Zucker, Baugh Win; Gruters, Steube, Alcock Advance

Politics

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING WEDNESDAY AUG 31, 2016

Caroline Zucker will keep her seat on the Sarasota County School Board, Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh holds on to her spot on her own board and Manatee Property Appraiser Charles Hackney was re-elected, with the incumbents winning decisively in elections held Tuesday night. “I am really very happy about this,” says Zucker. “It shows the voters like what you are doing, both as far as the district and myself.”

But while those incumbents enjoyed clear leads throughout the night as votes were counted, political observers into the evening followed close legislative races in the region. The most closely watched contest was a state Senate race in District 23, where state Rep. Greg Steube beat out a crowded Republican field and New College professor Frank Alcock prevailed on the Democratic side. Steube had 15,217 votes to former state Rep. Doug Holder’s 12,805, former Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson’s 12,084, state Rep. Ray Pilon’s 6,802 and businessman Rick Levine’s 1,514. Alcock beat newcomer Frank Cirillo 17,029 to 12,132. Alcock says he always hoped to go against Steube, who ran on the most conservative platform among Republicans in the race. “It’s a clear contrast,” Alcock says. “It’s a stark contrast between myself and a staunch conservative, and I think I’m closer to where past folks have been who represented the district.” Steube touted his credentials online, saying: “This campaign has been about advancing common-sense conservative principles at the grassroots level.”

A state House race in District 73 between Republican Party of Sarasota Chairman Joe Gruters and Manatee conservative activist Steve Vernon came down to the wire, with Gruters winning with 10,342 votes to 9,958, a mere 384-vote difference. Gruters acknowledged that when it was clear he had lost Manatee County by a few hundred votes, he worried totals in Sarasota wouldn’t make up the difference. After a number of mailers were sent out in the past week by political committees critical of Gruters, he feared the worst. “But Steve ran a great campaign and made this competitive until the end,” Gruters says. He faces Democrat James Golden, a former Bradenton councilman, in November.

St. Petersburg Councilman Newt Newton won a Democratic primary in left-leaning District 70, handily beating businessman Dan Florin and former Manatee Democratic Party chairman CJ Czaia, and he will now face Sarasota Republican Cori Fournier in November. Former Sarasota Public Hospital Board trustee Alex Miller won the GOP primary in District 72 to retired news anchor John Hill, and will now face Sarasota Democrat Edward James III. And North Port Democrat Manny Lopez won a primary over Jerry Nicastro in District 74, and will now challenge incumbent Republican state Rep. Julio Gonzalez.

In the US Senate race, incumbent Marco Rubio held Manatee developer and primary challenger Carlos Beruff to under 24 percent of the vote in Beruff’s home county. On the Republican side, Rep. Patrick Murphy cruised to the nomination, but a late push by Democrat Pam Keith, including a Monday stop in Sarasota, put her in third right behind Rep. Alan Grayson, considered a strong candidate until recent weeks. In a local Congressional race, Rep. Vern Buchanan easily won his primary and will now face Democrat Jan Schneider, who also won her primary, in November.

Priscilla Whisenant Trace came out ahead in a Manatee County Commission Republican primary, effectively winning a seat over Ron Reagan and Corie Holmes. Manatee School Board member Dave Miner won 46.5 percent of the vote, not enough to avoid a runoff in November with challenger Misty Servia for the District 3 seat. And in the District 1 seat on School Board, Gina Messenger and Edward Viltz continue to a contest in November. In Sarasota County, Planning Commissioner Mike Moran won a GOP primary against homeowners association leader Frank DiCicco and will advance to a general with Democrat Fredd Atkins, a former Sarasota Mayor. 

Photo: Frank Alcock; Greg Steube

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