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Harpring challenges Swan for election post

STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of August 9, 2012)
Photo of Leslie Swan and Sandi Harping.

One is hoping her experience running elections will land her the job.

The other hopes voters will pick her to take over the top spot at the supervisor of elections office when the race is decided next week.

The position pays $99,000 a year, about an 11th of the total budget.  There are fewer than a dozen full and part-time employees at the Supervisor of Elections office, along with about 400 poll workers who earn a nominal fee for their work when elections roll around.

Leslie Swan, 53, has been in the top position for the past 17 months after being appointed by Gov. Rick Scott when the former Supervisor Kay Clem resigned from the position for health reasons.  Swan bested 12 others, including her current challenger for the position,  Sandi Harpring.

Harping, 41,  never gave up  and said immediately after learning that Swan, who had held the No. 2 spot before Clem resigned, was getting the appointment that she would campaign for the position when elections rolled around this year.

The race will be decided in the Republican primary Aug. 14 because Swan and Harping, both Republicans, have no Democratic challengers.

Both women are affable and attractive; their smiles and demeanors exude home-town charm. Both graduated from Vero Beach High School and have spent decades in Indian River County.

From high school, Swan went on to college studying interior design and public relations. 

She then worked in sales for Eastman Kodak for more than a decade before starting her own interior design business in town. She has been with the supervisor of elections office since 2004. 

In her early time with the office as a voter outreach coordinator, she prepared press releases, planned education programs for school-aged children and trained poll workers. By 2008, she was named assistant supervisor of elections. When Clem submitted her resignation letter to then-Gov. Charlie Crist, Clem told Crist that Swan would serve the citizens well in the position.

“I am an election professional, not a politician,” Swan wrote in a questionnaire.

After high school, Harpring became a secretary in the Office of the Public Defender. Eight years later, she moved to a law office and spent the next 11 years as office manager, a legal assistant or secretary.  In 2001, she earned a bachelor's of science degree from Nova Southeastern University in professional management.

From law work, Harping then jumped into politics. She has been serving as the senior executive assistant to state Rep. Debbie Mayfield.

Harpring has been a member of the Indian River County Executive Committee since 2007 and the past president of Republican Women Aware group. 

Harpring was Mayfield’s campaign manager in 2008 and 2010.

Even though she has been deeply involved in politics in recent years, Harpring says her experience in the private sector will allow her to evaluate and plan the elections office budget and “ensure the office functions efficiently and at the lowest costs to taxpayers,” she wrote in a questionnaire.

“This election is about changing the way our government works,” Harpring wrote. “It’s the difference between elected officials who want to spend more and electing someone who understands public service and who is willing to do more while saving taxpayer dollars.”