Will new Mayor Kramer steer Vero Council back to the right?
With Jay Kramer back in the Vero Beach mayor’s chair, political observers are wondering how his leadership will be affected by his effort to move up from the City Council to a seat on the Indian River County Commission.
Will he vote with outgoing mayor Dick Winger and Randy Old, who was elected vice mayor at the council’s organizational meeting? Or will he vote with Council members Pilar Turner and newcomer Harry Howle in an effort to appease GOP budget hawks?
Though Kramer’s technically mayor for the next 12 months, the first eight are critical as they lead up to a Republican primary against incumbent and fellow Central Beach resident Commissioner Bob Solari.
The two men have been on opposing sides of most important issues since Kramer was swept into City Hall in 2010 with the slate of candidates favoring sale of Vero electric, but then became the standard-bearer of the contingent that argued the municipal utility could not and would not be sold to Florida Power and Light.
Kramer is seen as a turncoat by the pro-sale faction, and is viewed as less than a “true conservative” by Tea Party types like Solari for going along with the more liberal-spending Winger agenda over the past four years. That agenda resulted in double-digit property tax increases this fall for city homeowners.
But the big unknown that may well determine which Jay Kramer we see in 2016 is whether next August’s Republican Primary will be limited to just Republicans, or whether it will be open to Democrats and Independents.
Should the primary be restricted to GOP voters only, Solari would seem to have more conservative credibility, even though Kramer is the Indian River County’s Republican State Committeeman. Kramer could be expected to be seeking to burnish his conservative credentials in the event of a GOP-only showdown.
But if no Democratic or independent candidate emerges for Solari’s county commission seat, the primary would be thrown open to all voters.
When key votes come up about employee raises and benefits, the stormwater utility of untold cost, or next year’s budget and tax rate, will Kramer try to steady GOP nerves, or will he try to pick up support from the municipal unions and Democrats?
Another twist is the question of whether Kramer will seek another four-year term as Republican State Committeeman, a post he won handily in 2012.
If he does run, that would presumably place him on the August ballot twice – once for county commissioner and once for the GOP Committeeman post.
The GOP State Committeeman race will be higher on the ballot than the County Commission race. That could prove problematic for Solari, since voters tend to not vote for a candidate on one part of the ballot – i.e., for Kramer for GOP State Committeeman – and against him on another.
Kramer’s election as mayor puts him in the spotlight, and possibly in the hot seat, with Solari watching every vote and taking meticulous notes to be used against Kramer in the upcoming debates.