The St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce will once again host its “Politics in St. Johns” event this year, but due to crowd restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the event will be held online instead of in-person.
The Chamber’s “Politics in St. Johns” is a candidate meet-and-greet event that has grown and evolved over the years. The last two events, held in 2016 and 2018, were so well attended that they had to be split in two - one in St. Augustine, the other in Ponte Vedra.
Bob Porter, Vice President of Public Policy at the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, estimates that about 1,000 residents and 38 candidates participated in 2018.
“People in the good old days would show up and meet the candidates, talk to them, and be able to ask them questions face to face. But obviously with the crowd size restrictions and the logistics and everything else of trying to do an in-person event this year, we decided to take it into the virtual world” he said.
Candidates have been invited to submit a brief video, which will be available for public viewing beginning on July 27 at SJCChamber.com. The candidates’ contact information will also be provided so residents can reach out with questions. The Politics in St. Johns website will be live from July 27 to August 19.
Candidates can register online here and can submit videos through July 24. Porter said 20 candidates have signed up for the website so far.
Live conversations featuring candidates for St. Johns County Sheriff and County Commission are also being planned for the week of August 10. Those will be simulcast on Zoom and Facebook Live. Audience members will be able to ask questions through a moderator.
“We want St. Johns County citizens to have access to all our candidates and their platforms, so they can make informed decisions for the upcoming election cycle,” said Isabelle Renault, president and CEO of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. “The beauty about hosting this event virtually is that residents who may not have been able to travel to the events in the past are now able to join us and interact with candidates in a safe, efficient, and convenient way. We are looking forward to reaching more residents than ever before with the information they need to make an informed decision to cast their vote.”
The chamber is also planning to conduct straw polls this year.
“While the results won’t necessarily reflect what will happen when the official polls open, they will provide excitement and feedback to participating candidates,” Porter said.
Residents can register to vote and see the 2020 candidate list at VoteSJC.com. The primary election is on Tuesday, Aug. 18 with early voting on August 6-15. The general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 3 with early voting on Oct. 19-31.