Villages safe for politicos
Candidate alleged he was shut out; no official response
COURTESY : Daily Commercial
By Benjamin Roode
Published February 13, 2008


THE VILLAGES - A Republican candidate for Florida's 42nd House district says he's been allowed back in The Villages for door-to-door campaigning.

Candidate Will Pruitt said Villages attorney Steve Roy contacted his attorney, Michael Norvell of Leesburg, saying all political candidates were allowed to canvass door-to-door in The Villages, contrary to what Pruitt was told in recent weeks.

"I think this is nothing but a victory for the people," Pruitt said. "It just shows our constitution is as strong as it ever has been about the First Amendment and freedom of speech."

Officials from The Villages' deed compliance office called Pruitt several times to tell him he could not canvass up and down Villages streets, said Deed Compliance Director Nick Xenos. Deed restrictions for The Villages say "the developer reserves the right to prohibit or control all peddling, soliciting, selling, delivery and vehicular traffic within the subdivision."

Last week, Norvell sent a letter to Villages attorney Steve Roy asking whether Pruitt was allowed to go door-to-door in The Villages. The letter included a U.S. Supreme Court case they argued showed local governments couldn't bar political candidates from campaigning house-by-house.

Roy told Norvell the whole thing was a misunderstanding and that any politician can reach Villagers that way as long as they are actively campaigning, Norvell said.

There should not have been a question as to whether Pruitt or any politician can reach voters, Norvell said.

"There's no reason why the Supreme Court decision doesn't apply to The Villages," Norvell said.

Roy did not return phone messages left with his office. Village Center District Manager Janet Tutt said deed compliance was a developer-related issue and referred questions on the topic to Roy and Villages Developer Gary Morse. Villages spokesman Gary Lester did not return a message left with his office.

Xenos said Monday he did not know of any exemptions to the restrictions for political candidates and referred any clarification to Roy.

Monday, Pruitt said he planned on getting into The Villages as soon as possible to campaign again.

"I'm already beating the pavement," he said.