What information do you believe?
That is always a relevant question but it’s extremely important as we sludge through the final weeks before election time. Citrus County voters join other Floridians on Aug. 18 to select candidates in primary balloting.
Because Citrus County is predominantly a Republican community, most of the decisions made on Aug. 18 will be final. The Democrats haven’t put up candidates for the two county commission races, so once again the board will be made up of all Republicans. The good news is that because there are no Democratic candidates for commission, all 113,168 voters in the county get to participate.
Two "no-party" candidates have qualified for the November ballot — one in the sheriff’s race and one in the property appraiser’s race. But no-party candidates have never won a general election at the local level. What it does mean is that Democrats and Independents really won’t have a say in selecting who becomes sheriff or property appraiser. They don’t get to participate in the Republican Primary.
Sheriff Jeff Dawsy was the last Democrat elected (2012) in Citrus County (Superintendent of Schools Sandra "Sam" Himmel won as a Democrat in 2016, but changed parties during this term). Remember those names because it’s going to be that way for a long time. Currently there are 57,337 Republicans registered and 28,447 Democrats.
The candidates spend a lot of time giving you plenty of information about how wonderful they are. That’s their job.
They hope you believe everything they say.
Don’t do it.
Some candidates, who are lucky enough to be incumbents, get to use the power of their position to have official "spokespersons" also give you information — via Facebook — about how wonderful they are.
The taxpayer employed spokespersons also hope you believe everything they say about their bosses.
Don’t do it.
Our job as voters and citizens is to cut through the baloney and try to find the facts. And that’s not always easy.
The job of a newspaper like the Chronicle is to try and help you cut through that baloney and get to those facts. You will run into politicians who love to hate the Chronicle because we don’t agree to present the facts in the twisted way that makes them look good. But that’s life.
If someone told you that the sun rose this morning at 6:50 a.m., that would be a fact.
If that same person told you the sun rose at 6:50 a.m. and it was the most beautiful, spectacular sunrise of all time, that would be a little fact mixed up with a whole lot of opinion.
On the local level, we have a very contentious race for sheriff going on as three challengers try to unseat the first-term incumbent. They all talk about crime going up and crime going down.
Who should you believe? Well, you should believe the official numbers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. They calculate the data and publish reports each year that gives you the facts.
From 2018 to 2019, the last full-year comparison, the crime index in Citrus County went down 2.2%. Violent crimes increased by 6.6% and total arrests were down 1.9%. The property rate of crime also decreased by 3.7%.
The politicians can put any spin they want on the numbers, but those are the numbers. It’s a simple math equation. The politicians will each spin the data to best meet their goals. Understand the difference.
I am not going to pretend that this newspaper — or any other newspaper — is perfect. We get things wrong every day. Our role is to give you an unfiltered look at what is happening in our community. But we are reporting the day’s history when it happens. Sometimes events are bright and sunny and easy to report. Other times they are partly cloudy and hard to figure out.
With the advent of Twitter, Facebook and the ever-present direct mail junk that fills your mailbox, you are pummeled with different versions of the facts. Remember where the stuff is coming from. It is directly from the interpretation of a candidate, politician or their high-paid consultant who are each trying to put things in the best possible light.
At the newspaper, we remain as independent as possible. We don’t participate in political events. We don’t contribute to candidates or attend their fundraisers. And we try to give you the straight facts so you can use them to make the best decision from your standpoint.
And if we are wrong or act with malice, public figures have the right to take a newspaper to court. That doesn’t happen on Facebook or Twitter. Anonymous people just say what they want and get away with it.
One of the guiding philosophies at the Chronicle has been that "all opinions matter."
That is why we have the most robust editorial pages you’re going to find anywhere. We permit people to practice their freedom of speech every day in the pages of our newspaper. But we also place limits on individuals who cross the line and say hateful or unproven things. (For the record, aliens did not land in Lecanto last week.)
One of the reasons this nation has remained strong for the past 244 years is that there has always been an independent press that has been willing to poke authority in the eye. Those in positions of authority don’t always like that.
We leave the final decisions up to you.
Gerry Mulligan is the publisher of the Chronicle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.