Where The Votes Are: Sarasota in Blue



Both major political parties took an active role in this year’s Sarasota city election, but while Republicans turned out a higher percentage of their own voters, Democrats still outnumbered members of any other party at the polls, ensuring the Sarasota City Commission remained the one major elected board in the region made up entirely of Democrats. This according to SRQ’s most recent Where The Votes Are analysis of election returns which will be the subject of an event at SRQ’s corporate headquarters this morning.

The May 9 city election drew out 4,018 Democrats, or 25.09 percent of registered Democrats, and 3,247 Republicans, or 27.21 percent. Democratic leaders say they pushed to make sure enough left-leaning voters turned out to win in one of the bluest jurisdictions on the Gulf Coast. “We did a little more of a push than usual,” says JoAnne DeVries, chairman of the Sarasota Democratic Party. Specifically, DeVries says, party volunteers urged female voters to the polls, and that demographic also saw a substantial growth compared to the city election in March, and also made a push for voting by mail, the method of choice for a plurality of voters participating in the contest.

In the end, Sarasota voters elected Hagen Brody and Jennifer Ahearn-Koch, both Democrats, over Martin Hyde, a Republican. While the race is nonpartisan, that restricts candidates from campaigning as members of a party but does not prohibit the parties from supporting candidates.

Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota, says his own team also worked hard to drive voters to the polls, but ultimately faced too tough a terrain. “We did everything we could on the ground to help,” he says, “but it’s not an easy race to win.” But he said the fact Republicans turned out a higher percentage of their own voters showed the party itself ran the superior operation. That should bode well in countywide races, where the numbers favor GOP candidates.

Between Sarasota’s March election, when six candidates were still running for the two seats, and now, turnout rose from 19.14 percent to 22.86 percent, the highest turnout in a city election in 10 years. There were 1,166 voters who cast ballots in March but did not turn out for the runoff, but that loss was offset and then some by 2,507 voters who turned out despite not voting in March. Within that set of new voters, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 1,145 to 951.

The data will be discussed further at today’s Where The Votes Are event at SRQ, at 331 South Pineapple Ave. in Sarasota. Doors open at 7:30am with a presentation at 8am. A $5 cover includes bagels and coffee.

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