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Down-ballot races throughout Florida provided some interesting results as well

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

With so many high-profile races going on in Florida, other contests were on the ballot, but under the radar. Florida Politics pointed out 10 of those down-ballot races to watch with backgrounds on each.

While not as momentous as Donald Trump winning Florida, these races were interesting in their own right.

Miami-Dade County Mayor

Republican Mayor Carlos Gimenez went from a confident incumbent to someone battling to keep his job. He and many others thought he could win another term on Aug. 30.

In the end, he was forced into a runoff with Raquel Regalado. After a judge threw out a challenge to Gimenez’s place on the ballot, the race was on.

On Tuesday night, he earned a clear victory over Regalado, garnering 55 percent of the vote. Regalado earned 44 percent. The margin of victory was nearly 100,000 votes.

Kissimmee Mayor

Jose Alvarez and Art Otero survived a highly contentious primary. These two sitting county commissioners squared off on Tuesday.

When the votes were counted, Alvarez rolled to a fairly easy victory. With 11 of 12 precincts counted, he had an insurmountable 63 to 37 percent lead.

Otero was a solid candidate, but helping Alvarez was the endorsement of the two labor unions representing the region’s theme park and hospitality workers.

St. Cloud Mayor

This race pitted a pastor against the community’s deputy mayor. Pastor James Nathan Blackwell wound up defeating Jeff Rinehart in a reasonably close race.

Blackwell earned 56 percent of the vote, but his election may have been in doubt earlier when he got into some trouble for talking politics from the pulpit.

In the end, he survived the legal challenge as well as the challenge from Rinehart.

Orange County Commission

The Orange County Commission District 5 race was an intense battle between the incumbent Ted Edwards and Emily Bonilla. The race was dominated by an issue involving projects on Lake Pickett.

When the votes were counted, Bonilla, an environmental activist, upset Edwards and won the seat. Her margin of victory was more than 11,000 votes out of more than 78,000 cast, translating to a 57 to 43 percent victory.

Tampa City Council

The Tampa City Council District 7 race was a free-for-all involving six candidates. This made it unlikely any candidate would earn a majority, which is precisely what happened.

Jim Davison advanced to a runoff with Luis Viera. Davison earned 30 percent of the vote while Viera came in with 22 percent.

Davison was put in the hot seat when he received a $1,000 contribution from the local Republican Party, which is forbidden for municipal candidates. He returned the contribution.

Orlando GudesAvis Simone HarrisonGene Siudut, and Cyril Spiro divided the remaining votes.

Pinellas County Commission

Charlie Justice was looking to keep his District 3 seat on the Pinellas County Commission. He faced a strong challenge from Republican retired businessman Mike Mikurak.

Mikurak hammered Justice on his positions on zoning and environmental issues. He nearly pulled off the upset.

When the votes were counted, Justice had a narrow 52-48 percent victory. His victory allows the Democratic Party to keep a 4-3 majority on the commission.

Leon County Superintendent of Schools

Democratic incumbent Jackie Pons was challenged by former friend Rocky Hanna in a bitter race for Leon County Superintendent of Schools. Hanna, a former member of Pons’s administration, ran against him as a no party affiliate.

A controversial television ad against Hanna backfired against Pons, prompting some prominent supporters to abandon him. Hanna built on his record generated during his successful tenure as principal at Tallahassee’s Leon High School.

When the votes were counted, Hanna rolled to a convincing victory over Pons and two other candidates. Hanna earned 54 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Pons. Patricia Sunday and Forrest Van Camp split the remaining 10 percent.

Leon County Sheriff

This race involved four candidates, three of which switched party affiliations during the campaign. Incumbent Mike Wood, running as an NPA, was challenged by former Tallahassee police chief Walt McNeil, a Democrat, as well as Republican Charlie Strickland and NPA Tommy Mills.

McNeil described the incumbent Wood as “Rick Scott’s sheriff.” Wood was appointed by the governor following the death of longtime Sheriff Larry Campbell.

McNeil won the race by earning 46 percent of the vote, while Strickland and Wood gained 25 and 24 percent, respectively.

Jacksonville slots referendum

Supporters of CR 1, which would allow slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities, were placing their bets on the ability of increased gambling to increase jobs.

Apparently, that argument won the day because 54 percent of Duval County voters voted to approve the measure.

One hurdle remains. The Florida Supreme Court is considering a case that would decide whether a countywide vote for slots is constitutional.

Monroe County Zika Initiative

The fight against Zika was put before Monroe County voters on Tuesday. Residents were called on to weigh in on deploying genetically modified insects.

The measure was a non-binding poll and not a mandate. When the votes were counted, 57 percent voted in favor of the idea.

While not binding, three of the mosquito control board members said before the election they would take the public’s view into account before moving forward.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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