School Board incumbents re-elected; Bradenton attorney upsets 12th Circuit Court judge
Almost 32% of Sarasota County’s voters cast ballots in the Aug. 28 Primary elections, the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections has reported. Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner announced a record on his office’s Facebook page shortly after 3 p.m. on Aug. 28, after the total hit the 27.11% mark.
That beat the number of voters who participated in both the 2014 and 2016 primaries, the post pointed out.
In August 2016, the turnout was 26.08%, the Supervisor of Elections Office website notes; in 2014, it was 21.32%.
Of the 313,824 voters registered in time to participate in the Aug. 28 primary, 100,195 cast ballots, the Supervisor of Elections website said. Officially, the latter number reflected 31.93% of those registered voters.
In response to a Sarasota News Leader question on Aug. 29, Rachel Denton, the communications and voter outreach manager for the Supervisor of Elections Office, reported that she had researched data going back to the 2002 Primary Election and “this is the highest turnout percentage …”
Replying to other News Leader inqueries, Denton noted that as of 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 29, 46,481 vote-by-mail ballots had been returned and accepted.
Altogether, she added, 14,003 people took the opportunity to cast their ballots during the early voting period, which ended on Aug. 25.
Among the races that drew a lot of attention from voters were those for two Sarasota County Commission seats. In the Republican Primary for District 4, the results were similar to those of four years ago. Once again, Alan Maio of Nokomis defeated Lourdes Ramirez of Siesta Key. The unofficial returns on Aug. 29 showed Maio with 66.7% of the total, compared to Ramirez’s 33.3%. The number of votes cast in that race was 43,186, according to the unofficial results.
In the 2014 primary, Maio won 69.56% of the 27,519 votes cast, Supervisor of Elections Office records note.
Maio’s final campaign finance report filed before the Aug. 28 primary — covering the period from Aug. 11 to Aug. 23 — showed him with a total of $119,868 in contributions. He loaned his campaign $10,000 of that amount.
His expenditures on that report added up to $75,051.12. The biggest expenses were two payments to Political Ink Inc. of Washington, D.C.: $6,578.29 and $2,029.04. Political Ink’s website homepage says, “Direct Mail for Republican Campaigns and Conservative Causes.”
In her campaign finance report for the period of Aug. 11 to Aug. 23, Ramirez noted her monetary contributions totaled $19,333.
Ramirez did loan $3,300 to her campaign earlier this year.
Her expenditures through that August period before the primary added up to $15,378.60. Her largest payment on that report was $1,000 to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for advertising.
In the Aug. 28 Republican Primary for the District 2 race, Christian Ziegler of Sarasota won 68.38% of the unofficial vote total of 44,035, with Alexandra Coe getting 31.62% of those votes.
On Nov. 6, Ziegler will face Democrat Ruta Maria Jouniari, who had no primary competition.
Ziegler’s campaign finance report from Aug. 11 through Aug. 23 showed him with a total of $57,381.54 in monetary contributions and $34,393.47 in expenditures. His biggest payment in that report was $8,092.55 to Andrick & Associates for postage and shipping expenses. That firm handles direct mail campaigns, its website indicates.
Coe’s final campaign finance report before the primary shows her with a total of $9,770 in monetary contributions and $7,379.31 in expenditures. She loaned the campaign $1,000 on Aug. 17, the report shows.
Her only expenses in that report were $544.29 to Campaign Graphics of Ocala for signs and $426.60 for an ad in the Sun Gondolier newspaper in North Port.
Although Ziegler has served as Republican state committeeman, this is his first campaign for elected office. Running with no party affiliation in 2014, Coe lost to Commissioner Paul Caragiulo in the General Election that year. She took 33.33% of the vote total to Caragiulo’s 66.17%.
Caragiulo opted not to seek re-election this year, telling The Sarasota News Leader in January that one of the major reasons for that decision is his desire to spend more time with his family, including his two daughters, who were then 9 and 11.
In the final County Commission primary on Aug. 28, Wesley Anne Beggs of Sarasota defeated Michael Cosentino of Siesta Key in the District 4 race, the unofficial results showed. Beggs took 67.25% of the total, the Aug. 29 data said, with Cosentino winning 32.75% of the 35,511 votes cast in that race, based on the unofficial results.
In her campaign finance filing for the period of Aug. 11 through Aug. 23, Beggs reported having raised a total of $19,555.18 in monetary contributions. She had spent $13,284.61, the report showed.
Cosentino reported a total of $8,050.63 in monetary contributions for the race. The bulk of that was the $5,198.04 fee he paid to qualify, which he loaned to his campaign in June. In August, he gave $2,477.59 to the campaign, according to his finance report through Aug. 10. The last campaign finance document he filed showed he had no further contributions.
Cosentino had publicized the fact that he was not trying to raise money for his campaign.
Beggs and Cosentino both are newcomers to local elections. Beggs, a marketing and media entrepreneur, is a New College alumna with a history of family service in local government. Cosentino, who owns a construction business, made it clear to supporters that he wanted to take Maio’s seat on the board. Cosentino filed a lawsuit against the County Commission in June 2016, arguing that the board violated one of its Comprehensive Plan policies in vacating a segment of North Beach Road. Maio was among the four commissioners who approved the road vacation. Only then-Commissioner Christine Robinson opposed the action.
Beggs will face Maio on Nov. 6.
School Board incumbents win
During the Aug. 28 Primary Election, the Sarasota County School Board races — which are nonpartisan — also were among those that garnered heavy turnout, the unofficial results show. All three incumbents won, based on those unofficial results. Bridget Ziegler of Sarasota, chair of the School Board, narrowly defeated Nick Guy of Sarasota with 50.59% of the 92,105 votes cast, the unofficial results say.
Ziegler is the wife of County Commission candidate Christian Ziegler.
Shirley Brown of Sarasota, who is one of the two longest-serving members on the School Board, also won a very close contest, beating Karen Rose of Sarasota with 50.44% of the 91,327 votes cast, the unofficial totals show.
Brown first won her District 4 seat in 2006.
In the third race, Jane Goodwin of Venice defeated three challengers to retain her seat. Goodwin won 53.22% of the 87,818 votes cast, according to the unofficial figures.
A Circuit Court upset
One other high-profile race pitted incumbent 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Brian A. Iten against Bradenton attorney Maria Ruhl, who lives in Venice. With 89,378 votes cast in that race in Sarasota County, Ruhl handily defeated Iten, taking 61.99% of the total, the unofficial results show.
In Manatee County, Ruhl picked up 51.18% of the 70,378 votes cast in the race. Iten did beat Ruhl in DeSoto County, winning 52.09% of the 4,066 votes.
After Gov. Rick Scott appointed Iten to the bench, Iten began his term in the 12th Judicial Circuit on Dec. 2, 2015, according to his bio on the court website. Prior to the appointment, he served as an assistant state attorney in the 12th Judicial Circuit from 1994 to 2015.