Following a trend set in the 2010 midterm elections, some fresh, young and inexperienced candidates came to the forefront in Florida's primary election Tuesday.
Nowhere is that more evident than in Lee County where Republican voters chose former radio talk show host Trey Radel to represent them in November's general election for U.S. Representative 19th District that includes Sanibel and Captiva. Radel beat out five other candidates for the seat now held by Rep. Connie Mack, who earned the party nod Tuesday for U.S. Senate with 69.7 percent of the votes, crushing four challengers.
Sanibel's own Chauncey Goss lost his bid to Radel, who garnered 32.2 percent of the vote. Radel drew 16,929 votes while Goss drew 11,322 (21.6 percent). Dr. Paige Kreegel finished third with just under 10,000 votes.
Radel will face Democrat Jim Roach and Brandon M. Smith, no party affiliation, on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Goss, the son of former U.S. Congressman and CIA director Porter Goss, salvaged one race. He ran away with 42.7 percent of the votes cast for Republican Precinct 117 Committeeman, beating four other challengers.
Total voter turnout Tuesday was less than 22 percent. Of Lee County's 375,727 registered voters, 80,601 cast ballots with turnout the highest among Republicans - 36.34 percent - and lowest among non-party affiliated voters - 5.79 percent. Voter turnout among Democrats was 12.96 percent. A total of 74,067 Republicans cast their ballots.
All results are unofficial until certified on Friday.
These numbers disappoint Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington.
"I thought the turnout was horrible," she said. "It was much, much lower than I thought it would be with all the important races we had on the ballot. I was disappointed, and I'm sure the candidates were - there were many important races on the ballot and the candidates worked very, very hard."
Election night went smoothly with no major problems. The only glitch was the last precinct to report, Precinct 125 in Bonita Springs, had difficulty transmitting its results.
In the District 76 State Representative race of interest to Sanibel and Captiva, Ray Rodrigues won the GOP race with 49.9 percent of the votes. His 10,484 votes was almost double those for Michael Grant at 5,848. Chauncey Solinger was third in the three-man race with 4,651 votes.
Also, a special assessment for station improvements for the Upper Captiva Fire District was voted down by a 56-41 margin.
In county-wide races, Lee Republicans ousted long-time incumbent county commissioner Ray Judah. Fort Myers Beach Mayor Larry Kiker defeated Judah, who has held the District 3 seat since 1988. Kiker will face Charlie Whitehead, who is running without party affiliation in November.
Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott handily captured his party's nomination following a heated primary with challenger Tim Fisher, a 17-year veteran of the department who had resigned his position to run against the two-term incumbent. Scott garnered 73.84 percent of the vote to 26.16 percent for Fisher.
Scott called Tuesday's sweep more than a mandate of his leadership.
"It's a mandate for the sheriff's office," he said. "The budget's down, crime's down and the sheriff's office is performing at a high level."
Scott, who has two terms under his belt as sheriff, attributed the high number of votes to the public recognizing the hard work that he puts in.
"I'm immersed in the community," he said, adding that means on a law enforcement and on a public level. "I just want to thank the voters."
Scott will run against Lee C. Bushong, who is running without party affiliation, and Christian Meister, a write-in candidate, in November.
Republican voters also tapped experience in their choices for Lee County Clerk of the Courts and Lee County Tax Collector.
GOP voters chose the clerk office's chief operating officer, Linda Doggett, over Lee County Commissioner Brian Bigelow, who will resign his commission seat. Doggett earned 38,796 votes, or 69.42 percent; Bigelow received 17,092.
Doggett takes on Harry H. Beeman, a write-in candidate, in November.
For Tax Collector, GOP voters chose Larry Hart, who served as assistant tax collector for 11 years before he was appointed tax collector this summer by Gov. Rick Scott to fill the position left vacant by the death of Catherine Curtis. Hart earned 37,038 votes, or 68.92 percent. Kyle Lee, a small business owner, received 16,706.
Hart faces James Chandler, who is running without party affiliation, in November.
In the nonpartisan Lee County school board race, Jeanne Dozier claimed the District 2 seat while Cathleen Morgan won the District 3 seat.
Among the circuit judges in the 20th Judicial Circuit, Meg Steinbeck, Joe Foster, Lisa Spader Porter and George C. Richards beat out their respective competition.
Other winners Tuesday include Cecil L. Pendergrass with 31.34 percent of the GOP vote for County Commission District 2 and Frank Mann with 63.21 percent of the GOP vote for County Commission District 5.
On the Democratic ticket, incumbent Bill Nelson overwhelmingly defeated challenger Glenn Burkett with almost 77 percent of the party vote.
"I'm very honored that Lee County voters have chosen me to represent them in November," Pendergrass said.
He attributed the win to residents looking for a return of trust and transparency to county government, along with fiscal responsibility. He heard this a lot when going door to door for six weeks, he explained.
"They are looking to bring back trust, to bring back stability into the county government, and I'm the person to do that," Pendergrass said.
Pendergrass will face write-in candidate Neal Moore and independent John W. Sawyer and Mann will face Independence Party of Florida candidate Matt Miller in November.
Editors Val Harring, Bob Petcher, Tiffany Repecki and writer Chuck Ballaro contributed to this report.