GOP Dominates Gulf Coast on Election Night



Republicans enjoyed a huge night Tuesday on the Gulf Coast. In addition to coming out strong and helping deliver Florida for both presidential nominee Donald Trump and incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio, Sarasota and Manatee county voters delivered big wins to GOP candidates in nearly every contest on the ballot.

State Rep. Greg Steube will soon move into the state Senate, after winning 58.75 percent of the vote in District 23 over Democrat Frank Alcock. Steube believes the results of the election, as well as the primary in August, show the region has grown more conservative. "It’s very telling that I won the primary by 5 points and now the general election by 14 points,” he says. “Certainly, Sarasota and Charlotte counties will support a conservative Republican candidate…This enables me to keep true to my principles.” 

Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota, boasted his party “crushed it.” "I can’t tell you how excited and happy we are,” he says. Gruters himself won a state House seat for District 73 with 65.07 percent of the vote over Democrat James Golden. Other state House victories included Republican Alex Miller winning District 72 with 58.08 percent over Democrat Ed James III and incumbent Julio Gonzalez winning re-election in District 74 over Democrat Manny Lopez. Democrats did take left-leaning District 70, where former St. Petersburg City Councilman Newt Newton took 76.27 percent of the vote over Manatee County Republican Cori Fournier.

Sarasota incumbents Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates, a Democrat, and Sarasota Clerk of Circuit Court Karen Rushing, a Republican, both coasted to re-election. In Manatee County, incumbent County Commissioners Betsy Benac will be joined by Steve Jonsson after Republicans ran the boards in that county.

Republican Mike Moran won an open Sarasota County Commission seat over Democrat Fredd Atkins, and says he hopes this shows a mandate for creating affordable housing options and seeking ways to keep young professionals in town. “And local Democrats should be extremely disappointed with leadership in Sarasota,” Moran says, critiquing mailers attacking his Planning Commission voting record.

Christine Jennings, chairman of the Sarasota Democratic Party, says the mailers just highlighted Moran’s votes and stood by them. As for the party’s future after a disappointing evening, Jennings says Democrats simply remain outnumbered in Sarasota, but that can change in coming years. “All we did was we planted seeds,” she says. “We had some outstanding candidates who worked hard, were intelligent and motivated. This is just beginning.”

In the closest race of the night locally, Manatee County School Board, incumbent Dave Miner narrowly defeated challenger Misty Servia with just 50.6 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Gina Messenger won an open School Board seat with 67.6 percent over Edward Viltz.

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