On Nov. 6, Floridians will be choosing a new U.S. senator, governor and other statewide officers. You can research those races several places, including the Tampa Bay Times Voters Guide and the Florida Channel’s On the Ballot series.
If you want to check out local candidates and ballot issues, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find links to learn more about the more local races Lakeland residents will find on their ballots:
This is a living document that we’ll continue updating between now and the final voting Nov. 6. Please send any corrections, updates or suggestions to [email protected].
First, some voter links:
- Get a sample ballot and find out where to vote
- Register to vote. Registration is closed for the Aug. 28 election, but you have until Oct. 9 to register for the Nov. 6 election.
- Request a mail ballot.
News Links: All-Candidate Forums before the August primary
- Puerto Rican Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Hob Nob: Full video
- Lakeland Chamber Hob Nob: Article and full video and straw poll results
- NAACP, Polk Voters League, League of Women Voters forum: Full video
All-Candidate Forums After the Primary
- NAACP, League of Women Voters, Hispanic Chamber forum: full video
Republican Ross Spano and Democrat Kristen Carlson won their respective primaries and face each other in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, who announced in April he is vacating the seat after eight years in Congress.
ALSO: Lakeland-area neighborhoods south of County Road 540A and Shepherd Road are at the northern tip of the large U.S. House District 17, which extends to Fort Myers. (See a map.) The winner will succeed Republican Tom Rooney of Okeechobee, who decided not to seek re-election. Candidates are Republican Greg Stuebe and Democrat Allen L. Ellison. Ellison was chosen by the Florida Democratic Party to run for the seat on Oct. 2 after the sudden death the week before of April Freeman, who had won the nomination in the August primary.
General Election Links:
- Tampa Bay Times: Spano ‘Centers Up’ on Website, Dropping Trump Section
- The Ledger: Spano Gets Personal in Forum at Southeastern
- Florida Politics: Kristen Carlson doubles Ross Spano in CD 15 fundraising
- The Ledger: Carlson Stresses Moderate Views in Southeastern Forum
- The Ledger: Carlson faces Spano in US House 15 race
- Tampa Bay Times: Campaign summary
- The Ledger: Steube, Ellison Vie for Seat
Most of Lakeland is in Florida Senate District 22. (See a map.) The seat has been held since 2012 by Republican Kelli Stargel, who earlier served four years in the Florida House of Representatives. In November, she faces retired Circuit Judge Bob Doyel.
Some parts of Lakeland north of I-4 are in District 20, a Hillsborough-dominated district (map) represented by Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican. He faces Democrat Kathy Lewis.
- Bay News 9: Race Tightens Between Doyel and Stargel
- The Ledger: Contrasts abound as Doyel challenges Stargel for Fla. Senate
- Tampa Bay Times: Lee endorsement
Most of Lakeland is part of Florida House of Representatives District 40 (map). Parts of north and east Lakeland are in the largely rural District 39 (map), and suburban neighborhoods south of Ewell Road and CR 540A are in the multi-county District 56 (map).
Two races bring a sense of deja vu. District 40 candidates Colleen Burton, the incumbent, and Shandale Terrell faced each other in 2016. In District 39, incumbent Josie Tomkow faced challenger Ricky Shirah in a special election earlier this year.
In the District 56 race, two Republicans seek to replace Ben Albritton of Wauchula, who is running for a Florida Senate seat after reaching term limits in the House. There will be no primary because no non-Republican candidates filed to run.
- The Ledger: Tomkow, Shirah Meet Again (warning: Neither candidate returned the reporter’s call.)
The Ledger: Burton and Terrell Meet Again in House Race
- The Ledger: Candidates Face Off in Forum
- WFLA interviews Bell and Mann
- The Ledger: Bell, Mann Finally Face Off
Two Polk County Commission seats are up for election this year. Rick Wilson won the District 2 seat in August. In District 4, Martha Santiago won the primary and faces Democrat Karen Cooper Welzel in November. While county commissioners represent a geographic district, they are elected in countywide balloting.
- Polk Arts Council Questionnaire
- The Ledger: Welzel, Santiago Face Off
Lisa Miller was elected to the District 7 seat in August, but the other two contested seats went to November runoffs since no candidates received more than 50 percent of the votes in August. School Board members represent a geographic district, but are elected in countywide, non-partisan voting.
- Polk Education Association all-candidates forum: Ledger Article | Video: Entire Session
- Lake Wales Grassroots Citizens all-candidate questionnaire: Ledger Article | Candidate Answers
- Progressive Democratic Caucus forum | Ledger Article
- Polk Arts Council questionnaire
- Opinion: School Board member Billy Townsend recommends three candidates
General Election Links:
District 3 (nonpartisan)
District 5 (nonpartisan)
- The Ledger: Feisty exchange between Sabin and Fields
- The Ledger: Fields cites 16 years and low dramatics
- The Ledger: Sabin says testing should be appropriate
Dana Y. Moore was elected to as a judge in Florida’s 10th Judicial Circuit in August. The other August race went to a November runoff because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote. The 10th Circuit includes Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties.
Four candidates are running for two seats on the non-partisan board that oversees the Polk Soil and Water Conservation District. The organization provides “education, awareness, and services for soil and water conservation, and proper utilization of natural resources,” according to its website.
Group 2 (non-partisan)
Group 3 (non-partisan)
Kyle Carlton: Website | Campaign Facebook | Personal Facebook | Donors + Spending
Ballots statewide will include a dozen or so proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution. Polk voters will decide whether to extend the 1/2-cent sales tax that helps fund public school construction. They will also decide three proposed amendments to the Polk County Charter.
- Video: The League of Women Voters and County Commissioner George Lindsey explain the state and county ballot issues to Leadership Lakeland Alumni Association members.
- Video: League of Women Voters meeting Jim Malless and Karen Seggerman explain the amendments and county ballot issues to the Lakeland Rotary Club
Florida Constitutional Amendments
Voters will face about a dozen proposed changes to the state constitution. (Litigation has the exact number in doubt as of this writing.) Some were placed on the ballot by the Legislature or through a citizen initiative process; those are required to stick to a single topic. The rest came out of a constitution revision commission that meets every 20 years and can combine several items into one amendment.
Some sources to research the amendments include the full text, The Miami Herald, Ballotpedia, bereadytovote.org, the League of Women Voters (web and slideshow) and a video prepared by Fox 13 News and the News Service of Florida.
Half-Cent Sales Tax for School Construction
Fifteen years ago, Polk County voters decided to add a half-penny to the sales tax to fund school construction and repairs. This year, voters are being asked to renew the sales tax.
The sales tax does not apply to staples such as food and medicine; on major purchases such as cars or houses, only the first $5,000 is taxed. Supporters say the tax would cost the average family making $55,000 a year about $61.25 per year.
We’re not aware of any organized opposition to the measure, but if you know of any, please let us know about it so we can add links.
Polk County Charter Amendments
Think of the county charter as the constitution that describes the form and functions of county government. The charter was adopted in 1977 and is reviewed by a commission every eight years. Here’s the current charter and members of the latest revision commission.
The three amendments on the ballot are summarized as follows on a website that includes documents detailing the work of the commission:
Polk County Efficiency Commission: At its final meeting in January 2014, the Efficiency Commission voted to recommend that the charter be changed to eliminate the commission. This amendment terminates the current charter requirement to appoint the Polk County Efficiency Commission every eight years and amends charter provisions related to appointment standards, qualifications, duties of members and other officers, commission reports and required responses.
Term Limits: Currently, commissioners are term-limited after two, four-year terms. This will amend the County Charter to allow an incumbent to appear on the ballot for re-election to the office of County Commissioner for 12 consecutive years. Service as a commissioner before November 20, 2018 shall be counted against the term limitation.
Charter Review Reform: Amends the County Charter to increase the time between appointments of the mandatory Polk County Charter Review Commission to 12 years. Adds explanatory language to the County Charter confirming the County Commission’s authority to propose charter amendments and to create a special advisory charter review board at any time.