Seven Lessons from Underhill victory

1. Doug Underhill may have said it best at his campaign celebration last night. “This victory is a message that the people of Escambia County will not tolerate dirty politics.” For weeks, the voters in District 2 were hit with illegal campaign mailers that did not identify the person(s) paying for them. Automated phone calls with robotic voices attacked the Naval officer also without identifying the person(s) behind it. This victory marks the third victory over negative campaigning–it was tried by supporters of John Powell vs. Sheriff David Morgan and supporters of Hugh King vs. Commissioner Lumon May. The only difference was Powell and King put their names on their attacks.

2. Republicans in District 2 clearly wanted a change. Valentino had a false sense of his support. He had few supporters greeting voters at the precincts yesterday, while Underhill had four or more at each. Valentino’s supposed precinct captain system had little or no presence yesterday. He had lost touch and was not plugged into the voters of his district.

3. The GOP primary was a battle between Sheriff David Morgan and Commissioner Wilson Robertson; and State Rep. Mike Hill and State Sen. Greg Evers. Morgan and Hill backed Underhill. Robertson actively campaigned for Valentino. Gene has been important to Wilson. Together they were able to fire Randy Oliver as the county administrator, hire George Touart, take over the county jail and make life hell for many of the county staff. Come November, Wilson will have to figure out how to work with the commissioners that he has berated most of the last two years.

4. The rumored Lamar Brazwell poll that was supposedly done by a UWF professor and his class was completely wrong. To help bolster Valentino’s campaign last week, Wilson’s business partner tried to convince campaign donors that Gene had 59 percent of the vote and Sheriff Morgan’s popularity had plummeted. The owners of Flora-Bama Lounge pumped thousands of dollars into Valentino’s campaign last week. If there really was a poll, the UWF’s credibility is shot for missing the mark by about 30 percentage points.

5. The influx of campaign donations and support from the hotel industry helped Underhill offset the traditional support that incumbents get from contractors, engineers and others who do business with Escambia County. Innisfree’s Ron Ellington provided invaluable political advice and help. Valentino outraised Underhill by $22,000 – thanks to many of the major power brokers in the area – Lewis Bear, Fred Levin, Jim Cronley, Charles & Carol Carlan, Fred Donovan, Pete Moore, Ray Russenberger, Jerry Long, Lamar Brazwell, Donnie McMahon… Dollars don’t always translate to votes. It didn’t this time.

6. Todd Thomson is the new political campaign wizard in Escambia County. He has handled State Rep. Clay Ingram’s campaigns for the past elections and did a masterful job for Underhill. Victories mean more business for Thompson in the future.

7. The Transit Union endorsed Valentino. Law Enforcement endorsed Underhill. Law Enforcement trumped the bus drivers. Not a good sign for Mike Lowery, the Democrat and transit union leader facing Commissioner Grover Robinson in November of the District 4 seat.