In Key West, the tiny town with a mighty appetite for politics, candidates for elected office likely will be at Salute restaurant tonight for the "Call for Candidates" hosted by Hometown! political action committee.
"We have confirmation from at least 40 people," said Hometown chairman Todd German. "We've never had anything like this with this many people. It's kind of a must-attend for candidates."
The event at Salute at Higgs Beach starts with schmoozing and snacks at 5 p.m. Candidates will begin taking the stage and microphone at 5:30 p.m.
Qualifying for local races, including the School Board, is months away on June 8 and the primary is set for Aug. 14, with the Nov. 6 general election serving as an if-needed runoff.
So tonight's event welcomes anyone even thinking of running for office, and the two-minute time limit on the microphone will be strictly enforced.
"We are starting at 5:30," German said. "And at 1 minute, 50 seconds of your speech, I'll be standing right next to you. We just can't fool around."
Hometown PAC's mission is to inform voters, encourage qualified candidates to run and increase action at the polls. This year, a Hometown PAC membership costs $20 for individuals and $30 for households, but the group welcomes higher donations, according to its website, www.hometownkeywest.com
The candidates will speak in the order they appear on the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections website, www.keys-elections.org. Click on the left-hand table of contents link "Candidates and their Finances," under Election Data.
Some of the most crowded races so far include two wide open offices: the School Board race to replace retiring incumbent Duncan Mathewson that has drawn five candidates, and the sheriff's race for a successor to retiring Monroe County Sheriff Bob Peryam.
Hometown even scrambled to include in the program the two newest candidates on the ballot. Howard Hubbard and Yvette Mira-Talbott both filed papers Friday to take on 20-year School Board incumbent Andy Griffiths.
It's the first competition Griffiths has seen in the 2012 election since announcing on Feb. 2 that he would seek a sixth term.
Both Hubbard and Mira-Talbott signed up, but did not include any information about themselves on the county's election website and did not contact the local press.
The 2012 Monroe County ballot still has six of 14 races unopposed, including incumbents County Commissioner Heather Carruthers and County Judge Wayne Miller.
Hometown's last candidate forum, in August, featured a political newcomer named Tony "Fat" Yaniz, who announced to the crowd that he was the only person who "has the cojones" to fight for his City Commission District 4.
"It's time for fresh blood," Yaniz told the crowd. "Please vote for me."
Yaniz quickly became a popular commissioner, beating former City Manager Julio Avael for the seat, and is now known for speaking his mind from the dais, clashing with Mayor Craig Cates and pleading at meetings, "Let's get down to the meat of the coconut."
German did promise that Hometown event scheduled for this coming August will be held indoors this year, after the crowd last summer braved sweltering outdoor temperatures in the garden of a New Town hotel.
Tonight's forum begin at 5 p.m. at Salute restaurant at Higgs Beach in Key West.