Atkins and Smith to face off in County Commission District 2 race, while Neunder and Kuether will vie for District 4 seat

Ahearn-Koch, Trice and Lobeck headed to Nov. 8 General Election for two City Commission at-large seats

The unofficial results of the Aug. 23 Primary Election show that former Sarasota Mayor and City Commissioner Fredd “Glossie” Atkins of Newtown will square off against Siesta Key architect Mark Smith in the District 2 County Commission race on Nov. 8.

In the District 4 race this fall, Venice chiropractor Joseph Neunder will face Democrat Daniel Kuether of Sarasota.

In the Sarasota City Commission race on the Aug. 23 Primary ballot, the top three vote-getters were Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch, attorney Dan Lobeck and Debbie Trice, past president of the Rosemary District Association. They will be on the ballot for the Nov. 8 General Election, with two at-large seats to be filled.

Ahearn-Koch won her first term in May 2017. Because of a change in the election cycle for the City Commission seats, she and Commissioner Hagen Brody — who also was elected in May 2017 — have stayed on the board longer than the traditional four years.

On Aug. 23, Atkins won 35.25% of the votes in the Democratic Primary for the District 2 seat, the unofficial results say. That figure compared to 34.27% of the vote total that went to City Commissioner Brody and the 30.47% of votes for Siesta Key community activist Mike Cosentino.

Unofficially, Atkins won 3,810 votes; Brody, 3,704; and Cosentino, 3,293.

In a post on his public Facebook page, Brody wrote after the Aug. 23 Primary, “Thank you to everyone who believed in our campaign for County Commission. The democratic primary didn’t go as hoped but I want to wish Mr. Atkins the best of luck. To quote my high school principal: Onward.”

On his campaign page on Facebook, Atkins wrote, “Thank you Sarasota #Togetherwewon We are off to the General Election.

I want to thank Hagen Brody and Mike Cosentino for their contribution to the primary.”

An Aug. 24 Sarasota News Leader check of Cosentino’s Facebook page found nothing regarding the outcome of the Primary. At 6:54 a.m. on Aug. 23, Cosentino had posted, “In District 2, your choice is between a career politician, a wannabe career politician, and a community leader who fights against politicians.

“Who do you think will fight for you?

“Please vote wisely.”

In 2018, Cosentino ran as a Democrat for the District 4 seat, losing to Wesley Anne Beggs of Sarasota.

Atkins had filed to run for the County Commission District 1 seat in 2020, but, in late 2019, the commissioners approved new district boundaries that moved Atkins’ residence into District 2. The commissioners contended that they were forced to undertake redistricting because of voters’ passage in 2018 of a Single-Member Districts County Charter amendment. That allows voters to cast ballots only for candidates who live in the same district in which the voters live. Previously — except for two years in the early 1990s — county commissioners were elected countywide.

That Charter amendment forced the commissioners to ensure that residents were divided among the five districts as equally as possible, they said.

However, in approving a version of a map that former county Republican Party Chair Bob Waechter of Siesta Key had submitted, the board members also relocated most of Newtown — the City of Sarasota’s historically African American community — into District 2.

With Commissioner Michael Moran planning to run for re-election in 2020, members of the public argued that the action regarding Newtown was designed to facilitate Moran’s winning a second term. Speakers testified during public hearings that Newtown voters typically support Democratic candidates. Moran — like all of his colleagues on the board — is a Republican.

In 2018, Commissioner Christian Ziegler won the District 2 seat. Political activists in the county have maintained that he chose not to seek re-election because District 2 is the only one of the commission districts in which a Democrat has a genuine opportunity to win, thanks to the predominance of Democratic voters in the city of Sarasota.

Smith told the News Leader that Republican Party leaders encouraged him to run for that seat. In 2010, he ran against incumbent Nora Patterson — also a Siesta resident — for the County Commission and lost to her in the Republican Primary. Smith said he would not have remained in the race this year if Ziegler had chosen after all to seek re-election.

In the Aug. 23 Republican Primary, Smith defeated yet another Siesta candidate, community activist Lourdes Ramirez, who is president of the Republican Women’s Club in the county. The unofficial results show Smith received 57.75% of the votes — 4,814 — compared to 42.25% — 3,552 — for Ramirez.

Ramirez twice before had sought a seat on the county board, losing both times to Republican Alan Maio of Osprey. Maio is term-limited in the District 4 seat.

In the District 4 Republican Primary, Neunder prevailed with 73.49% of the votes — 9,756 — while his opponent, Mark Hawkins of Sarasota, who owns Hawk’s Nest Construction, received 26.51% of the votes — 3,520.

The unofficial results also show that almost 5,000 more votes were cast in the District 4 Republican Primary than in the District 2 Republican Primary.

In the Democratic Primary for District 2, the number of votes cast was 10,807, the unofficial results say.

Final financial updates for County Commission candidates

The latest campaign finance reports for the County Commission candidates available prior to Aug. 23 were for the period of Aug. 6 through Aug. 18, the Supervisor of Elections Office website shows.

Those showed that architect Smith was well ahead of the other District 2 candidates, with $112,950 in contributions. Smith had spent $80,017.98 through that period.

Brody was in second place, with contributions of $74,914; he had spent $67,204.84.

Atkins had raised a total of $38,623, plus $1,316.10 in in-kind contributions. He had spent $37,502.77, his report said.

Cosentino’s filing for Aug. 6-18 showed him with $63,208.53, plus $2,500 in in-kind contributions. His expenditures added up to $43,996.48.

Ramirez had received $31,914 in contributions and $2,230.59 in in-kind donations. She had spent $27,121.61.

In the District 4 race, Neunder had maintained a big lead over Hawkins. Through the period of Aug. 6-18, Neunder had contributions totaling $132,210, plus $500 in in-kind donations. He had spent $80,595.70.

Hawkins’ contributions added up to $14,420, and he had given the campaign $20,000 in in-kind contributions. His expenditures totaled $23,506.20.

Neunder’s Democratic opponent Kuether had raised $19,618 through Aug. 18, plus $322.24 in in-kind contributions; he had spent $15,965.81.

The Sarasota City Commission race

A total of six candidates were vying for the three General Election spots for Sarasota City Commission.

The unofficial results showed Ahearn-Koch led the way, with 34.73% of the votes (7,069 ballots cast for her). Trice was in second place, with 19.59% — 3,988 votes, while Lobeck, who is president of the nonprofit Control Growth Now, captured 19.04% of the votes — 3,875.

Carl Shoffstall, immediate past chair of the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations (CCNA) and president of the Lido Key Residents Association since 2012, won 11.49% of the votes, followed by Terrill L. Salem, chair of the city’s Planning Board, with 7.58%. Sheldon J. Rich, a member of the city’s Police Complaint Committee, captured 7.57% of the votes.

The Primary Election results were expected to become official on Aug. 25, following a final canvassing of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots at the Supervisor of Elections Office, a City of Sarasota news release noted.