County commission incumbents cull victories in Republican primaries
By DREW WINCHESTER, “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com
Incumbents ruled the County Commission roost following Tuesday’s primary election, with only one district race coming close to having any real competition.
Cape Coral Mayor Eric Feichthaler challenged Bob Janes for the District 1 seat, garnering 17,303 total votes. He ultimately lost to Janes, who clocked 19,009 votes, and will go on to face A.J. Boyd and Carla Brooks Johnston, each of whom are running without party affiliation, in the November general election.
Feichthaler is scheduled to step down as mayor in November.
“With the resources and the staff we had, we ran the best campaign we could,” Feichthaler said. “Running against an eight-year incumbent was a challenge.”
While his political future remains uncertain, Feichthaler said he would not accept a possible appointment by city council to allow him to serve his fourth year as mayor. He said his immediate plans are to focus on his remaining 11 weeks in office.
“I will not accept appointment as mayor. It’s not fair to the people of Cape Coral and not fair to the council,” he said.
Janes announced the next four years would indeed be his final term if he comes out victorious in the November election.
He said he won the primary by sticking to his usual routine of hard work and organization, and toeing the line on managing growth and looking to the future of the county.
“People will be able to see a county they like and recognize as their county,” Janes said. “And with more people coming in, we will be able to provide the high level of service in order to meet their needs.“
Lost amid the two candidates who garnered a large percentage of the votes was Gerard David Jr., who ran in the Republican primary on a platform of bringing solar energy and the movie industry to Southwest Florida.
For his second shot at a commission seat, David Jr. earned 4,435 votes. He called himself the “professional candidate” and plans to run again in 2010, maybe challenging Tammy Hall for the District 4 seat.
“I’m always the person who believes in change and wants change,” he said. “I feel bad for the county, I can’t believe they would re-elect the same people.“
The District 3 primary was less of a competition, as incumbent Ray Judah virtually swamped challenger and former Fort Myers Beach mayor Anita Cereceda with 66.44 percent of the total votes. Cereceda earned 14,003 votes, while Judah’s votes totaled 27,723.
There was some controversy in early July as the Republican Party of Lee County endorsed Cereceda. Historically, the local party has not chosen sides when one Republican candidate faces another in the primary.
Commission Chair Judah was openly critical of the party and its chairman, Gary Lee, calling the primary election the party’s official endorsement.
Following the results of the primary, Judah called Gary Lee’s political tactics “sleazy,” and was overwhelmed by the support of the mainstream Republicans from around the county.
“I’m very, very grateful and deeply humbled by the results,” Judah said, “even though the Republican Executive Committee really did their level best to destroy this election.“
Cereceda said there was frustration that arose throughout the race as whether the Republican Party should make endorsements in the first place.
She added the loss does not change her life, and that she ran because of her passion for public service.
“My intention was to sacrifice some of my time, and to be a part of the process,” she said. “I would have loved to have had the opportunity to serve the people of Lee County.“
Judah faces Les Cochran, who is running without party affiliation, in November.
Incumbent Frank Mann retained his commission seat by a landslide, beating challenger Shawn Seliger with 60.73 percent of the total vote.
Mann said Seliger ran a “fairly negative” campaign against him, but he retained the victory by sticking closely to same platform that got him elected to a short term two years ago.
“I still got the same percentage of votes I got two years ago,” he said.
“And it still seems to be the direction that most of the county residents want to see the county continue to go.“
Seliger said he was “disappointed” with the total number of Republicans who turned out to vote, but wished Commissioner Mann luck. He was unsure whether he would run again in the future, but that he would never-say-never.
“I feel honored to have been able to run for public office and will continue to do everything I can for Lee County as a private citizen,” he said. “It was a great experience, and I got to meet a lot of wonderful people.“
Mann ended with 25,203 votes, and Seliger ended with 16,300 votes. Mann faces Dick Kuhn and Steve “Sonny” Haas, each of whom is running without party affiliation, in November.
Results are considered unofficial until they are certified by the Lee County Elections Office.
South Lee County Messenger Editor Clinton Burton contributed to this report