Three of the six announced Republican candidates for Brevard County Commission in District 2 withdrew from the race on Monday — two days after four of them had a private meeting in one of the candidate’s homes.
Cordell Rolle of Rockledge, Timothy Street of Merritt Island and Tim Tumulty of Cocoa Beach — who is a former member of the City Commission there — all withdrew their candidacies.
The fourth candidate who attended the meeting that Street had at his home — Robyn Hattaway of Merritt Island — remains in the race.
Although the candidates won’t say so directly, it appears to be part of a strategy to prevent former County Commissioner Chuck Nelson from winning the Republican primary, and to give Hattaway a better chance of winning.
“We all met, and basically came to the conclusion that this was going to be a better race with fewer candidates,” Street said.
Hattaway, a local attorney, said Street suggested having the meeting “in the best interest” of the Republican Party.
“All of us came in knowing that it wasn’t going to be an easy road” to win the primary, Hattaway said. “We tried to pick the most viable candidate. I think the feeling was we could be a stronger force united, rather than divided.”
Hattaway said another GOP candidate — Jim Glover of Merritt Island — was invited to Saturday’s meeting, but chose not to attend. She said Nelson was not invited. Glover and Nelson, along with Hattaway, are the remaining Republican candidates in the race at this time.
There also is one announced Democratic candidate in the race, Jack Smink of Merritt Island.
The District 2 seat since 2014 has been held by Republican Jim Barfield, who in November announced that he would not seek re-election to a second four-year term because of business commitments.
District 2 includes Avon by the Sea, Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Kennedy Space Center, Port Canaveral and Snug Harbor, as well as most of Merritt Island, and portions of Cocoa, Rockledge and Patrick Air Force Base.
Hattaway said the participants at the more than hourlong meeting at Street’s home “were candid and selfless, talking about what’s best for the county. There was a lot of discussion.”
Hattaway said the candidates who withdrew are “three great guys. We agreed on a lot of things, and they made some hard decisions. We want Brevard to move forward. I think all of us agreed that we need new leadership” on the County Commission, rather than a commissioner who is seeking to make a comeback.
Nelson held the County Commission seat for two terms from 2006 to 2014, but could not seek re-election in 2014 because of term limits. He previously was Brevard County’s parks and recreation director for nearly 15 years. Since October, Nelson has been executive director of the Merritt Island Redevelopment Agency.
Hattaway said one of the challenges for a first-time candidate like herself is running against a candidate “with more name recognition.”
Hattaway described the meeting at Street’s home as “four candidates coming together for the best interest of the county.”
She conceded that the meeting was “unusual” and “a little surreal,” but “it wasn’t nefarious.”
“It was very casual, and it was a really remarkable experience,” Hattaway said. “I think it’s an example of the way politics ought to be. I’m proud to be a part of it. I hope to make them proud, and not let them down.”
Rolle said he decided to withdraw from the race because “I just didn’t see a viable pathway” to victory.
“It’s not from a lack of enthusiasm” for being a candidate, Rolle added.
Nelson is the second former county commissioner seeking to make a return to the five-member commission in 2018.
Former County Commissioner Trudie Infantini is challenging current County Commissioner Curt Smith in a Republican primary in District 4.
District 4 includes all or part of Indian Harbour Beach, Melbourne, Palm Shores, Rockledge and Satellite Beach, as well as sections of unincorporated Brevard, including Suntree and Viera.
Smith is seeking his second term, having been elected in 2014.
With 3-2 votes on a number of issues to come before the County Commission over the past year, the 2018 election could have a major impact on the future direction of county government.
County commissioners are paid $58,145 a year.
The 2018 primary election is Aug. 28, and the general election is Nov. 6.
Dave Berman is government editor at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Berman at 321-242-3649 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original article posted at: https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/2018/01/23/three-county-commission-candidates-drop-out-after-four-them-have-private-meeting/1056838001/