Mediator A. Michelle Jernigan helped to organize and, on Wednesday, May 3, 2017, introduced a CLE program presented by the Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers at Upchurch Watson White & Max's Maitland office. Beth Kassab, enterprise editor for the Orlando Sentinel, moderated the panel discussion, "Running for Office, The Do's and Don'ts."
Panelists Emily Bonilla, Orange County commissioner; Patricia Strowbridge, Orange County circuit judge; and William Sublette, chairman of the Orange County School Board, were asked to share their experiences in running for public office and discuss why they decided to run. They described the ethical and legal constraints they encountered in campaigning and talked about the practical aspects of fundraising, advertising and interacting with the media.
"It's the hardest I ever worked in my life," said Judge Strowbridge, who spoke from the perspective of having been on the winning and losing sides of judicial races. "The only people who ever give money to judicial races are lawyers, and they only give you money if they know you are going to win." Fundraising is complicated by the fact that judicial candidates can't personally ask for money. "You have to surround yourself with people who can."
In general, there are few limits placed on other political candidates, Mr. Sublette said, somewhat ruefully. "If you're not running for judge, it's the wild, wild West." He does, however, advise employing a tried-and-true hierarchy for spending funds on campaign advertising, which he listed:
Ms. Bonilla said her methods for saving money on her campaign involved her own hard work and leaning heavily on her fervent volunteers. "So, I licked stamps," she said, recounting how she recruited her son to help her get mailings out. One morning, he told her, "Mom, I stayed up all night putting stamps on postcards." All three office-holders agreed this kind of loyal volunteering can't be replaced, no matter how much money is spent.
UWWM panel members Howard Marsee and Judi Lane asked the panel about the impact of the order in which judicial candidates are listed on the ballot (alphabetically for each seat) and about counteracting the effects of "fake news" on the public's perception of a candidate. Several other attendees also participated in the Q-and-A portion of the program.
In organizing the luncheon event with Brikena Isai Tomasic of Martin Hild in Maitland, Ms. Jernigan, a UWWM shareholder, found the topic to be particularly germane to CFAWL's mission, including "expanding leadership, involvement, and contribution of its members in the community at large" and "facilitating women’s opportunities and rights."