Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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The FGC Candidate Forum Chronicles Continue
Part III

COLUMBIA COUNTY/LAKE CITY, FL – Confusion about who is sponsoring the Candidate Forums going out over the Florida Gateway College Airwaves continues to be an ongoing issue this year. Many bush league and uniformed questions were asked last night by co-moderator Robert Bridges as his sidekick, the President of the Lake City/Columbia County Chamber of Commerce sat by looking like he was afraid to say anything and never revealed that he was the Chamber President or the Director of Communications for the College. Mr. Bridges' bean ball and curve balls were offensive and Mr. McKee's only pitch added to the confusion and looked like a balk.

As reported recently, on August 3 the Lake City Reporter ran an article with statements by Robert Bridges for the newspaper and Mike McKee for the College and the Chamber.

The LCR article claimed that the "2018 Florida Gateway College political forum" was "A partnership between the Lake City Reporter, FGC and the Lake City-Columbia County Chamber of Commerce."

Mr. McKee changed the College's and his tune last night.

A voice over at the beginning of the telecast announced: "The candidate forum is sponsored by the Lake City Chamber of Commerce and the Lake City Reporter. Hosted by Florida Gateway College. Special thanks to Sonny's Barbeque and Moe's."

Mr. McKee's intro was a little different: "Hello everybody along with Lake City Reporter editor, Robert Bridges, I'm Mike McKee. (No word where he was from or who he was representing).

Mr. McKee continued, "This program is a production of the Lake City Chamber of Commerce Government Relations Committee and is cosponsored by the Lake City Reporter, Sonny's Barbeque, Moe's Southwestern Grill and the College."

Mr. McKee was also confused about the location of District II and IV, which he didn't explain were two of the largest districts in the County stretching from the south end abutting High Springs and heading north to US 90 and east and west respectively to the limits of the county.

Bridges Bean Ball

Early in the questioning of Marc Kazmerski, Mr. Bridges asked, "Mr. Kazmerski, you've run for the seat twice previously. You came within 7 votes last time against an arguably unpopular incumbent."

Mr. Kazmerski was gracious and uncomfortable.

The first time Mr. Kazmerski ran in 2010 he lost by 811 votes. In 2014 he did lose by 7 votes. This did not show that Commissioner DePratter was unpopular, but 7 votes more popular than Mr. Kazmerski, who at that time took his loss like a gentleman and moved on.

Unknown to the public, is that Mr. Bridges has a personal vendetta going against Mr. DePratter and he brought that to his questions.

Bridges Curve Ball
Weirder Than His Bean Ball

In the District IV race Mr. Bridges went after candidate Toby Witt, who had run before and was running again.

Out of the blue Mr. Bridges asked: "With all due respect sir, here's the rap on you from people who do not support your candidacy. They say you play in a country western band, which means you are in bars more than some folks and that you drink beer while you're there in some cases. Does any of this have any bearing on your ability to be a county commissioner?"

Mr. Witt kept his cool: "I don't think so. Music's been a part of my life. It's my hobby. I don't hunt. I play music in bands and I do enjoy drinking a beer. This community enjoys it. (Mentioned Halpatter) I don't think it has any bearing on my candidacy or as a person."

The Reporter did not report the facts about the question, paraphrasing and leaving out the reference to beer drinking: "As a member of a country western band, he (Witt) spends too much time in bars and seems rough around the edges."

That day, the Lake City Reporter ran a giant spread about the downtown Halpatter brewery with a 4 column photo of folks with beer.

The LCR Final Insult

Mr. Bridges asked Mr. Phillips: "Mr. Phillips, at a rally in Fort White last month you said you didn't really know if you needed a new jail, because you hadn't been out to inspect it personally...?"

Commissioner Phillips, the incumbent in District IV was having difficulty hearing and if the organizer of the event had any consideration, as one candidate under the condition of anonymity told the Observer: "They should have seated him next to the table with the moderators, so he would have been closer and it would have been easier for him to hear."

They didn't. It wasn't clear which event Mr. Bridges was referring to. Commissioner Phillips did not attend the recent Town Hall rally in Fort White.

If Mr. Bridges was referencing the Republican rally, he didn't say so.

Balk and No Balls for Mike McKee

Mike McKee is the face of Florida Gateway College. He asked no questions, made no follow ups, did not explain from where the questions came, and did not divulge his relationship with either Mr. Bridges, the Chamber of Commerce, or the College.

He didn't throw one pitch and it wasn't clear why he was there, other than to make sure the Lake City Reporter Banner, rather than that of the College, that pays his salary, was the first thing anybody saw.

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