Surprise winners top elections
Lee County Republicans ousted a long-time county commissioner, swept in a Republican nominee with no political experience as their Congressional choice and went for experience in three constitutional offices Tuesday.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Larry Kiker upset incumbent Ray Judah, who has held the District 3 seat on the Lee County Commission since 1988.
Kiker culled 36,614 votes, or nearly 64 percent to Judah’s 20,658.
Kiker will now face Charlie Whitehead, who is running without party affiliation in the General Election in November.
“I’d be lying to you if I couldn’t tell you this is not exciting,” Kiker said as the numbers came in Tuesday night. “This is probably the most exciting thing to happen to me since I’ve been in political office.
“People said they wanted new leadership, and I hope I represent that to them,” he added.
In the crowded District 19 primary for the seat Connie Mack will vacate in his bid for U.S. Senate, Trey Radel, a former WINK news anchor and radio talk show host, beat two state House reps – Paige Kreegel and Gary Aubuchon – as well as familiar name candidate Chauncey Porter Goss and two others to emerge as the GOP victor.
Radel earned 22,207 votes, or 29.98 percent of the vote in the six-way primary. Kreegel culled 13,110 votes, or 17.7 percent; Aubuchon, 11,476 votes or 15.49 percent; Goss 15,929, or 21.51 percent; Byron Donalds, 10,320 votes, or 13.93 percent; and Joe Davidow, 1,025 votes, or 1.38 percent.
Radel was the top vote getter in Lee County but Donalds took his home county of Collier.
Radel will face Democrat Jim Roach and Brandon M. Smith, no party affiliation, in the Nov. 6 General Election.
Meanwhile, Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott easily earned his party’s nomination following a heated primary with challenger Tim Fisher, a 17-year veteran who had resigned his position with the department to run against the two-term incumbent.
Scott received 43,970 votes, or 73.84 percent, to Fisher’s 15,576.
Scott will face Lee C. Bushong, who is running without party affiliation, and Christian Meister, a write-in candidate, in November.
Republicans voters also tapped experience for their choices for Lee County Clerk of the Courts and Lee County Tax Collector.
For Clerk of the Courts, GOP voters swept in the 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 will face 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.
Lee said it’s tough for newcomers to break into the political scene in Lee County, however he wishes Hart every success.
“I’d like to congratulate Larry,” Lee said. “I think he’ll do a great job in the position.”
Hart will face James Chandler, who is running without party affiliation, in November.
All results are unofficial until certified on Friday.
Republicans faced a crowded primary ballot Tuesday with choices also including State House, three county commission races and a handful of party committee and precinct posts.
The ballot also offered all voters choices in some key non-partisan races, including two school board seats and four judicial races.
Total turnout 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.
These numbers disappointed 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.
“They basically packed it up and brought it in to the Election Center,” she said.
Residents who voted agree casting a ballot is important.
“It’s my privilege as an American citizen. I like to get my vote noticed,” said Lynette Brown of Cape Coral, who has been a registered Republican since she was first able to vote.
“I just try to vote in all the elections that I can,” she added, saying she will do more research on the candidates and be back in November.
Christopher Moore of Cape Coral took a similar view.
“I think it’s very important,” he said of voting.
The races that drew him to the polls included the races for U.S. Senate, Congress, sheriff, school board.
“My perception is there were a lot of viable candidates for many races,” Moore said.
Nancy Ramos of Cape Coral was among the Democrats who turned out to vote.
“It’s my responsibility as a citizen,” she said. “I think every vote is important in this election.”
No particular race brought her out as there were not a lot of races that she could vote in because they were closed Republican primaries.
“We didn’t get a lot,” she said of the races open Tuesday to Democrats.
Looking to November, she said was hoping to support Mike Scott, Gary Aubuchon and Dane Eagle, adding she does not always vote along the party lines.
“I will vote my conscience,” Ramos said.
Other races of note include:
House Race, District 77 (Republican Primary)
Chris Berardi – 4,179 votes
* Dane Eagle – 10,011 votes (70.55 percent)
* Republican primary victor. Eagle will face Democrat Arvella Clare in the Nov. 6 General Election.
Board of County Commissioners, District 2 (Republican Primary)
*Cecil L. Pendergrass – 17,067 votes (31.34 percent)
Doug St. Cerny – 13,837 votes
Don Stilwell – 13,144 votes
Warren Wright – 10,405 votes
* Republican primary victor. Pendergrass will face write-in candidate Neal Moore and independent John W. Sawyer in November
Board of County Commissioners (District 5) Republican Primary
Sonny Haas – 20,260 votes
*Frank Mann (I) – 34,802 votes (63.21 percent)
* Republican primary victor. Mann will face Independence Party of Florida candidate Matt Miller in November.
School Board, District 2 (Non-partisan)
* Robert ‘Bob” Chilmonik – 23,986 votes
Victor Dotres – 4,515 votes
*Jeanne S. Dozier (I) – 28,369 votes
Paul Schafer – 13,327 votes
* Runoff. Chilmonik and Dozier will face off in November.
School Board, District 3 (Non-partisan)
Les Cochran – 30,282 votes
*Cathleen Morgan – 34,889 votes
Observer Editor Bob Petcher and Associate Editor Tiffany Repecki contributed to this report.