Sara McFadden at the Naples women’s march, Jan. 18, 2020. (Photo: Author)
May 7, 2020 by David Silverberg
Updated May 8, 2020 with additional petition number.
Sara Doyle McFadden, Democratic candidate for Florida State House District 106, announced today that she had collected sufficient petition signatures to qualify for a place on the general election ballot in November.
The state requires signatures equaling 1 percent of a district’s population to qualify. That comes to 1,131 signatures in the 106th District, allowing McFadden to avoid a $1,781.82 filing fee. McFadden submitted 1,156 signatures.
“We clearly benefited from our network of enthusiastic and hardworking volunteers when, due to the current social limitations, the law changed the end of March to allow electronic images,” said McFadden in a statement.
Once certified by the Florida Division of Elections, McFadden will appear on the November general election ballot in opposition to incumbent Republican Bob Rommel.
McFadden’s collection of petitions was hampered by the Coronavirus pandemic but a change in Florida election rules allowed digital signatures to be submitted.
“This was a tremendous task due to the restrictions placed on all of us by the pandemic,” said Dave Carpenter, qualifying officer for the Collier County Supervisor of Elections, who accepted McFadden’s petitions.
The District and candidates
The 106th District runs from the Collier County line in the north all the way through Naples and Marco Island to Chokaloskee in the south. On the east it’s mostly bordered by Livingston Rd., in its northern portion and Route 41 in its southern portion. It’s the most heavily populated strip of Collier County.
The area has a total population of 155,388, according to an official Florida House profile based on the 2010 census. Of that population, 91.3 percent is white, with Hispanics making up the largest ethnic population at 10.1 percent. People aged from 65 to 69 years old make up the largest age group at 10.4 percent of the total population. Women outnumber men, 52 percent to 48 percent.
McFadden, originally from New Jersey, has a bachelor degree in English literature from Georgian Court University in Lakewood, NJ. Before moving to Florida, she served as Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrative Manager for the American International Group and also worked for the New Jersey Disability Insurance Service. She has been very active in local civic and community groups and organizations.
Rommel was first elected to the Florida House in 2016 for a two-year term. Also originally from New Jersey, he owned a mortgage company, which he sold before moving to Southwest Florida, and then ran three restaurants, two in Lee County and the other in New Jersey. He ran for the Florida House in 2016 after Kathleen Passidomo went to the Florida Senate.
McFadden challenged Rommel in 2018 and was defeated by 66.5 percent to 33.5 percent.
Aside from their New Jersey origins, McFadden and Rommel have virtually nothing in common—especially politically.
McFadden’s positions mark her as a moderate Democrat who promotes “focused leadership and practical solutions.”
She believes healthcare is a basic human right and supports Medicaid expansion.
“Our state’s healthcare priorities are a national embarrassment—opioid addiction is killing our citizens and making orphans of our children—we are 50th in providing mental health care, our jails are our largest mental health facilities,” McFadden states on her website. “We need to increase funding for mental health in Florida, which remains at the bottom of all 50 states, despite the pittance awarded in 2018 in the last session of the state legislature.”
On the environment, she calls for Everglades restoration, a clean environment and water, and opposes fracking and pollution.
Rommel follows the general conservative ideological line, pledging on his website to “fight the bureaucrats who stifle businesses from creating jobs.” He advocates cutting taxes, and when it comes to education, ensuring that students master “the basics” and maintain “classroom discipline.” He is also chair of the Florida Conservative Committee political action committee (PAC), which he created and which gives him control of campaign funds for other candidates.
In an April 11 op-ed that appeared in the Naples Daily News and News-Press, Rommel advocated opening up Florida’s economy despite the continuing—and then-mounting—Coronavirus pandemic, arguing that “socialism and socialist policies are causing lesser healthcare systems to fail.”
During the petition drive McFadden was concerned for the health and safety of her volunteers, saying “…they were all so willing and passionate to help, I was constantly asking if they were using safe practices, and they were very patient with me. I’m very grateful to all of them. Qualifying by petition is as American as you can get—your neighbors are vouching for you!”
Liberty lives in light
© 2020 David Silverberg