Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Florida Politics
  4. /
  5. The Buzz

A Florida woman wants a turtle to be mayor of Clearwater. She’s not kidding.

“It sounds wacky,” Elizabeth Drayer said of her plan to get a turtle elected, “but it really isn’t.”
Elizabeth Drayer, 58, of Clearwater, wants to be the city's next mayor. Kind of. She's running on behalf of the loggerhead sea turtle species, which she says need proper political representation. [Elizabeth Drayer]
Elizabeth Drayer, 58, of Clearwater, wants to be the city's next mayor. Kind of. She's running on behalf of the loggerhead sea turtle species, which she says need proper political representation. [Elizabeth Drayer]
Published Sep. 26, 2019
Updated Sep. 26, 2019

Click here to read this story in Spanish

CLEARWATER ― This is not a joke. Elizabeth Drayer is adamant about that.

Clearwater needs something different in its next mayor, Drayer says. It doesn’t need a person with a background in finance or government or management. In fact, Clearwater doesn’t need a person at all.

Clearwater needs a sea turtle.

“The goal of this campaign is to elect a nonhuman to give nature a voice,” said Drayer, 58, the latest entrant into the Clearwater mayor’s race, in an interview.

Unfortunately, city rules say that candidates for office must be registered voters who live in Clearwater. Records show that no turtles fit the bill. So Drayer, a retired lawyer and environmental advocate, was planning to run under the name “Sea Turtle.”

She ran into trouble there, too. The city wouldn’t let her unless Drayer legally changed her name. So instead, Drayer will have to sign an affidavit to appear on the Clearwater ballot as “Elizabeth ‘Sea Turtle’ Drayer.”

Drayer said she has spent a lifetime in the environmental movement, and she’s got relatively little to show for it. In her view, the political system must be expanded to include ecosystems and animals. And that means giving them the right to vote and hold office ― through human guardians who would look out for their interests.

Her ideas are not without some precedent. Earlier this year, the citizens of Toledo, Ohio voted to give legal personhood to Lake Erie, theoretically giving citizens the legal role of guardian over the massive body of water. (The measure, which was passed to make it easier to hold polluters legally accountable, was immediately subjected to a legal challenge.)

“It sounds wacky,” Drayer said of her plan to get a turtle elected, “but it really isn’t.”

Still, Drayer appears to be taking the “Rights of Nature” movement a step further than the citizens of Toledo. She wants a legally guarded species in power.

Drayer said she has not selected a particular individual turtle to represent should she win the March 2020 election. Rather, as mayor, she would represent the interests of the loggerhead sea turtle species.

This would be a political sea change in Tampa Bay’s third largest city. Drayer said she understands that, and she’s ready for litigation if it comes to that.

“When our country was founded, women and racial minorities did not have the ability to hold office either,” Drayer said.

Beyond voting rights for animals, Drayer is running on a number of environmental policies, including transitioning Clearwater to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. She worries that unless humans take drastic steps to reverse the environmental destruction they’ve wrought, they will face extinction.

When asked whether she was worried her environmental platform would get lost amid the talk of electing a turtle, Drayer said “yes,” but that “the core goal here is to broaden voting rights and representation.”

The married mother of two joins two other candidates in the Clearwater mayor’s race, both human: former City Council Member Bill Jonson and former Mayor Frank Hibbard. Like her opponents, Drayer has lived in Clearwater for decades and has served on civic boards, such as the Charter Review Committee.

However, Jonson and Hibbard also have deep bases of support. They’ll likely both be able to raise thousands of dollars for their respective runs.

Drayer does not plan to match her opponents’ fundraising efforts.

“I’m not going to accept money contributions,” Drayer said. “The sea turtle cannot be bought.”

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  2. Attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this photo of his client, Lev Parnas (right) with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi on Friday, Jan. 17. Bondi on Friday was named on of President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers. [Twitter]
    Parnas’ lawyer tweeted out the photo of the former Florida attorney general along with #TheyAllKnew.
  3. Florida Senator Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, watches the action on the first day of the session, 1/14/2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A popular bill would allow judges to dole out punishments less than the mandatory minimum sentences spelled out in state law for many drug crimes if the defendant meets certain criteria.
  4. Vice President Mike Pence take selfies with supporters after giving a campaign speech during the "Keep America Great" rally at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ‘Come November the American people are going to have our say,’ Pence said.
  5. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  6. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, left, and the Florida Supreme Court, right, stand at attention as the colors are posted in the Florida Senate during the first day of the Florida legislative session in Tallahassee, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The court ruled that Amendment 4‘s “all terms of sentence” include the payment of all court fees, fines and restitution.
  7. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  8. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  9. Vice President Mike Pence points to supporters before speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) [TONY DEJAK  |  AP]
    Vice President Mike Pence will take the stage in New Tampa, at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t planned that way.
  10. <Samsung D70 / D75 / S730 / S750>
    For the first time since he was nominated by Gov. Ron DeSantis for the job of Florida Surgeon General, Scott Rivkees appeared before senators to answer questions that have been percolating for nine...
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement