This, gentle readers, is the last time we'll be together before the Nov. 2 elections. And we know that there are dozens (OK, perhaps a baker's half-dozen) of you who have been waiting for us to tell you who and what to vote for. You're in luck, as Happytown™ is finally making its Official Political Endorsements. Why go anywhere else?
President: John Kerry. Given the fact that President Bush has started two wars and can't finish either, has run up the largest deficit in modern history, can't find those slippery WMDs he promised were poised to kill us all and is a water carrier for fundie nutbars, we're going to go out on a limb here and endorse the senator from Massachusetts. Call us liberals, call us radicals, call us windsurfers; we like the fact that Kerry wants to include other nations in the hunt for terrorists, and holds the sweet notion that citizens of the most powerful country on earth should have access to affordable health care. How quaint! Besides, the Orlando Sentinel endorsed him, surprising the hell out of us.
U.S. Senate: Betty Castor. We're not buying Mel Martinez' scare-the-shit-out-of-the-old-people tactics. Castor is a skilled leader. Martinez is a robot programmed by the evil, evil Karl Rove.
U.S. Representative, District 8: Ric Keller. We like Ricky Boy because he's just so darn … likable! Plus, he still talks to us even after we write nasty stuff about him. Yes, he's a Republican, but it's not like he's foaming at the mouth or anything, a la Mel Martinez.
Public defender: Bob Wesley. Highly respected in the legal community, comes to our parties and has a really bitchin' beard. It all adds up to our endorsement.
State senator, District 19: Gary Siplin. On the one hand, you could vote for Gary Siplin, a Democrat best known for race-baiting and perhaps the most ineffective legislator in Tallahassee. On the other, there's Franklin Cardona, who, though moderate, is a Republican, and will more often than not vote against the interests of residents in this minority-majority district. Siplin has done some good, especially in challenging Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary's patsy of a Citizens Review Board, so he gets a mild endorsement.
State representative, District 34: Stephen Bacallao. Bacallao has realized that if you want better roads, better schools, better health care, you have to pay for them. Then again, David Mealor hasn't been the worst suit in the state Capitol he authored a change in the state's education funding formula that dumped money into local schools and with 10,000 more R's than D's in the district, he's going to win. But we recommend the challenger anyway. Tallahassee has too many Republicans.
State representative, District 35: Dean Cannon. A pretty smart guy.
State representative, District 38: Josh Stagner. Fred Brummer is a geezer who gets nothing done and went out of his way to screw up the Wekiva River. Vote for the other guy.
State representative, District 39: Bruce Antone. Hmmm, Bruce Antone, one of the better African-American leaders in the legislature, against Thomas J. Kelly, the founder of a "party" we've never heard of (the British Reformed Sectarian Party). This one ain't hard.
State representative, District 49: Israel Mercado. We don't have anything against John "Q" Quiñones as a lawmaker. But since he basked in the spotlight as one of the GOP's token Hispanics at the Republican National Convention, we want to see him go down.
Clerk of Courts: Lydia Gardner. We've heard some grumbling about the way Gardner does her job. But the bottom line is we think career politician Mary Johnson should be denied another seating at the public trough.
Sheriff: Rick Staly. Here again, we have to endorse in the negative. Incumbent Kevin Beary is an arrogant bureaucrat who chafes at the idea that he should have to be subjected to public scrutiny. For a guy running the largest department in the county, that's not a good thing. Staly has the experience (he was Beary's No. 2), and is probably less of a dick.
Supervisor of Elections: Bill Cowles. Cowles has a supersized set of cojones, as evidenced by the fact that he essentially told Secretary of State Glenda Hood to piss off when she suggested that people who didn't mark the "I'm an American" box on their registrations shouldn't be allowed to vote. A supervisor of elections who thinks the benefit of the doubt should go to the voters? How peculiar!
State Supreme Court/Court of Appeals reappointments: Just mark "yes" on all of them. The Supremes bitch-slapped Jebbie on the Terri Schiavo thing, and for that they deserve your vote. As for the appeals court, you haven't been keeping up with them anyway.
Soil & Water Conservation District: We have no idea. We will say that Susan Clary was endorsed by Howard Dean.
Orange County Commission, District 3: Lui Damiani. Damiani is smart, engaging and he knows his stuff. Spend five minutes on the phone with Mildred Fernandez and you do not have that confidence. Vote for Damiani.
Orange County Commission, District 5: Bill Segal. We like Bill Segal a lot. He was the voice of sanity on the Mayor's Parramore Task Force, and is well-informed, articulate, thoughtful and would make a good successor to Ted Edwards.
Amendment 1, parental notice of termination of a minor's pregnancy: Another attempt to chip away at the right to choose. Not all teenage girls have parents they can talk to about getting pregnant. Vote no.
Amendment 2, constitutional amendments proposed by initiative: Sets up the ground rules for getting an initiative on the ballot, and adds an advisory opinion from the state Supreme Court on whether the amendment will pass the legal smell test. Vote yes.
Amendment 3, the medical liability claimant's compensation amendment: People who are injured by a doctor's mistake should get most of the money if they sue and win, right? Sounds reasonable. But it's really just another shot at hobbling the right's favorite boogeyman, trial lawyers. Does the government get to decide the pricing structure in your business? Vote no.
Amendment 4, slot machines at gambling facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties: We favor the expansion of gambling in all circumstances. Plus taxes on the machines will supplement edumacation. Some say this measure will revive the dog-racing industry, which is mean to dogs. We say phooey. Vote yes.
Amendment 5, increase the state minimum wage to $6.15 per hour: Duh. Vote yes.
Amendment 6, repeal the high-speed rail amendment: We're torn. On one hand, Florida got a high-speed rail amendment because a Lakeland bajillionaire spent a freight train full of cash; hardly a grass-roots movement. On the other hand, traffic ain't getting any better and mass transit in this state is a joke. But trains are cool, and proponents swear the thing will ultimately pay for itself, so we're for them. Vote no. That means you like the train.
Amendment 7, patients' right to know about medical malpractice: It'd be good to know if your surgeon dropped his coke spoon inside somebody while doing an appendectomy in '87, wouldn't it? Vote yes.
Amendment 8, protection from repeated medical malpractice: This one says that doctors found to have committed three or more acts of medical malpractice get their licenses yanked. Sounds good to us. Vote yes.
It's getting hard to ignore all the anti-Bush feelings on display. Namely, the Eyes Wide Open traveling exhibition of 1,104 pairs of army boots tagged with names and remembrances of soldiers killed in Iraq. Mary Wilson of the Winter Park chapter of NOW worked for months to get Eyes Wide Open here. She and her volunteers painstakingly set up the boots last Sunday on the steps of the Orange County Courthouse, and again Monday at UCF. The neat rows of boots reverberated an emptiness that was choking. It was all but impossible to find the one side-street entry to the anti-war display, thanks to the Calle Orange festival, never mind hearing the program of speakers, which included a reading of all of the names of the deceased. But if you did make it, you know it was worth the confusion.