STARKE – Tyler Groves wants your vote.
He’s running an unconventional campaign as a write-in candidate to be the next Superintendent of Clay County Schools. He’s collected, and spent, no money. He relies heavily on social media to get his message out to voters. But he knows it’s an uphill, probably impossible, mission.
Not only will his name not be on the Nov. 3 – he’s counting on voters to remember his name – but he’s running against current Superintendent David Broskie, who beat former Superintendent Charlie Van Zant by 10 points in last month’s primary.
And as a resident of Bradford County, he can’t vote for himself.
The campaign, however, continues.
“I’ve been campaigning a lot online and through calls. I get a lot of calls from people trying to reach out,” Groves said. “A podcast here and there, but that’s mainly it.
“The hardest part has been the lack of funds. I’m not trying to raise money or anything of that sort. I’d definitely say being a write-in candidate is a disadvantage, when your name is not even on the ballot.”
Groves currently works for a supermarket chain in Jacksonville, but he has greater aspirations. Instead of starting with a smaller county like Bradford where he has roots, he chose Clay.
“I wanted the experience. I wanted the exposure. I knew Clay County has a large school system, much larger than the one in Bradford County or Baker County or any given neighboring counties,” Groves said. “I imaged it would garner more attention and get more in-person phone calls and meetings.”
Groves’ candidacy came with considerable controversy. Although he’s a registered Republican, the 22-year-old recent Political Science and Religion major from the University of Florida triggered a unique Florida law that restricted all registered Democrats, Independents and voters with no political affiliations from participating in the primary.
Rules say if there are no candidates from an opposing party, all voters can participate in the primary and the winner will be declared the winner of the general election, as well.
There were no Democrats on the ballot, but with Groves’ write-in candidacy, there was opposition for the general election, so only registered Republicans were allowed to pick from a list of three Republican candidates.
That exclusion kept nearly 70,000 non-Republicans from voting for the next superintendent.
Write-ins also effected the races for sheriff and tax collector, although both candidates withdrew a day following the primary.
Groves insists he wasn’t aware of the little-known law. And he said nobody convinced him to run to manipulate the primary.
“I heard that’s a Clay County strategy,” he said. “I had no idea. In all those years I studied Political Science, all the ins and outs, I have never heard of this rule. It wasn’t until after I filed and started getting all of these messages on Facebook and phone calls, that somebody told me. You’ve got to be kidding me. I quickly became very unpopular on the Clay County Word of Mouth page.
“I had no idea the attention it would get.”
Groves said his candidacy is real, and he has no plans to quit.
“One of my priorities is getting the ones [teachers] who stay the raises they deserve. I’m a believer if you have experience, you deserve a raise every year. You’re valuable to the entire school system,” he said.
“As the superintendent, I believe in transparency. I believe in being accountable to your constituents. I believe that if you vote for me to do a job, I also expect you to check in on me. It’s not just that I’m going to do the job that I told you, during the tenure I expect accountability – more than just a meeting every now and then or a town hall. I want you to actively to be able to call me, talk to me.”
But first, you have to remember his name.