POINCIANA – As far as political attacks go, this one appears to have been a flop.
A postcard sent out on the final weekend before the Aug. 14 Florida State Primary, accusing one of the candidates running for the Osceola County Commission — Republican Jeffrey Goldmacher — of being a nudist and atheist, doesn’t appear to have done much damage.
Goldmacher won a three-candidate race for the GOP nomination in Osceola County’s District 3 commission seat with more 50 percent of the vote, and he now advances to the fall general election against the Democratic incumbent, Commissioner Brandon Arrington, in the district that covers Poinciana.
Goldmacher said the allegations in the postcard appear not to have hurt him with Republican primary voters.
“It didn’t get the expected result they were hoping for,” Goldmacher said of his opponents. “I heard some people that were negative about the postcard and took it to heart, and what it said, and didn’t vote for me, and I know others who said ‘This is ridiculous,’ “ Goldmacher said. “I think it evened out.”
On the final week before the primary, a postcard was mailed to District 3 households, by a political action committee called With Women We Win, out of Brevard County. It read “Vote for Decency, Don’t Vote for Jeff Goldmacher because he’s a nudist and an atheist,” and included photos of naked men, which Goldmacher has said are not of him.
Goldmacher, who is Jewish, denied that he’s an atheist. He said the nudist claim was probably a reference to the fact that he lives at Cypress Cove Resort and Spa, a clothing-optional development located on Pleasant Hill Road in Poinciana.
But the postcard controversy doesn't seem to have swayed very many primary voters. On election day, Goldmacher got half of all the votes cast, compared to 32 percent for Tony Ferentinos and 17 percent for Ivan Rivera, his two challengers.
Ted Hadley, the owner of Cypress Cove – which opened in 1964 and is known internationally as a place for naturalists and clothes-free vacationers to gather on a nearly 300-acre facility with a lake and protected wetlands – said this was the first time he ever recalls the resort becoming a political issue or generating controversy on the campaign trail.
"It’s the first time I’m aware of," Hadley said. "We haven’t had a lot of our residents run for public office, though."
The fact that Goldmacher won so easily, he said, shows few voters cared about the nudist complaint.
"I don’t think it had any impact at all," Hadley said. "That makes it a non-story."
The postcard controversy injected some last minute drama into the campaign, even though Goldmacher won easily and so did Arrington, who was challenged by Marta Moczó-Santiago in the Democratic primary. Arrington won with a solid 63 percent of the vote, even as two other Osceola County incumbents – Clerk of Courts Malcolm Thompson, a Democrat, and School Board member Cindy Hartig, a Republican, lost their re-election bids.
Goldmacher said he had expected to take at least 600 votes in the primary, which he did.
"I looked at 2008, the last time they had a primary for this position, and I said I could get at least 600 votes,” he said. "There were 1,243 votes cast, and I got 600 and change. We worked as hard on this campaign as if we were behind, even though everyone told me I was the frontrunner.”
The failure of the postcard attacks, he said, shows that “People are a little smarter than what my opponents thought. They saw my record. I’m the only one active and out there in the community. People said, ‘Go out into the community and the only person you see out there is Jeff Goldmacher.’ They’re looking for someone who has ideas on how they can get by without raising taxes.“
Hadley said he's more concerned about attendance during the critical Labor Day Weekend than any lasting repercussions from the postcard.
"It's the last weekend of thhe summer, and it's a ood weekend for us," Hadley said. "We hope to get a good turnout."
Cypress Cove frequently sponsors special events, like the annual Nude Year's Eve Weekend bash.
Goldmacher noted there was still something of an anti-incumbent mood on primary day, which he feels could help his campaign come November.
“I looked around the state and there seems to be an anti-incumbent mood. I hope that continues, but I’m not counting on it,” he said. “One of the things we’re hoping for is a Republican wave, that people are sick and tired of what the Democrats are doing.”
Either way, he still expects Arrington to be a strong opponent.
“He knows he has a fight on his hands,” Goldmacher said.
Poinciana's 10 villages are divided between Polk and Osceola counties. Osceola County elects its commissioners in sinle-member districts, and Arrington's District 3 covers Poinciana's Osceola villages.
The Polk County precincts are represented in District 4 by Polk Commissioner Todd Danztler, although in Polk, commissioners run countywide. That means Poinciana's Polk County residents get to vote for all five commissioners, and not just the one representing their district.
Dantzler won his first term in 2010, defeating Democrat Jean Reed. Dantzler is not up for re-election this year.
Polk County voters did settle one county commission race on Aug. 14, in District 3, where Commissioner Ed Smith of Lake Alfred narrowly defeated challenger Tracy Garcia, a former Lake Alfred city commissioner, with 51 percent of the vote.
Smith, though, narrowly lost the four Poinciana precincts. Garcia got 454 votes in Poinciana, while Smith took 438.
That vote surprised Keith Laytham, the president of the civic group Poinciana Residents for Smart Change, who noted that Smith has been a supporter of the Poinciana Parkway, a new highway that is expected to be built later this year to make it easier to get in and out of the community.
"Ed has been a very good friend of Poinciana," Laytham said. "Ed Smith won two of our precincts, including Solivita, and Tracy Garcia won the other two precincts."
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