Democratic Party Gives Primary Nod to Garis

Article excerpt

Voters might still be undecided about which candidate to support in the Senate District 8 Democratic primary Tuesday, but party officials certainly aren't.

They're backing Marilyn Garis, a member of the St. Johns County Democratic Executive Committee and a former teacher, over Mac McAlexander, the owner of a computer rental business.

In an unusual move, Democratic executive committees in Duval, St. Johns and Flagler counties voted to endorse one Democrat over another in a party primary.

Democratic executive committees in Marion and Volusia counties have taken no official positions, but party leaders there are backing Garis. District 8 includes all of Flagler and parts of Duval, St. Johns, Marion and Volusia counties.

In the past, political parties avoided endorsements in primaries because of a provision in the state election law that could cause them to forfeit their share of qualifying fees.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled a similar law in California unconstitutional, and Florida elections officials are talking about removing that provision from the state statutes.

The winner of Tuesday's primary will face Republican Jim King and Libertarian Cyndi Calvo in the March 9 special election to fill the vacancy created when Sen. Bill Bankhead, R-Ponte Vedra, resigned to take a job in the Bush administration.

Tony Welch, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party, said the local executive committees are on solid ground because the tide is turning on the issue of primary endorsements.

The executive committees "let us know that it was their wish to endorse Garis, and after reading his [McAlexander's] Web site that might be understandable," Welch said. …