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Incumbents clear but voters give challengers top spots in Cape Council primaries

By Staff | Sep 13, 2011

By DREW WINCHESTER

dwinchester@breezenewspapers.com

For Cape resident Joanne Santangelo, Tuesday’s primary election came down to one issue: public safety.

The mayor’s recent veto of the budgets for the police and fire departments, along with the city’s apparent interest in outsourcing the fire department, drove Santangelo to Vienyard Church to cast her ballot before the polls closed on Tuesday.

“I’m angry they are trying to get rid of our cops and firefighters,” she said. “There’s other ways to make up the $4.5 million (deficit). I’d rather my taxes go up a little than cut any of our police and fire.”

Santangelo wasn’t alone. While the incumbent City Council members survived Tuesday’s primary election, voters almost overwhelmingly supported political newcomers in three races, all of which are former or current safety personnel.

The incumbents will have some catching up to do if they hope to retain their seats another four years.

Pete Brandt, Bill Deile and Dr. Derrick Donnell all cleared Tuesday’s primary election but were, in some cases, heavily trumped by their challengers.

In District 2, Brandt garnered 2,873 votes, while John Carioscia, a former police officer, received 4,090 votes.

Deile got 3,403 votes in District 3, but former Cape Coral firefighter Lenny Nesta earned 5,273 votes.

Donnell got 2,473 votes in District 7 and current Charlote County firefighter Dave Stokes garnered 4,135 votes.

District 5 had no incumbent but was the most crowded. Rana Erbrick garnered the most votes in the district with 2,356, while William “Scott” Morris pulled in 2,135 votes.

All eight candidates will now face off in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Turnout in this year’s primary was low – only 11.11 percent of registered voters in Cape Coral cast their ballots, equating to 10,333 votes cast overall.

Lee County Supervisor of Elections Supervisor Sharon Harrington didn’t know why voter turnout was so low.

“It’s sad,” she said. “With so much controversy I figured there would be more people out there.”

Higher early voting numbers didn’t equate to higher primary numbers and Harrington doesn’t know if low primary numbers will equate to another low General Election turnout.

Absentee ballots were also low. 3,100 ballots were sent out and 1,242 were returned.

Harrington said her office has tried to educate the public about voting opportunities including early voting and absentee, but the public, by large, did not respond.

“I don’t know what more we could do,” she said.

Eileyn Sobeck-Bador, whose Facebook page “Get Out and Vote … Take Back the Cape,” said she was disappointed by the voter turnout, but the turnout was in fact higher than 2009’s primary election.

She thinks the General Election will be different.

“The thing is, a lot of people don’t vote in the primary, they wait for the General Election,” she said.

Sobeck-Bador’s Facebook page has come under fire by some as anti-incumbent instead of encouraging people to vote.

That was never the case, she said, and they plan on doubling their efforts in trying to get people to the polls.

She said she would like to organize a true debate for the remaining eight candidates, giving them an opportunity to provide more than just “sound bites.”

“We’re going to get out there and keep educating and motivating people,” she said. “We’ve learned a few lessons along the way and a few ideas for improvement.