Election day in Collier County: Sights, sounds and anecdotes from around the area

Naples Daily News staff

Naples Daily News journalists are traveling across Collier County to check in on on voters at precincts. Scroll down to read their anecdotes. The journalists are also surveying residents on how they voted, which you can see here. The endorsements list by the Naples Daily News Editorial Board may be found here.

Robin Sheley, from second from left, Courtney Hemmer and  Donna Caron speak to an incoming voter in the solicitation zone to encourage them to cast their ballot for their respective candidates at the Collier County Public Library Headquarters in North Naples on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018.

Seeking more female candidates

3:25 p.m. | Only one woman sits on either party’s long list of governor candidates, much to the dismay of Tamera Dobbs.

“I’d vote for any woman on the ballot,” Dobbs said. “We need to vote out the good ole’ boys.”

Dobbs, a former Republican, said her morals have placed her in a tough situation, pushing her toward independent and beyond. She picked Chris King for the Democratic candidate.

“I feel like a conservative, but everything I want to conserve — the environment, water quality and Medicare — is now liberal,” she said.

Other voters also noticed the few female candidates, despite a rise in women politicians elsewhere in the country. Kay Preucil said it’s important to bring women and minorities into politics and bring a voice to underrepresented groups.

“I voted for every women and Hispanic candidate on the ballot,” said Kay Preucil.

— Thaddeus Mast

Red tide an issue for some voters

3:05 p.m. | At library headquarters on Orange Blossom Drive voters came armed with umbrellas as heavy rain and high winds whipped around the building. The early afternoon storm was so ferocious at times that lights inside the library began to flicker.

That didn’t affect the voting machines though, a poll worker said, because they have backup power. 

Rosa Siegel, 50, cast her vote just before the worst of the storm began. She relied on information from the Collier County Democratic Party’s website to help make some of her voting decisions.

She said she cares about current environmental issues that have affected the area. 

“We have (a) really big issue with red tide in South Florida,” she said. “And I have seen all the business being affected, all the workers, basically, being affected by the red tide. So that’s a big issue for me.” 

Siegel said she voted for Andrew Gillum for governor because he appears to be more progressive. 

“(Gwen) Graham is more like, I would say, more conservative even though she’s running as a Democrat,” she said.

— Patrick Riley

The skies opened up just before 2 p.m. at New Hope Ministries off Davis Boulevard. Voters are trying to stay dry under umbrellas.

Heavy rain at New Hope Ministries

2:53 p.m. | A heavy rain began falling just before 2 p.m. in East Naples, soaking people trying to vote at New Hope Ministries.

People with umbrellas rushed from their cars to get inside and lightning flashed to the east and west.

Sandy Schattschneider, 70, walked back to her car under a black umbrella after casting a vote for Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary for governor. 

She said President Donald Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis was a big part of her decision. 

“I like the way he presented himself,” Schattschneider said. “Plus he was endorsed by Trump.”

Schattschneider described herself as a lifelong Democrat who began voting Republican after becoming disillusioned with former President Barack Obama. She said her husband, a Republican, gave her a book about Trump that changed her mind politically.

— Ryan Mills

Would vote for him '10 times over'

2:30 p.m. | Danielle Channell, 34, stood outside Precinct 479 campaigning for Stephen Jaron, District 4 Collier County Commissioner candidate.

Channell lives in North Naples, so she’s not eligible to vote for Jaron, but said she would vote for him “10 times over” if she could.

“He genuinely cares about his constituency and getting things done,” said Channell, who works at Jaron’s wife’s business A. Jaron Fine Jewelry. “He wants things to be on time and under budget, which is truly what Naples needs, especially District 4.”

She also said that Jaron’s education and experience as a small business owner make him uniquely qualified to serve as a county commissioner.

“He knows what small businesses needs and he also has a vested interest in clean water,” she said in reference to the area’s prevalent red tide. “He knows how important the environment is to businesses and the community as a whole.”

— Lisa Conley

A look at Precinct 479 moments before a storm rolled in. Voters sat in their cars waiting for the rain to stop on Aug. 28, 2018.


Election day thunderstorm

The skies opened up just before 2 p.m. at New Hope Ministries off Davis Boulevard. Voters are trying to stay dry under umbrellas.


'I love Bernie Sanders'

1:53 p.m. | Water quality issues are the defining voting issue for Roan Zumfelde of Golden Gate, the owner of Indian Pass Outfitters.

Zumfelde, 52, cast his vote for Ron DeSantis in the Republican governors primary.

“DeSantis talks a good game,” Zumfelde said after casting his vote over the lunch hour at Parkway Life Church off Golden Gate Parkway. “It sounds like he really wants to do something about our water problems. Let’s hope. Politicians, it’s a lot of talk.”

Primary election day at Parkway Life Church off Golden Gate Parkway on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018.

Bonnie Ryan-Spanswick, 72, also voted this afternoon at Parkway Life Church. She cast a vote for Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine in the Democratic primary for governor. But she also liked Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in that race.

“Gillum, Bernie Sanders supports. I love Bernie Sanders,” she said.

But she thought Levine has a better chance to win in November with the support of the populace Miami area and the endorsement of the Miami Herald. 

“I want the Democrat to win,” Ryan-Spanswick said.

Catherine Schenk, 65, cast her vote for Gillum, saying she “just had a good feeling” about him, and also because of the Sanders endorsement.

Ken Miller, on the other hand, cast his vote for Rep. Gwen Graham in the Democratic primary for governor because, he said, he heard her talk about what she wants to do for the state and “because her daddy was the governor.” Graham’s father is former Gov. Bob Graham.

Jeri Parritt, 73, who lives south of Golden Gate, also voted for Graham. In the Collier Clerk’s race she said she voted for Crystal Kinzel.

“I’ve seen her name around, and she’s a woman,” Parritt said, flashing two thumbs up.

— Ryan Mills

Off-duty firefighters discuss Immokalee fire fee

1:45 p.m. | Twenty off-duty firefighters from the Immokalee Fire Control District showed up to the polls Tuesday to talk to voters about the fire fee. 

They held up signs to vote "yes" at Ave Maria's town center and Immokalee Community Park. 

Deputy Chief Thomas Cunningham and firefighters set up at 6:30 a.m. 

Opponents of the fire fee referendum argue it is a tax that will affect nonprofits, businesses and families living at or below poverty level. 

Cunningham said it's not a tax, and the fee will lower tax rates. 

Only about 40 percent of residents pay property taxes to the fire department, according to Cunningham. 

"How do you maintain an emergency services department on 40 percent of taxable properties?" he said.

The 60 percent of taxable properties that do not pay has been a long-term problem for the department, according to Cunningham. 

Cunningham said if the measure passes, the fee will provide a more stable funding source for the independent fire department, which also results in job security.

"If it doesn't pass, it's a different conversation," Cunningham said. "The guys are hoping for the best."

Cunningham said if the measure does not pass, the entire fire department may not entirely shut down, but "there will definitely be reduced services."

— Alexi Cardona

'Just looking for normalcy'

1:39 p.m. | Lou Altieri, 68, cast his vote at Veterans Park Tuesday morning, “just looking for normalcy.”

“I hear the word constitutional conservative and it turns me off and I go the other direction,” he said. 

Altieri said he voted for Jeff Greene in the Democratic primary for governor, because he was looking for a “moderate” candidate.

“We need moderation,” he said.

The hope, Altieri said, was to turn Florida in favor of Democrats.

“I think they’re starting to call Florida a purple state,” he said. “I want to make it blue again.” 

For Kerry Wayne Jr., 44, Tuesday’s trip to Veterans Parks was the first time voting in a primary election since he changed parties.

“I was brought up in Naples so I was brought up Republican and I’ve been pretty much down the middle my whole life,” he said. “I was seeing my trends being more Democratic than Republican. Not that I disagreed with one side or the other, but I just found myself agreeing with one side a little bit more than the other.” 

The decision to switch parties was not difficult, he said, because he had been 50-50 on many issues going back to the late 1990s.

“Really to me it was just a different designation,” Wayne said. “It didn’t make me a different person.” 

Wayne voted for Andrew Gillum in the race for governor, but said he liked Gwen Graham, as well.

“Those two just stood out,” he said. “And I know he was being endorsed by Bernie Sanders and a few other prominent Democrats.”

Wayne said he hoped preserving Florida’s environment would become more of a focus going forward.

“I just hope we move in the right direction, obviously with everything that’s going on with the lakes, the rivers, the algae, all that,” he said. “A more environmental approach.” 

While many cast their votes for multiple races Tuesday, for Bruce Kersting, 61, it came down to one issue: a no vote on a controversial North Collier fire fee.

He said he didn’t get a good enough explanation from proponents of the fee as to why the fire district needed more money.

“It’s $250 a year to your tax bill,” Kersting said. “That’s a considerable increase from what we’re paying them already.” 

— Patrick Riley

'Violates separation of church and state'

12:46 p.m. | Voters in Immokalee have come to the polling place at Immokalee Community Park in a slow trickle late Tuesday morning. 

Dozens of solicitors either in favor or against the fire fee engaged voters and handed out materials about the referendum. 

Timothy Pigg, a pastor at Fellowship Church in Immokalee, said he voted no on the fire fee because of the financial burden it could place on churches serving the community. 

"I think it violates our rights as a nonprofit and violates separation of church and state," he said. 

Pigg said the fee would not only impact churches, but individuals who already live at or below poverty level and seek help from nonprofits. 

"I think it's important for churches to stand alongside their fire departments, but this fee is not the appropriate way," he said. 

Lisa Selenke, who lives in the area of Sunnyland Farms southeast of Immokalee, also voted no on the fire fee. She said she didn't think the "schematics" were feasible for people with fixed incomes. 

"For the little people who are just trying to survive, it's going to hurt us," she said.

— Alexi Cardona

A first time voter

12:30 p.m. | Kyle Kopec, 19, of Ave Maria, voted for the first time Tuesday. He voted in favor of the fire fee but said he thought the Immokalee Fire District should merge with North Collier Fire Rescue District.

"Without it, the fire department won't have the ability to continue with its financing and expand with the explosive growth here," he said.

  — Alexi Cardona

Campaign signs line the sidewalk across the street from the Collier County Public Library Headquarters in North Naples on Tuesday, August 28, 2018.

'I think he's the best choice'

12:05 p.m. | There was a steady flow of voters Tuesday morning at Max A. Hass Jr. Community Center in Golden Gate Estates.

A pair of voters held signs, supporting local candidates like Crystal Kinzel for Collier Clerk.

Naples resident Dottie McMann held a sign and said she thinks the state would work well under Republican governor candidate Adam Putnam.

“I think he’s the best choice compared to the other candidates,” she said 

Another voter, Megan Sorbara, voted for Republican candidate Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race.

“I was turned off by Adam Putman’s support of big sugar so I voted for DeSantis,” she said.

Overall precinct voters were split between both candidates in the Republican race. No voter questioned voted in the Democratic race.

— Ashley Collins

Campaign signs line the sidewalk across the street from the Collier County Public Library Headquarters in North Naples on Tuesday, August 28, 2018.

'I've seen DeSantis on TV a lot. He's a smart guy.' 

10:55 a.m. | Deborah Callahan, 68, of Marco Island, said she voted for DeSantis because he’s not Adam Putnam.

“I don’t like people whose only job they’ve ever had in life is as a politician,” she said. “I’ve seen DeSantis on TV a lot. He’s a smart guy.”

Todd Truax, 49, who is running for Congressional District 19, said he’s a strong proponent of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. Truax said he’s met Gillum numerous times and appreciates his experience in Tallahassee and his successful battle against the National Rifle Association.

“And he’s the only non-millionaire in the race. It’s nice to have an average guy,” Truax said.

— Annika Hammerschlag

Consistent flow of voting at Golden Gate Community Center

10:45 a.m. | Voting has been consistent but slow this morning at the Golden Gate Community Center.

Several people were turned away, however, because they showed up to the wrong precinct. The Golden Gate Community Center is an early voting location, but on Tuesday only registered Golden Gate voters in precinct 323 could vote here.

“It’s my own fault,” said Judy Harrington, who was sent to another polling location. A registered Democrat, Harrington said she’s “not voting for anybody that’s backed by the NRA.

Ruben Smith, 63, a registered Republican, said he voted for Ron DeSantis for governor. 

“I think he’s just fair,” Smith said, adding that voting this year was slow and “very easy.”

It wasn’t as easy for Wesley Solomon, 20, who had planned to vote for Democrat Andrew Gillum for governor only to be reminded at the poll that he’s a registered independent. Independents can’t vote in several primary contests, which are open only to registered Republicans and Democrats.

Salomon said he registered in high school.

“We filled it out my senior year,” he said of his voter registration. “At the time I didn’t want to claim a party.”

Debi Boudreau, 59, who also is an independent, said she voted for Crystal Kinzel for Collier clerk.

“She just seemed to me to be a clearer choice,” she said. “Somebody new, fresh. Not just because she was a female. I liked what she had to say.”

Outside the community center, Jane Kohel, of North Naples, and Judy Dempsey, of East Naples, held an Andrew Gillum for governor sign and passed out pamphlets to people in the parking lot. 

“We think a candidate like Andrew Gillum would be beneficial for an area like this,” Kohel said, noting Golden Gate’s working class and multicultural demographics.

— Ryan Mills

Paul Seifert works as a greeter at the Greater Naples Fire headquarters Aug. 28, 2018. Seifert is also vice president of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Paul Seifert greets voters at Greater Naples Fire Rescue Headquarters

10:30 a.m. | Paul Seifert was perhaps the most affable election volunteer Tuesday morning. 

“Welcome,” he hollered across the Greater Naples Fire Rescue Headquarters parking lot as voters filtered into Precinct 313. 

“We saved that parking spot just for you,” was his usual line. 

Seifert, who is vice president of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said he has volunteered with the election commission for three years. He works as a greeter at the polls — directing people to the right door and telling a few jokes along the way.  

“I love it,” he said from behind a pair of dark sunglasses, an orange “Election Deputy” apron tied across his front. “I love being around people. I like making them smile.”

On Tuesday he wandered all over the parking lot and pathways leading up to the voting area, chatting with voters and walking side-by-side with them. 

“Follow the guy in the red shirt,” he told one woman. “Hopefully he doesn’t get lost on the way in.”

He asked voters, “How ya doin’?” when they arrived and said, “Thanks for comin’ out,” when they left.

Despite the heat and harsh rays, you quickly get the feeling that Seifert really likes his job.

“They don’t have to be here,” he said. “But if I can make them smile then maybe they’ll have a good rest of their day.”

— Shelby Reynolds

Voting has started at precinct 310 in North Naples at North Naples Baptist Church Aug. 28, 2018.  Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Early morning voters at North Naples Baptist Church

8:45 a.m. | Voters trickled in one-by-one Tuesday morning at North Naples Baptist Church. In the first hour, about 40 ballots were submitted at precinct 310.

“Easy in, easy out,” one saidas he left the voting area. 

“It’s my civic duty,” another man said.

In a lawn chair at the church entrance, Golden Gate Estates resident Justin Gibson held a sign supporting the fire amendment. The sign read:  “Lower taxes” and “save lives.” Gibson said it had been a slow morning. He quietly read a book as cars drove in and out of the parking lot. 

— Shelby Reynolds

It's election day!

7 a.m. | Tuesday is decision day in several key election contests in Collier County with a clerk of courts, a County Commission race in North Naples and a School Board seat to be decided along with three significant referendums.

Election day also will clarify who will move on to the November ballot in a Southwest Florida congressional race and several state office primaries, as well as whether most school board races in Collier and Lee counties are decided or face a general election runoff.

Importantly statewide, Democrats and Republicans choose their party nominee for governor to replace Rick Scott, who is term limited out of office.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Click here to find your precinct. If you have a problem voting, call the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office at 239-252-8683.

See a list of Editorial Board endorsements and staff-written profiles of the candidates.