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Incumbents Manning, Bigelow move on to general election for commission seats

By Staff | Aug 24, 2010

With 100 percent of the 171 precincts counted, it appears the incumbents in the Lee County Commission races will more forward to the general election.
District 1 Commissioner John Manning and District 2 Commissioner Brian Bigelow garnered the most votes Tuesday during the primary election. The Lee County Supervisor of Elections Office reported that Manning pulled 36.20 percent of the votes in his race and Bigelow took about 42.86 percent in his.
Manning had 18,263 votes and Bigelow had 21,483 votes.
Manning could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bigelow said he was “extremely humbled.”
“I think that the voters showed that they appreciate my service on the board,” he said, adding that if he wins the general election, he hopes to do as well or better during his second term. “I think that there’s a lot of changes that still need to be made.”
Bigelow will face off against Debbie Jordan, who is running as a Democrat, on Nov. 2 for the District 2 seat. Manning will square off against Carla Johnston, who is running with no party affiliation, in November for the District 1 seat.
Bob Chilmonik came in as a close second Tuesday in the District 1 race with nearly 34.61 percent of the votes, or 17,457 votes. Chris Berardi came in third with about 15.25 percent, or 7,694 votes, and Mike Jackson came in fourth with nearly 13.94 percent of the votes, or 7,030 votes.
Chilmonik congratulated Manning on the win.
“I wish him all the luck in the world,” he said. “He ran a very strong race and I’ll look forward to seeing his work on the county commission.”
Berardi echoed that.
“I wish him the best of luck,” he said. “It was a tough race with all good candidates.”
Jackson said it was hard to garner enough support in such a short time.
“I also believe that it’s very difficult to overcome the equity that an incumbent, such as John Manning or Bob Chilmonik, might be able to bring forward,” he said. “Name recognition is everything. I think that’s all that it comes down to.”
“This is a decision by the voters on who they knew, not on what they knew,” Jackson added.
In the District 2 race, Cecil Pendergrass took second place with nearly 27 percent, or 13,530 votes. Dick Ripp came in third with about 20 percent, or 9,985 votes, and Sonny Haas took fourth place with just over 10 percent of the votes, or 5,127.
Pendergrass could not immediately be reached for comment.
Ripp congratulated Bigelow on the win and also thanked God, his wife and his supporters for the opportunity to run for the county commission seat.
“It was a long and trying campaign, that’s for sure,” he said.
Haas expressed anger about the results in various races Tuesday.
“If you don’t have the funds to send a nice brochure to the absentee ballot folks, you’re behind the eight ball, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “If you don’t have the money to run an at-large election, you’re out.”
Lee County Commission seats have a term of four years.
Along with the District 1 and 2 seats, the District 4 seat will be on the general election ballot. Two candidates qualified for the race. Incumbent Tammy Hall, who is running as a Republican, and Debbie Jackow. Jackow is running with no party affiliation.
The District 1 seat, which encompasses Sanibel, Captiva, Pine Island and Cape Coral, is scheduled to expire in 2012. The seat was left vacant by the death of Bob Janes in March. In July, Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Manning to the seat until voters could elect someone to serve out the remaining term.
The District 4 seat covers Cape Coral and North Fort Myers. While the District 2 seat encompasses Fort Myers, Cape residents can cast a ballot for the seat party-permitting because commission races are countywide.
The election results are unofficial until certified.