In many ways, Alachua County voters cast predictable ballots favoring democratic candidates and causes, but some races ran in the other direction.
Baird over Chestnut
Incumbent Alachua County Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut lost her bid for re-election Tuesday, defeated by Susan Baird, the first Republican elected to the County Commission since the 1980s.
With 54 percent of the vote, Baird handily defeated Chestnut, a democrat, who pulled down 46 percent of votes in Tuesday’s election. In a race that has historically favored democrats, Baird’s win came as a surprise to many.
A tea party candidate who began attending county commission and charter review board meetings months ago, Baird said she sought election to the County Commission in an effort to refocus the County on what she believes its priorities should be.
Democrat Sheriff Sadie Darnell backed Baird in her bid against Chestnut after the County Commission refused to adopt a budget the Sheriff said was necessary to adequately fund her department.
Pinkoson holds on
Incumbent County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson, a democrat, was able to hold onto his seat Tuesday after facing off against challenger Jim Gabriel. Gabriel, a republican, wasn’t able to swing enough votes in his favor to pull off a win.
With 56.13 percent of the vote, Pinkoson will retain his seat on the County Commission. Gabriel garnered 31,422 votes, or 43.87 percent of the votes.
Having previously served multiple terms as a commissioner in High Springs, Gabriel had some name recognition, but lacked financial resources to mount a fully-loaded campaign. Gabriel raised just $11,454 as compared to Pinkoson’s $88,094. Unlike Pinkoson, Gabriel did not face primary challengers, which is where much of the incumbent’s resources were spent.
Griffin, Oyenarte take School Board
Voters elected April Griffin with 58.13 percent of the vote over Rick Nesbit who brought in 41.87 percent in Tuesdays runoff race for School Board Member District 1.
Carol Oyenarte, meanwhile, is also being sent to the School Board in District 5 after winning her runoff with 53.52 percent of votes as compared to Jancie Vinson’s 46.48 percent of votes.
Voters limit County’s power in two amendments
Voters gave the thumbs up to a measure that would prevent the County Commission from repealing or amending ordinances enacted by a citizens initiative until after the first year and even then, only with a vote of four out of five commissioners. That question passed with 57.53 percent of votes.
Passing with 54.89 percent of the votes was another measure which requires that any future charter amendments limiting municipal power must not only be approved by a countywide majority of voters, but also a majority of voters within the affected city or cities.
Voters turn down changes in county structure
With just 33.52 percent of votes cast in favor, a proposed amendment to Alachua County’s charter, which would have replaced the board of county commissioners with a board of charter commissioners, failed.
A follow-up question on the ballot, which would only have been enacted if the board were replaced with charter commissioners, also failed, but only slightly. When asked if county commission salaries should be set by local ordinance rather than by the state legislature, 49.98 percent of voters approved. Only 24 more voters were against the question than were in favor of it. Even if it had been approved, the measure would not have been enacted without the change to a charter commission polled in the previous question.
A proposed amendment to the County charter that would have essentially made constitutional officer races non-partisan also failed. Under Question 6 on the ballot, voters were asked if they would be in favor of converting positions such as Tax Collector, Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections and Clerk of Court into charter officers, but the measure failed with just 39.44 percent of voters seeking to approve it. If approved, that amendment would have required candidates seeking election to those seats to do so without any reference to their political party affiliation, rather than running as a democrat, republican or some other party affiliation.
Voters don’t ease guidelines on Citizens Initiatives
A measure that would have reduced the number of electors required to sign a petition to get a citizens initiative on the ballot failed. The referendum would have reduced the percentage of the electorate need to sign a petition from seven percent down to five percent of voters, making it easier to get a citizen-driven initiative on the ballot. But voters turned down that reduction with 67.33 percent of ballots cast against it.
Soil and Water goes to Griffin
Bryan Griffin solidly beat Brian Bunch to get a spot on the Alachua Soil and Water Conservation District. Griffin pulled in 63.51 percent of the 50,650 votes cast in that election while Bunch received 36.49 percent.
With 56.18 percent of the votes in Alachua County, an ordinance is slated for adoption to implement a curfew on airboats. The curfew would prohibit operating the airboats between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. in Alachua County with the exception of those which might be used in an official capacity for law enforcement and rescue efforts.
Voters pick Oelrich, Bembry, Porter, Perry
Former Alachua County Sheriff and current incumbent District 14 State Senator Steve Oelrich, republican, will hold onto his seat after garnering 53.83 percent of the votes in his district. One-time State House Representative and local businessman Perry McGriff, democrat, challenged Oelrich, but came up short with just 46.17 percent of the votes.
State Representative Debbie Boyd, democrat, lost her bid for re-election after challenger Elizabeth Porter, republican, picked up 53.92 percent of votes in that district. Boyd had previously been challenged by Porter but narrowly won in that match. Boyd picked up 40.53 percent of votes in Tuesday’s election while tea party candidate John Ferentinos garnered 5.85 percent of votes in the three-way race.
Leonard Bembry, the democrat incumbent State Representative in District 10 will maintain his seat after picking of 59.47 percent of votes. He defeated challenger David Feigin, a republican who had 40.53 percent of votes.
In a race with two political newcomers, republican Keith Perry won his bid for election to State Representative District 22. With 60.69 percent of votes, Perry solidly defeated candidate Jon Paugh, a democrat who pulled in 39.31 percent of votes.