after the air had been let out while parked in Hobe Sound, so I wound up driving on, and destroying, those tires.
Now, my campaign signs are getting stolen faster than I can replace them, and one is still by the road in Hobe Sound where it was run over.
Of course, I should have known in advance how difficult it was going to be. I had plenty of advance warning.
When I wrote an editorial in my newspaper, Martin County Currents, about the impropriety of Martin County commissioners rejecting the court-ordered sanctions and fees owed to Martin County taxpayers (for a frivolous lawsuit against the county by the 1,000 Friends of Florida) by meeting behind closed doors, although some commissioners were members of the groups involved, and suggesting also that attorney Ginny Sherlock was coordinating the effort behind the scenes, Sherlock threatened to sue me ... twice. (Now that situation is part of one of the ethics complaints filed against Commissioner Heard and is being investigated by the ethics commission.)
I should have known also how difficult it was going to be to raise sufficient funds to launch a campaign in this kind of environment. I had to ask 22 people before I found someone willing to be my campaign treasurer. Who finally agreed? My hairdresser. I'm scared to death I'm going to lose the best hairdresser I ever had, because she hates to see me coming in the door now!
The political climate in Martin County is more vile than the river's pollution. It should not be that way. I personally welcome opposing views, because that's the only possible way of knowing what I may be missing within my own arguments.
I also understand that I cannot possibly satisfy every person's objectives and desires, but I can listen to every single one of them. Probably the most important thing I have learned from talking to hundreds of people over the past four months is that I am not alone in wanting to lift Martin County out of this quagmire of dirty politics in which we seem stuck.
Whether I am elected as a commissioner or not, I still will be outspoken. I still will do what I feel is best for all Martin County residents and what is fair -- without stealing signs, slashing tires or resorting to dead birds to make a point.
I will continue to speak the truth and whatever is on my mind, no matter how intense the criticism gets, in order to make Martin County an even better place to live for all of us. I am heartened to know that I am not alone in this endeavor.
Republican Barbara Clowdus, who was running for office for the first time in the Martin County Commission District 4 race, is the publisher of Martin County Currents newspaper.