Ahearn-Koch, Brody, Hyde advance, Colony Plan Rejected
Tahiti Park neighborhood leader Jennifer Ahearn-Koch, former prosecutor Hagen Brody and Gulf Business Systems owner Martin Hyde came out on top in a Sarasota City Commission race Tuesday and will advance to a May 9 runoff. Incumbent Sarasota City Commissioner Susan Chapman and four others were eliminated in the contest. Now the remaining candidates start over in the race for votes before two land on the City Commission.
Ahearn-Koch came in as the top vote-getter Tuesday, and says she was thrilled at that result. “I hope the sentiment is that the community does want a voice on how development works and that the community is outraged with traffic and gridlock,” she says.
Close on her heels for the top slot was Brody, who viewed the election as a call for change. “The voters saw someone in me who really cares about the future of this city,” he says. “They are looking for a new direction in Sarasota and are unhappy with a lot of things going on with the City Commission.”
The most tense moments in the night came in awaiting results for the third-place finisher. Based only on early and absentee votes, Chapman would have edged out Hyde by just seven votes, but when votes cast at the polls Tuesday were tallied, Hyde passed the incumbent and won his place in the runoff. Hyde says he looks forward to campaigning in a narrower field. “When you look at the total number of votes between Hagen and me and Ahern-Koch, there’s almost as many left on the table,” he says. “It’s not even halftime. It’s not like we get to carry over the scores. We get to start again.”
Chapman, for her part, says she feels “okay” with the results. “It’s been an honor to represent the city of Sarasota, and we’ll see what comes out of the next election,” she says. Ahearn-Koch expressed shock at the incumbent’s ouster, while Hyde says voters made the right choice to change players and Brody considered the vote a call for a different direction in government.
The two top vote-getters in the May runoff will win the seats. Other candidates eliminated Tuesday included: former Sarasota Mayor Fredd "Glossie" Atkins; Planning Board member Patrick Gannon; pedestrian safety advocate Mikael Sandstrom and former stockbroker Matt Sperling.
In a race to fill a seat on the North Port City Commission, longtime city employee Pete Emrich and Chamber of Commerce leader Jill Luke advanced to a May runoff, eliminating former state House candidate Jerry Nicastro. Neither candidate garnered a majority of the votes. The special election was held to fill Seat 4, which was vacated by Jacqueline Moore.
On Longboat Key, Jim Brown won an at-large Town Commission seat over Gene Jaleski and incumbent Jack Daly was re-elected in District 4 over challenger Larry Grossman. Longboat voters also weighed in and heavily rejected two referenda. The first would have allowed approval of 10 residential units on a Gulf of Mexico Drive property now zoned commercial. The second involved a plan to redevelop the Colony Tennis & Beach Resort, and would have added 180 residential units there. More than 85 percent of voters rejected the Colony proposal, and the measure was credited with driving high voter turnout on the island.