Nobody Tells Me How To Vote… Except maybe ORPAC
by Joan Birsh
Voting is a private thing, that’s why they have curtains around voting booths. I’m always sure whom I want to be elected President. The same goes for my congressman and U.S. senator. But like many of the newly-registered Florida voters wintering at Ocean Reef, I haven’t a clue who should be a Monroe County Commissioner or a School Board member or in charge of Mosquito Control.
A month prior to every election I receive the list of candidates recommended by ORPAC (Ocean Reef Political Action Committee). I follow it religiously. I’m not alone. In the 2016 election, we had a very large turnout and I’ll bet the majority of the OR voters also heeded ORPAC’s advice.
How does ORPAC work?
In the interest of becoming an informed citizen, I decided to seek a few answers from the three people most involved in the current operation of ORPAC –
Chip Iglesias, ORCA’s
President (ORCA manages
Alan Goldstein, longtime
Teresa Holmes, the newly
appointed Vice Chairman
Together these three dedicated individuals and their committee represent the Ocean Reef community and the Club in most governmental issues.
What exactly is ORPAC’s mission?
In the more than 30 years since its inception, ORPAC’s mission has remained the same. The committee officers (currently, Iglesias, Goldstein and Holmes) and their appointed committee members identify the issues that are important to Ocean Reef and the political offices that might have some bearing on them. Then ORPAC helps elect to these offices candidates (regardless of their party affiliation) who are sympathetic to the OR community’s needs. The focus is on local races and an occasional statewide race but rarely does ORPAC get involved in national politics. Two examples that concern ORPAC-
(1) The potential driving hazards of Card Sound Road
(2) Water quality
Who is on the Committee?
ORPAC is composed of a group of 27 Ocean Reef residents along with representatives of ORCA, Ocean Reef Club, and Key Largo Anglers Club management.
How does ORCA determine which candidates are worthy of backing?
Months before the election, an ORPAC Steering group focuses on interviewing the candidates running for office in Monroe County. (In recent years, it has become apparent that some State campaigns might also affect Ocean Reef, so ORPAC is sometimes involved with state level candidates and issues as well).
In the summer a small group of ORPAC members, who are year-round residents, personally interview candidates running for office. This is usually done over a one- or two- day period. They were also involved in sizing up candidates for the Primary Election.
At the end of the process, the recommendations are evaluated and sent on to all registered voters in the Ocean Reef community.
How does ORPAC help these favored candidates get elected?
The most important help we offer is the power of our votes. Ocean Reef residents clearly understand that voting as a block will add up to a big number in a local election. And that translates into political power.
ORPAC also raises money, which is deposited to a general fund. This money is then distributed to the candidates that ORPAC has evaluated as being the most sympathetic to Ocean Reef’s concerns. Approximately 10 candidates are usually endorsed by ORPAC for the Primary Elections and 10
for the National.
Most candidates endorsed by ORPAC receive a check for something between $250 and $1,000. The contributions ORPAC can make to County or State candidates is limited to a maximum of $1,000. Of course, individuals can make a personal contribution to any candidate.
How successful is ORPAC in achieving its goals?
Over the years ORPAC has managed to shift the way in which elected officials increase their understanding and support of our community.
Rather than having to resort to the courts, it is certainly preferable for Ocean Reef and Anglers Club to use the power of persuasion and political capital to protect and preserve their property values and way of life.
In the last election, 20 out of 24 races went our way.
Recommendations for 2020 elections? How are the Ocean Reef Members informed about them?
ORPAC will interview about 20 candidates, talk to lobbyists, stakeholders, political advisors, other politicians and comb through campaign materials. At the end of the process, our recommendations will be emailed and a hard copy sent out to all Ocean Reef’s registered voters at the same time the absentee ballots are sent out by the county.
Why it’s vital to support ORPAC
With every passing day, Ocean Reef is facing a growing number of challenges – taxes; permitting; regulations. Then, of course, there’s The Big One – the Coronavirus. All these problems make it essential that Ocean Reef have a position in the politics of the county and state.