Preserve Navarre failed to get a “straw poll” on the November 2022 General Election ballot and recently discovered a special-called election they were planning for November 2023 would be illegal. Therefore, the group must wait until the November 2024 General Election for another shot at a non-binding vote to gauge whether or not there is community support for state legislators to sponsor an incorporation bill, which would require majority support in a follow-up, binding referendum vote.
Robert Barnett, campaign manager for Preserve Navarre, sent a February 19 email to Santa Rosa County Supervisor of Elections Tappie Villane, seeking a February 21 appointment to discuss a special-called election in November 2023. Barnett asked Villane about the steps to take, including ballot verbiage.
However, Villane replied to Barnett, sharing Florida State Statute 125.01 (y) which states, “No special election may be called for the purpose of conducting a straw ballot.”
Previously Florida House District 3 Representative Jayer Williamson required a super majority of 60% support in a straw poll before agreeing to sponsor legislation to create a new taxing authority. It’s a threshhold he required before sponsoring creation of the Navarre Beach Fire District. Williamson said his decision was based upon the 60% super majority required to change Florida’s Constitution.
Following the 2020 Census and subsequent redistricting, the proposed future city limits now fall within both Florida House District 2 and District 3, meaning the support of two state representatives is needed.
Florida House District 2 Representative Alex Andrade and Florida House District 3 Representative Joel Rudman have both stated they will require a straw poll, but they haven’t specified what percentage of support they would require to sponsor the related legislation.
If a November 2024 straw poll were to pass by the majority or super majority required by the legislators, assuming both are re-elected in 2024, the bill could be presented during the 2025 session. If the bill were subsequently approved by the Legislature, voters residing in the future city limits could see a special-called, binding referendum vote some time in 2025 – if Preserve Navarre is successful in raising enough money to fund a special election.
Supervisor of Elections records show, as of March 10, 2023, Preserve Navarre’s PAC had raised $3,153 in contributions but spent $2,870.39. It’s possible that not all of the group’s fundraising has been reported to the Supervisor’s office, but if they were unable to pay for the special election or persuade other government entitites to fund it, the actual vote could be delayed until 2026.
HISTORY OF NAVARRE INCORPORATION EFFORTS
A 2006 effort to incorporation did not make it to the straw poll stage, which first requires a valid feasibility study and proposed charter before being added to a ballot.
The last incorporation effort in 2014 was successful in getting a straw poll on the ballot. However, 56% of voters inside the proposed city limits rejected the effort. Thereafter, the pro-incorporation Citizens to Incorporate Navarre political action committee (PAC) disbanded.
In December 2018, Democrat Jonathan Cole revived the effort to incorporate, forming Navarre Area United PAC. But that PAC failed to get a straw poll on the November 2020 ballot, blaming the COVID-19 pandemic. In early 2022 Navarre Area United announced it would be releasing its feasibility study and charter with intentions to get on the November 2022 ballot, but that did not happen.
In January 2021, Democrat Nancy Forester, who had been working on the incorporation effort with Cole, split away from Navarre Area United, starting Preserve Navarre with two others.