Now that Lisa Wheeler-Brown and Will Newton have narrowed the field ahead of the November 3 General Election, the two will have to start fine-tuning campaign strategies. Often times the best place to start is by analyzing the Primary Election numbers.
Wheeler-Brown came out on top with more than 37 percent of the vote. Newton came in second with just shy of 35.5 percent. The gap separating the two was just 79 votes.
That means it will likely be a close race between two candidates who both enjoy strong name recognition in the community – Newton because he is the brother of incumbent Wengay Newton and Wheeler-Brown because she’s been a longtime community activist.
The three candidates who lost in Tuesday night’s primary, Sheila Scott-Griffin, Aaron Sharpe and Lewis Stephens brought in a combined 774 votes Newton and Wheeler-Brown will likely be ferociously going after.
Scott-Griffin carried the bulk of those vote with 487 ballots cast in her favor. Griffin hasn’t said whether she will endorse anyone, but offered a statement following the election results.
“It has been an incredible race. I am greatful (sic) for the privilege and those who encouraged my candidacy. I wish my comrades in service, best wishes as Wheeler-Brown and Newton continue to vye (sic) for the final vote to serve the citizens. Much sobriety and wisdom is needed for our District and I pray that the final candidate will stay focused, relax and allow grace to assist them in getting the job done.”
Sharpe, who garnered 185 votes, could make a big difference in the outcome of the General Election. Most of his votes were brought in at precincts near his neighborhood, Pasadena Bear Creek. Newton and Wheeler-Brown focused more heavily on the Midtown and Childs Park communities.
Sharpe said he will consider whether to endorse a candidate sometime next week after he unwinds from the election.
Scott-Griffin also pulled a decent amount of votes from that area. It’s unlikely either candidate will have much success in changing votes. Primary voters are often the most passionate and tend to be loyal to their candidates.
Newton and Wheeler-Brown will instead have to focus on pulling votes from losing candidates and getting new voters to the polls.
An endorsement from previous opponents would go a long way in helping that goal as would gaining endorsements from those who previously endorsed a losing candidate.
For example, St. Pete City Council Chair Charlie Gerdes was backing Aaron Sharpe. Now his endorsement could be up in the air.
The raw data from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office also suggests areas where Newton may want to concentrate his efforts to bridge the voting gap.
Precinct 120, which spans 34th Street east to 22nd Street and 18th Avenue South North to about Central Avenue, was carried heavily by Wheeler-Brown. She earned 40 more votes than him in that precinct.
Those numbers make sense considering Wheeler-Brown lives in Midtown where that precinct is located, while Newton lives in Childs Park more toward the West.
However even the precincts in Newton’s neighborhoods favored Wheeler-Brown. In fact, she earned more votes than him in every single precinct except 217 where the two broke even. That precinct is one Sharpe carried heavily.
The two candidates may also want to work on get out the vote efforts. Total vote turnout was 14.45 percent – most of that through mail ballots. Election Day turnout was just about 2 percent. That’s a number candidates can work to improve.
Precinct 110, a little corner near Clam Bayou and Boca Ciega Bay, had the highest voter turnout of 29.23 percent. However, since that is such a small precinct – just 260 total registered voters – the area doesn’t have much room for improvement.
Precinct 111 though, is a larger area with 519 registered voters. That precinct was the second most engaged with 25.24 percent turnout. That area includes the southern-most part of the district including a small part of the Skyway Marina District.
Precinct 120, including the northern part of Midtown, is the district’s largest voting area with 2,869 registered voters. But it was one of the poorest performing areas on voter turnout with just 14.88 percent of voters casting a ballot.
Based on the final campaign cash reports filed with the city ahead of the Primary, Newton has about $1,500 cash on hand more than his opponent. However, those numbers don’t reflect spending over the weekend and on Election Day or earnings between Friday and Tuesday.
Both say they have a fresh start and each can go back to previous donors for new contributions. The clock resets now that the Primary is over so even those donors who had maxed out contributions – those would be firefighter groups on Newton’s side and Democratic groups and City Council member Karl Nurse on Wheeler-Brown’s – can write new checks.
During the Primary, Wheeler-Brown enjoyed more local financial support than Newton with numerous small donations from people within the city. Newton raked in campaign cash from outside groups, but had fewer from the community.
That trend is expected to continue based on Wheeler-Brown’s strong ties to the community and Newton’s ties to the firefighter industry.