Voter dissatisfaction has led to a tidal shift in Levy County politics as the Board of County Commissioners has two firsts: Republicans elected to the board and a majority of seats in Republican hands.
Republicans Ryan Bell and Chad “Cracker” Johnson, both of Chiefland, defeated their Democrat incumbents.
For Ryan Bell it was a close race for the District 4 seat that went down the wire as less than 200 votes separated him and incumbent Lilly Rooks, of Rosewood. Then, Bronson, the last polling place, reported results at 9:15 p.m. that widened his lead to 1,067 votes, with 6,814 to 5,747 for Rooks.
Johnson easily won his race for the District 2 seat against incumbent Nancy Bell, leading by 2 to 1 from the time votes started being tallied until the end. He got 8,160 votes to 4,520 for Nancy Bell, of Chiefland.
Until Tuesday night, the only Republicans to serve on the commission were appointees — Johnson to District 1 and Marsha Drew of Yankeetown to District 3. They were named last year by Gov. Charlie Crist as interim replacements for two Democratic commissioners who were indicted and later convicted on charges of soliciting and taking a bribe.
Johnson, who is building a home in District 2, has resigned his appointment effective later ths month.
And it is that resignation that may give Republicans a fourth seat at the commission table as Crist, who lost his bid for a U.S. Senate seat as an independent, may appoint a Republican to the seat.
That leaves Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston, the vice chair, as the lone Democrat on the board. It’s not clear how the GOP’s win will affect the tradition of the vice chair becoming chair when the commission organizes in January. Both Ryan Bell and Johnson would not unequivocally commit to supporting Stevens for the chairmanship.
The turnout for the mid-term election was indicative of voter interest in — or perhaps dissatisfaction with — the state of the nation and the county as 12,820 or 51.9 percent of the county’s 24,965 voters cast ballots. In 2008, a presidential election year, 18, 875 voters cast ballots.
Johnson’s victory was sweet after losing to Nancy Bell in 2006 in the Democratic primary.
“It’s different,” Johnson said of his victory. He attributed his win to voters listening to his message of lowering the tax burden and creating jobs in the county.
Nancy Bell did not turn out to watch the returns come in so was not available for comment.
Ryan Bell credited his message of experience as a businessman who has created jobs as being integral to his victory. “I was pleasantly surprised because I had a formidable candidate in Miss Lilly.”
Overall the county which has 12,726 registered Democrats to 8,267 Democrats and 4,011 independents voted Republican in almost every race.
They gave Marco Rubio the nod for the U.S. Senate, Rich Nugent for Congressional District 5, Cliff Starnes for Congressional District 6, Rick Scott for governor, Pam Bondi for state attorney general, Jeff Atwater for chief financial officer, Adam Putnam for agriculture commissioner, State Oelrich for State Senate District 14, Dave Feigin for State Representative District 10, and Keith Perry for State Representative District 22.
County voters also rejected retaining every justice and judge on the ballot, including state Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, and Justices Jorge Labarga, James E.C. Perry, Ricky L. Polson; and 1st District Court of Appeal Judges Niki Ann Clark, Paul M. Hawkesm Charles J. Kahn Jr., Phil Padovano, Lori S. Rowe, Kent Wetherell and Jim Wolf.
In county voting on the proposed constitutional amendments the results were mixed:
Amendment 1 which would repeal the state’s public campaign financing won approval;
Amendment 2 which would add a property tax exemption for deployed military personnel was approved;
Amendment 4 which would have required referendums be held on changes to land use plans was defeated;
Amendment s 5 and 6 which set standards for the Legislature to follow in redistricting next year requiring they not show favor to incumbents or political parties in draw district boundaries, both won approval; and
Amendment 8, which would have revised the class size standards approved previously y voters was approved.
A referendum expressing voter’s desire that the federal budget be balanced was overwhelmingly approved.