Headline Surfer video by Multimedia Editor Serafina Frederick / Above, Ormond Beach Mayor Ed Kelley and County Chair Jason Davis square off in the last of three Headline Surfer Public Candidate Debates on Oct. 21 among candidates for three County Council seats up for grabs in the Nov. 8 general elections. Also above, Ed Kelley poses with his wife, Mary Margaret Kelley, after presiding at his final meeting as mayor of the Ormond Beach City Commission on Tuesday, Nov. 1, exactly one week before Tuesday's general elections where he hopes to become the next Volusia County chair with a win over incumbent Jason Davis of Pierson.
Headline Surfer photo / At left, County Chair Jason Davis is shown on the dais in the Frank T. Bruno Jr. County Council Chambers. Will he survive Tuesday's general election against primary winner Ed Kelley of Ormond Beach?
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- One and done: That could be the scenario for County Chair Jason Davis in the campaign against opponent Ed Kelley with Tuesday's general elections fast approaching.
That's the likely scenario for County Chair Jason Davis with Tuesday's general elections fast approaching. That's because Volusia County is desperate for the kind of leadership Frank Bruno provided in his eight years as the county's first elected chair.
In fact, Davis' fate as an elected leader nearly ended with the Aug. 30 primary, when he finished a distant second to Ormond Beach Mayor Ed Kelley in a crowded field. Kelley, Ormond Beach mayor, received 38.985 votes or 47.01 percent (not including over/under votes) while Davis garnered 19,233 votes or 23.9 percent. Kelley was less than 3 percent from the threshold of 50 percent plus 1 more vote in winning it outright and ending the campaign process there and then. But since he came up percentage points shy, he and Davis remained in the running for the runoff on Tuesday.
Greg Gimbert, who played the role of antagonist with his opponents and with media, even skipping the Headline Surfer-sponsored candidate debate, finished a distant third and out of the running with 14,110 votes or 17.02 percent of the votes, and Tom Laputka, Orange City's mayor, generated 10,596 votes or 12.78 percent of the votes.
And judging by the results of the Aug. 30 primary, and the restraint he has shown throughout this election cycle despite despicable social media attacks by one of his neighbors and an ill-conceived press conference held by the incumbent on the eve of the primary, Kelley is primed for the chance to lead as he has done so well as Ormond Beach's mayor since first winning the office in 2010 and running unopposed twice since then. His last meeting as mayor was Tuesday, a week before Tuesday's general elections
With the enthusiasm he has shown in the campaign, along with his proven servitude as mayor of Ormond Beach, Ed Kelley is the endorsed candidate for County Chair in Tuesday's general election.
Suffice to say that after four years, fair or unfair, first-term incumbent Davis has not lived up to the billing as the "Face of Volusia County Politics," a term Headline Surfer coined for Frank Bruno after he left the dais in 2012, when term limits prevented him from seeking a third four-year term. Overall, the Ponce Inlet resident served 20 years on the dais.
Bruno had the "it factor" in bringing opposing sides to the table - not only on the dais, but with municipal leaders, too. Even with non-partisan elections at county and municipal levels, there has always been a partisan divide with Democratic and Republican insiders pushing party ideology. But Bruno, a Democrat, was able to break through partisan barriers on and off the dais during his tenure as chair. Even though his party was dominant on the council with no more than two Republicans seated, he was able to find common ground at the municipal level with Republican mayors like DeLand's Bob Apgar, then-Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey and then-New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer.
Even Joie Alexander and Jack Hayman, the lone GOP council members during Bruno's tenure as chair, rarely opposed his 5-2 Democratic majority.
As a testament to Bruno's political longevity and perseverance, on his last day in office, his elected colleagues re-named the council chambers the "Frank T. Bruno Jr County Council Chambers."
It's not that Ed Kelley is the great communicator. He's not. And he'd be the first to acknowledge that. But Kelley believes he'd come closer to the standard bearer in Bruno than the lack of leadership he believes Davis has shown.
Jason Davis emerges on the scene in 2012, prevailing over 2 political heavyweights in Ted Doran and Carl Persis
Jason Paul Davis Davis was such a no-name candidate that he was snubbed by the Tiger Bay organization from participating in its county chair debate after qualifying ended with three candidates on the primary ballot - himself, private attorney Ted Doran and then-County Councilman Carl Persis.
Not only did Davis had to battle his opponents, but the perceived favoritism shown his well-financed opponents by the Daytona Beach News-Journal as illustrated in a Sept. 20 story published by Headline Surfer. Here is a link: Political club and newspaper conflicts brought to light in wake of Tiger Bay candidate debate snub.
But in the Aug. 14, 2012 primary, it was Doran who faltered with Davis finished a close second to Persis. And as a result, Davis, a Gulf War veteran, built momentum going into the general election, with a philosophy of "boots on the ground." Not only was Davis a relative unknown as a politician, he barely had enough campaign finances to compete with his well-stocked opponents. Persis generated $229,290.22, Ted Doran raised $195,976, most of it his own money and Davis managed a measly $11,595.63.
With Doran's campaign over with his disappointing showing in the primary, it came down to Persis and Davis in the general election. Davis was helped along the way when Persis had to resign his County Council seat out of Ormond in the waning weeks of the election so he could collect his retirement monies from his time in the DROP program as a principal in the Volusia County Schools. Davis and the Republicans capitalized on this, portraying him as an opportunist more concerned with money than his council seat.
In the Nov. 6 general election, Davis sent shock waves through the political establishment four years ago when he seemingly came out of nowhere to crush former County Councilman Carl Persis of Ormond Beach by a 20,000 vote plurality in the general election. But suffice to say, gridlock ensued with Davis often on the wrong side of 4-3 votes. The leadership just wasn't there.
Low point of Jason Davis' career: Ill-conceived press conference attacking his own party leader and campaign rival
The hands-down low point of Jason Davis' nearly four-year career in elective office was his calling an Aug. 1 press conference and reading from a prepared statement, allegations that a felony conspiracy had taken place to deprive him and others of having their rivals' names highlighted in yellow magic marker on sample ballots for what was then the upcoming Aug. 30 primary.
Davis sent a copy of his complaint to the State Attorney's Office as well as to satellite office of the FBI, which has its main Florida operations in Jacksonville. Within two days, however, the Office of State Attorney RJ Larizza issued a press release, saying Davis' complaint was dismissed because it had no basis in fact. The FBI never even considered looking into it, a source in Jacksonville, told Headline Surfer.
Ledbetter denied any wrongdoing, saying volunteers may have done so on their own, but he had nothing to do with what Davis had alleged.
Kelley, the perceived frontrunner, with a campaign war chest of $100,000, nearly 10 times as any of the other three candidates in the race, later said he saw it as a pathetic means for Davis to stay in the race, because the incumbent feared the Ormond Beach mayor could win the primary outright.
Headline Surfer was among the media outlets at the press conference, along with the Daytona Beach News-Journal and several Orlando TV news camera crews. It was this media outlet that repeatedly challenged Davis to prove his unsubstantiated claims in a complaint he had forwarded to the State Attorney's Office and the FBI. Davis could not.
Headline Surfer Multimedia: Headline Surfer Public Candidate Debate - pre-primary
About endorsed County Chair candidate Ed Kelley: