Elections Officials Prep for City Races



While it may feel like a long election season just drew to a close, elections officials already have an eye on coming races. Ron Turner, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections, just got sworn into office after his own successful election but now turns attention toward municipal contests in Sarasota, North Port and Longboat Key. “Everything so far is positive and moving forward with these elections,” he says. “We’re doing our best to serve the voters.”

The biggest contest will be Sarasota, where voters registered in 18 precincts citywide will vote on who fills two Sarasota City Commission seats. As of close of business on Monday, eight candidates had filed for those seats, though candidates have until noon on Friday to qualify. The roster so far includes: Tahiti Park neighborhood leader Jennifer Ahearn-Koch; former Mayor Fredd “Glossie” Atkins; former prosecutor Hagen Brody; incumbent City Commissioner Susan Chapman; Planning Board member Pat Gannon; Gulf Business Systems owner Martin Hyde; pedestrian safety advocate Mikael Sandstrom; and stockbroker Matt Sperling. The other incumbent, City Commissioner Suzanne Atwell, said last year she would not seek re-election. All candidates will appear on the ballot on March 14, where voters can vote for two choices. Unless someone wins a majority of votes in March, the top three vote-getters proceed to a May 9 runoff, where the top two vote-getters in that election win seats on the board.

Elections will also be held on Longboat Key in March, where candidates have already qualified for three seats. While incumbent George Spoll was elected to a District 2 seat unopposed, Commissioner Jack Daly will be challenged in District 4 by conservation activist Larry Grossman, and former Commissioners Jim Brown and Gene Jaleski will be fighting to return to the board filling an at-large seat. That election will be handled by the Sarasota elections office on the south end of the town and by the Manatee Supervisor of Elections on the north end. Two citywide referenda will also appear on the ballot.

And in North Port, a series of actions in the fall has led to a special election to fill Jacqueline Moore’s seat on the North Port City Commission, who chose to run for a District 2 seat on the same board but had to resign her seat to do so. Moore was not successful in her candidacy but the state’s resign-to-run law meant she had to vacate her seat in November. Now, a special election has been scheduled, with a primary on March 14 and a likely runoff on May 9. Candidates for the Seat 4 election include: 20-year city employee Pete Emrich; Community Health Action Team health services chair Sam George; former North Port Chamber of Commerce president Jill Luke; and former state House candidate Jerry Nicastro. Qualification for the North Port race ends at noon Friday. Voters in 13 North Port precincts will vote.

The elections mean March 14 will require about a third of the number of precincts for a countywide election, Turner says. While campaign treasury documents and candidate qualification will be handled by respective city clerks in Sarasota, Longboat Key and North Port, all material will be viewable on the Sarasota County election supervisors’ website. In addition to running polls on election day, the county office will also man early voting stations at the Terrace Building in Sarasota, at Longboat Key Town Hall and at the Supervisor of Elections satellite office in Biscayne Plaza in North Port.

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