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Clerk of Courts race features Universal Primary

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By CJ HADDAD - | Jul 21, 2022

Kevin Karnes

With the official ballots for the 2022 elections having dropped this week, The Breeze is giving voters a deeper look into the candidates they will have the opportunity to vote for in the Aug. 23 primary.

The Universal Primary for the Clerk of Court & Comptroller sees two Cape Coral residents facing off, as incumbent Kevin Karnes and Liza King are candidates.

Both are Republicans but all voters have it on their ballots and may vote regardless of party affiliation as there are no other candidates.

The Breeze asked both Karnes and King questions to provide insight into their thoughts on policy and how to best serve the residents of Southwest Florida.

Kevin Karnes

Liza King

Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Karnes as Lee County Clerk of Court & Comptroller in March of 2022, filling the seat of retired Clerk Linda Doggett.

Karnes, 34, is a 15-year veteran of the office and previously served as chief operating officer, overseeing approximately 300 employees in departments handling court services, finance and technology. He said he has implemented new services giving the public more convenient access to the courts while improving efficiencies for the judiciary and attorneys through video conferencing, online scheduling and online document certification.

Karnes started his career with the Lee Clerk’s office in 2007 as a part-time file clerk while seeking his degree at Florida Gulf Coast University. He worked his way up to evidence clerk, operations manager, chief of courts, and eventually, chief operating officer. Karnes has been actively involved in the community for more than 10 years. He serves on the board of directors of the United Way and on the Florida Bar grievance committee for the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida. He recently chaired the Cape Coral Redistricting Commission, which proposed new district maps to the Cape Coral City Council following the 2020 Census.

Karnes previously served as the president of the Southwest Florida Young Republicans from 2016 to 2020 and was on the Lee County Republican Executive Committee for nearly a decade.

When asked what prompted him to run, Karnes replied: “I have worked in the Clerk’s Office for 15 years and I’m running to remain the Clerk and Comptroller of Lee County because I have the knowledge, experience, and vision to make this office succeed. When Clerk Doggett retired, there was no hesitation on my part to file my paperwork so that I could build upon her success and serve our community. When Governor DeSantis appointed me as Clerk in March, he knew that I have the passion and ability to protect tax payer money, hold our local government accountable, and ensure open access to government records. As your Clerk and Comptroller, I serve as the check and balance on our local government and I’m committed to serving our taxpayers in the best possible way.”

When asked what his main focus would be on day one if elected, Karnes said: “My top priority as the elected Clerk and Comptroller will be putting together a property fraud task force to stop criminals from stealing the homes of hardworking citizens of this county. I’ve already started discussions with legislative leaders, property experts, and legal professionals to put forth ideas that can stop criminals in their tracks. My other top priority is to better educate county residents on how their taxpayer dollars are spent and managed. As the County Accountant and Comptroller, I want to better advertise the financial health of our county.”

When asked what major changes that he believes need to take place, Karnes replied: “For Property Fraud the state law needs to change to permit the government to address fraud when they see it. The law as it exists today, is reactive and I believe it could be changed to benefit homeowners. One specific idea is to have photo identification be filed as supporting documentation when a quit claim deed is filed with my office, that way if a document is deemed fraudulent, my office can produce evidence that helps law enforcement investigate the crime.”

When asked why he believes he is the right candidate to take on this role, Karnes said: “I’m the right person for this job because Governor DeSantis appointed me to this position. He chose someone who he knew could do the work of Clerk and Comptroller and do it well. I’m already doing the work, have no learning curve, and can immediately get to work on my ideas to serve you. In addition to those reasons, I have 15 years of working in the Clerk’s Office and have the support of many of our public officials throughout the county. I would be honored to have your vote on August 23rd.”

To learn more about Karnes and his campaign, visit VoteKevinKarnes.com

Liza King

King is a Lee County native with proud Cuban-American roots. She graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and an emphasis in Forensic Psychology.

King, 47, began her career with the Lee County Clerk’s Office in 1993. A few years later, she decided to pursue her next venture as a Court Investigator with the Administrative Office of the Courts. King moved through the ranks of the Criminal Division. She served as a Pretrial Services Manager, Deputy Criminal Justice Director and then Criminal Division Director. The criminal division includes the Lee County Pretrial Services, which is a 24/7 operation, and the Lee County Probation Department. In 2018, she was promoted and is currently serving as Chief Deputy Court Administrator for the 20th Judicial Circuit.

Under King’s leadership, the Lee County Criminal Division gained accreditation through the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission. Lee County is one of only five agencies in the state to be accredited. The Criminal Division was also awarded with a NACO achievement award for the implementation of the Criminal Case Management program.

King is a certified court manager and a certified pretrial services professional (PSP). She also served as a Commissioner for the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission (FCAC). She was nominated as a “40 under 40” recipient and was most recently selected as a nominee for the Women of Distinction award.

She was appointed to serve on the Lee County Charter Review Commission as well as the Florida Gulf Coast University, Department of Justice Studies Advisory Board. King served on the board of the inaugural Hispanic Heritage Festival and 5K event. She currently serves on a United Way fund distribution review team and is on the board of the Multicultural Centre of SWFL-The Big Backpack event. King is currently vice president for the Lee County Republican Women of Cape Coral Club and Precinct Representative for the Lee County Republican Executive Committee. She is a member of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Florida and is an active member of Step of Faith Ministries, where she has recently served as youth pastor and an usher.

When asked what prompted her to run, King replied: “My only agenda is to utilize my knowledge, skills and abilities to improve public safety, conserve taxpayer dollars and serve and give back to the community that raised me.”

When asked what her main focus would be on day one if elected, King said: “My overall goals are to promote public safety; save taxpayer dollars and ensure that we provide the highest level of customer service. I also plan to focus from day one on the employees. They are the backbone of the organization. I will enhance employee relations by listening to them and understanding the employees’ concerns and then, as a team, we will ensure reasonable solutions.”

When asked what major changes that she believes need to take place, King replied: “Re-align the vision of the office to include prioritizing the foundation (core essential functions) of the organization by placing emphasis on promoting public safety, fiscal efficiency and customer service.”

When asked why she believes she is the right candidate to take on this role, King said: “I am the perfect fit. I am beyond experienced and qualified for this position with 29 years of experience — 19 years in a leadership capacity — both inside the Clerk’s office and in other parts of the judicial system. This gives me a better perspective on the role the Clerk’s office plays in the judicial system to improve public safety. My expertise is in overseeing operations (building sustainable systems) and employee relations shows that I am a proven and trusted leader and that is exactly what the employees and community deserve of our next Lee County Clerk of the Circuit Court.”

For more information on King and her campaign, visit votelizakingforclerk.com.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

Editor’s note: This story has been updated and corrected to reflect that this is a Universal Primary.