Naples backs off limits to campaigning during Fourth of July parade
Image via City of Naples.

Greg Folley: 'Florida should be a place where we celebrate Free Speech.'

Independence Day celebrations and open campaigning typically go together like the colors red, white and blue. But Naples this year originally took steps to limit electioneering during its annual Fourth of July parade, upsetting some political candidates.

While the city has since backed down, it briefly generated an uproar in the conservative community.

Greg Folley, a Marco Island City Councilman running for the House, voiced anger when he learned of new limits.

“It seems ironic that in a county known for being the epitome of the slogan Free State of Florida that the largest and most festive occasion of the year to celebrate America’s freedom and political heritage would be used as an opportunity to squelch the free expression of people making statements about politics and political issues,” the Naples Republican said in an email blast to supports.

Last year, Folley had a dozen T-shirt-adorned volunteers walking the streets promoting his candidacy. But barely two months before a House District 81 Republican Primary against Yvette Benarroch, he worried that he won’t be allowed to do the same this year.

City officials say the change in policy actually aims to reduce garbage, not politics.

“In an effort to reduce litter and address safety concerns, the City of Naples Parade Committee, which consists of City staff, initially requested political candidates participating in the City’s 2024 Fourth of July Parade to refrain from passing out campaign materials during the parade,” said Monique Barnhart, a spokesperson for the City of Naples.

But Barnhart said pushback on the proposal prompted a reevaluation of the decision.

“After further discussions, the request has been rescinded,” she said. “The City of Naples is committed to ensuring the safety of parade participants and spectators, while minimizing excessive litter and potential safety hazards in our community.  We are hopeful parade participants will assist in this effort.”

The change happened after leaders of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee decried the city policy. Francis Cook, Vice Chair of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee, said he had heard from various candidates upset by the policy, and singled out Folley as ultimately changing minds at City Hall.

“On behalf of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee, I’d like to acknowledge our appreciation of the decision by the City of Naples to remove all campaigning restrictions from the rules of this year’s parade,” he said. “In our celebration of the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the principles of freedom that our country is founded upon ought to be respected and observed.”

Folley said he hopes even those opposed to his campaign benefit from the access to the parade.

“America and especially Florida should be a place where we celebrate Free Speech, and as a conservative, while I may not agree with an opponent, I will always defend their right to say what they believe and encourage them to gather support and campaign for their views,” he said.

“That’s what makes our nation different from the rest of the world. That is the same spirit that Ronald Reagan spoke with when he demanded that his third-party opponent be allowed to participate in a debate that the press corps was trying to keep constrained to the two major parties.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • My new name is Francis

    June 26, 2024 at 10:49 pm

    What’s with the NEW name? A month ago his name was Dan, NOW he is FRANCIS? Who is he trying to dodge? VERY Suspect! 🤔

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