There will be a new County commissioner in the District 3 seat for the first time in 24 years.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Larry Kiker unofficially defeated incumbent Ray Judah in the Republican primary election Tuesday evening and will face San Carlos Island resident Charlie Whitehead, of no party affiliation, in the general election on Nov. 6.
Kiker beat Judah by a 36,614 to 20,658 vote margin by gaining 63.93 percent of the vote. The results will become certified and official on Friday at 9 a.m.
Beach Mayor Larry Kiker is all smiles with wife, Paula, after hearing the news of victory over incumbent Ray Judah in the Republican primary election for County Commission Dist. 3 seat.
"I'd be lying to you if I couldn't tell you this is not exciting. This is probably one of the most exciting things that has happened to me since I have been in political office," said Kiker, who held an election party in the Island View Restaurant on top of Lani Kai.
Judah has been in office since 1988. Did Kiker see himself as an underdog in this race?
"I am not looking at it that way," he said. "People said they wanted new leadership, and I hope I represent that to them. We started from the very beginning that we needed a new face and a new attitude. That's exactly what I will bring to the board if elected in November."
Kiker stated he looks forward to meeting with Whitehead in the next three months. He was swamped by "150 of his closest friends" Tuesday evening.
"My expectation is that this election is not over yet," he said. "I will be working harder than I did before."
At age 60, Kiker brings more than 30 years of business experience along with political prowess to the commission. He has been mayor of the Beach for the past five years, but will focus on a "businesslike approach to government" at the county level if elected in November. By that, he plans to pay close attention to the budget crisis and what he calls overspending at the County level.
"Our message has been clear. We need to stop spending more money than what we have. We need to bring tourism back to basics. We need to start helping local existing businesses. And, we need to get people back to work."
Before the night's final tallies, the first set of results featured early voting and ballots-by-mail numbers. Kiker led that category with 6,000 votes or 62.91 percent of the vote, while Judah trailed with 3,538 votes or 37.09 percent.
In the other two county commission races, Cecil Pendergrass collected 17,067 votes or 31.34 percent of the vote to win a somewhat tight race in the Republican primary in District 2 over Doug St. Cerny (13,837 votes), Don Stilwell (13,144 votes) and Warren Wright (10,405 votes). The seat is being vacated by Brian Bigelow, who lost to Linda Doggett by a 38,796-17,092 count in the Republican Primary race for Clerk of Circuit Court. Pendergrass will face write-in candidate Neal Moore and independent John W. Sawyer in the Dist. 2 November election.
In the Dist. 5 Republican primary, incumbent Frank Mann received 34,802 votes or 63.21 percent of the vote to defeat Sonny Haas and get one step closer to gaining a third term as commissioner. He will take on Independence Party of Florida candidate Matt Miller in November.
In the Republican primary race for Lee County Sheriff, incumbent Mike Scott beat Tim Fisher by a 43,970 to 15,576 voting margin.
Of the combined 125 county precincts, a total of 80,601 ballots were cast out of 375,727 registered voters for a 21.45 percent voter turnout. Of them, 60,560 were Republican, 14,349 were Democrat and 5,692 were Nonpartisan.
A total of 12,839 ballots were cast in early voting. Of them, 9,962 were Republican (77.59%), 2,259 were Democrat (17.59%) and 618 were Nonpartisan (4.81%).