Naples Daily News endorses Tuff

August 20, 2016

Russell Tuff earns our endorsement for the Republican nomination among three exceptional GOP candidates in Collier County Commission District 3.

What crystallizes the decision for us is that this is a district race, not a countywide contest. We’re not sure there’s been a commission contest in recent times with a candidate more recognizable as the neighborhood guy, as we’d describe Tuff.

Through decades of civic service, Tuff already is the face of District 3, centered in the densely packed, working-class Golden Gate community. He not only knows the agenda for the district, he’s been actively leading the way in setting it.

His exhaustive community service resume has included president of the Golden Gate Area Civic Association, president of the Golden Gate Chamber of Commerce, Collier County planning commissioner, Collier County Economic Advisory Council, the county’s first tourism board, Naples-area chamber, member of the committee that created the Golden Gate Master Plan and serving on the Collier Republican Executive Committee, for starters. That doesn’t count his time coaching youth football, Little League baseball and serving as a Cub Scout leader in this family-oriented district. This is all since Tuff, 57, moved to Collier County in 1989.

For this level of dedication, there has to be a reward. We suggest it’s selection to the GOP nomination in District 3.

Only registered Republicans who reside in District 3 vote in this Aug. 30 primary. The Republican winner among Tuff, longtime public servant and attorney Burt Saunders and businessman/up-and-comer Ron Kezeske moves on to Nov. 8. The primary winner faces Democrat Annisa Karim, who likewise has a well-credentialed resume, making for a competitive matchup to come in the general election.

The challengers

We can’t overstate how impressive Tuff’s competition is in this Aug. 30 race.

Saunders, 67, a resident since 1982, began here as Collier County government’s attorney, served as a county commissioner, and also as a member of the Florida House and state Senate. He’s been a lobbyist for county government, and attorney for the city of Marco Island and Village of Estero. His network of connections reaches far beyond District 3 to Tallahassee. If this were an at-large commission race, he would be a formidable choice.

Kezeske, 29, is comparatively a newcomer, having moved here in 2009. He’s a real estate investment manager and co-owner of a dog-training business. As a member of the Naples Jaycees and volunteer adviser on county public safety and code enforcement boards, he’s quickly grasped the key issues facing Collier County.

We dwell on their accomplishments to reinforce how our recommendation of Tuff is truly choosing the best of the best.


So what would the neighborhood guy do?

We’re convinced Tuff will continue his demonstrated track record of attacking head-on any Golden Gate-area scourges that emerge, just as he did the once intolerable far-wafting landfill smell and the past prevalence of drug houses in that community.

There are too few sidewalks for kids now walking in the streets to and from school. That’s a big issue on his radar that illustrates his understanding of District 3’s needs. What about providing safe, affordable places to live for everyone? Figuring out ways to expand what’s offered and affordability in the rental market is his focus, which is an appropriate strategy in already well-developed District 3.

He wants to end the longstanding battle between the Collier clerk of courts and commission in which he sees both sides as obstinate – “diplomacy will be a nice change,” he said.

Tuff stated at the recent Naples Daily News debate he will stand by historical promises to property owners and residents to provide community recreation at Golden Gate Country Club, not more development. A municipal golf course there? Possibly, he said.

Zoning that allows noisy businesses backing up to residential areas? Tuff questions why, when that’s been a problem in the past, it’s not a lesson learned to prevent another divisive debate elsewhere. Drainage and water system problems? Tuff is aware.

Why wouldn’t he know? He’s the neighborhood guy, the one we endorse in the County Commission District 3 primary.