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Democrats have best chance at winning in Martin County since 1990

Martin County Democrats

Stuart News Editorial www.tcpalm.com©
By George Andreassi (Contact)
Monday, September 8, 2008

STUART — For the first time in many years in heavily Republican Martin County, the Democratic Party has fielded a full slate of candidates for three seats on the County Commission with Martha Bennett seen as having the best chance to win.

A Democrat hasn’t won a seat on the County Commission since Maggy Hurchalla captured her fifth and final term in 1990. No Democrats ran in the 2006 election and there was a single Democrat in the 2004 and 2002 elections.

And Republicans account for more than half of the county’s registered voters.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Democrats’ traditionally long odds in the general election grew even longer in Commission Districts 1 and 5 with the entry of no party candidates who hold slow-growth views similar to the Democrats, several political observers said.

A split in the slow-growth vote in Martin County, where growth is the key issue, works in favor of the business-oriented Republican candidates.

That means the Democrats’ best chance of victory on Nov. 4 is in District 3 where Bennett faces a one-on-one contest against Republican Patrick Hayes, several political observers said.

“It’s going to be a tough race, but she can win,” said Dave Dew, Martin County’s Democratic Party leader. “That’s going to be the tightest race. She’s got the best (chance). There’s nobody in between to siphon votes off.”

Al Forman, a government watchdog who mails a weekly newsletter to several thousand subscribers, and Hurchalla, who still monitors local politics, agreed that Bennett is the Democrat with the best chance to win a commission seat because of the absence of a third candidate.

“It could go either way, although I would say because of the party affiliation that Hayes has a little odds on his side,” Forman said. “There’s a big question mark there. It’s a question as to whether people vote straight Republican, which would automatically put Hayes in.”

Hurchalla, a strong Bennett supporter, said, “I think she’s got a shot. It will be an uphill battle because of the registration, but I ran for office and Republicans voted for me and I would trust that Republicans would look very hard at that race.”

Hayes, a retired businessman who easily ousted two-term commissioner Lee Weberman in the Aug. 26 Republican primary, said he expects to win, but conceded Bennett, a small business owner, could win.

“I definitely don’t consider myself the frontrunner,” Hayes said. “I think there’s a chance she could beat me, yeah. She’s a lot more heavily financed than I am, but then again Lee was pretty heavily financed. This is a very unusual year, but I’m hoping that my 10 years of dedication and being involved carry the day.”

In addition to rooting for a large voter turnout for the presidential election, Bennett said her formula for victory includes garnering votes from slow-growth Republicans, as well as strong majorities from Democrats and independents.

“I think I have a better than even chance to beat Mr. Hayes based upon the differences between us,” Bennett said. “We do really have a two party system.”

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Martin County Democratic Executive Committee has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Martin County Democratic Executive Committee endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)