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Two newcomers, one incumbent move on in commission races

By Staff | Aug 15, 2012

Tuesday’s primary election results were a mixed bag as eight Republicans in three Lee County commission races vied for a slot on the November ballot.

The races for the District 2, District 3 and District 5 seats on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners were closed Tuesday, meaning that only those voters who were registered as Republican could cast a ballot.

The top vote-getter in each race moves on to the general election.

On Nov. 6, Cecil L. Pendergrass will represent the Republican party in the District 2 race. Larry Kiker will represent the party in the District 3 race, and Frank Mann will represent the Republican party in the District 5 race.

District 2

Pendergrass took the win with about 31 percent of the votes – 17,067. Doug St. Cerny earned second place with 13,837 votes, or about 25 percent, and Don Stilwell took third with about 24 percent of the votes – 13,144.

Warren Wright rounded out last with about 19 percent, or 10,405 votes.

“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.

He thanked his supporters, as well as the other candidates.

“I actually wish we all could work together in the future,” Pendergrass said, noting that their experience could help him be a better commissioner.

St. Cerny called the campaign an experience.

“We ran a really hard campaign and met a lot of people,” he said.

Though “nobody likes to lose,” St. Cerny plans to only take the positive.

“We did everything I thought we had to do to win the race,” he said, adding that he would do nothing differently. “I think we worked hard.”

St. Cerny cited the low voter turnout as an obstacle to winning.

“That’s really kind of sorry,” he said. “You expect people to go vote and make a difference.”

Having to split the limited votes among four people also did not help.

“I think it was a concern that had been noted by a lot of people,” he said.

St. Cerny thanked everyone who supported him.

“It means a lot to me, and I’ll always remember it,” he said, also offering best wishes to Pendergrass. “I wish him the best. He worked hard.”

Wright also offered his winning opponent a pat on the back.

“I think that the county is in an unusual state,” he said. “We’re at a critical juncture, and I think Cecil will make all the right decisions.”

Wright called the primary election a sprint.

“I’m very incredibly grateful to the people who did support me. It was an uphill battle from the beginning,” he said. “I’m proud of the campaign I ran and the messages I delivered. I ran a clean campaign; I’m proud of that.”

Asked what obstacles he faced, Wright cited money and media.

“I’m just hoping that this new board of commissioners will make all the right decisions that will help us through this financial storm,” he said.

Stilwell did not immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

In the Nov. 6 general election, Pendergrass will go up against John W. Sawyer III, who is running with no party affiliation, and write-in candidate Neal Moore.

District 3

Incumbent Ray Judah lost his bid for re-election with only 20,658 votes, or about 36 percent, while Kiker scored nearly 64 percent – 36,614 votes.

“I’d be lying to you if I couldn’t tell you this is not exciting,” he said.

“This is probably one of the most exciting things that has happened to me since I have been in political office,” the Fort Myers Beach mayor said.

Kiker promised to bring a new attitude to the board if elected in November, along with a “business like approach to government” and fiscal responsibility.

“We need to stop spending more money than what we have,” he said. “We need to bring tourism back to basics. We need to start helping local existing businesses, and we need to get people back to work.”

Judah did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Kiker will face off against Charlie Whitehead, who is running with no party affiliation.

District 5

Incumbent Frank Mann will continue his fight for re-election after locking down about 63 percent of the votes – 34,802 in total. His challenger, Sonny Haas, fell short of moving forward with 20,260 votes, or about 37 percent.

Mann did not immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Haas attributed his loss to the same people voting and not voting.

“Same old man, same old thing. The same people voted for the same man again – there were no voters,” Haas said. “The working class folks and Pop Warner folks in Lee County did not vote. The seniors are the super voters.”

He said he was disappointed by the election results, but not upset.

“All you can do it try,” Haas said. “It was a perfect campaign. We had him right where we wanted him.”

Asked what obstacles his campaign hit, he cited promised support.

“The movers and shakers in the Cape hung me out to dry after promising support, so we didn’t have as much advertising as we needed,” Haas said.

“Frank (Mann) was on TV – we were supposed to be on TV,” he said. “We had to have the funding, the funding that was promised.”

He wished Mann good luck and thanked those who voted for him.

In the Nov. 6 general election, Mann will go head to head with Matt Miller, who is running as a registered member of the Independence Party of Florida.

All election results are unofficial until they are certified Friday.

Fort Myers Beach Observer Editor Bob Petcher contributed to this report.