Susan Chapman is Sarasota’s newest city commissioner. She joins incumbent winner Mayor Suzanne Atwell in a victory during today's at-large runoff election. Atwell was the top vote-getter with 4,575 votes, or 38.48% of votes. Chapman garnered 3,880 votes, or 32.64%. Richard Dorfman lost the runoff with 3,433 votes, or 28.88%
In the runoff election, 19.94% of residents cast a ballot, with 7,102 residents voting — compared to a 17.34% turnout with 6,144 residents voting in the March election. All three candidates spent the day greeting voters at polling locations in what was expected to be a close election after a tight race in March’s election.
After news of the win Tuesday night, Chapman said she looked forward to “problem solving” on the commission and focusing on issues ranging from studying the possibility of a form-based planning code to coming up with “meaningful answers” to homelessness in the city.
Chapman also talked about what she called a "grassroots campaign."
“And they say grassroots campaigns are a thing of the past, and, yeah, money buys elections,” Chapman said to her supporters. Chapman had raised the least amount of the three candidates, as of contributions reported March 22.
Asked how she felt about working with Atwell, Chapman said, she "was fine with it.”
During her speech to supporters Tuesday night, Atwell spoke about her experience on the City Commission.
“We have a lot to do in this city, but the transition will be easier,” Atwell said. “I have the continuity, the experience, and I think the voters sent that message today. So we are moving forward in this absolutely great city of Sarasota.”
During her next term, Atwell wants to focus on redevelopment efforts on North Trail and the Rosemary District. Atwell said she was ready to work with Chapman.
“I welcome Susan Chapman,” Atwell said. “I think Susan Chapman has a lot of experience in this town. Actually, Susan Chapman was one who nominated me for the civic league board many, many years ago and how I got my start in the community with a lot of the boards she was on."
Dorfman, who had supported Atwell during the campaign, said, “She’s good for the city.”
Dorfman also said he would stay involved in local politics despite the loss.
“Your interest doesn't just go away — you keep pushing for the causes that you're passionate about," he said. "We'll see what the next race brings.
"I hope the commission works well together to move Sarasota forward. We need a commission that's ready to work together for the city. It's not about me — it's about the city."
In March, Chapman was the top vote-getter with 2,712 votes, or 24.56% of votes. Atwell garnered 2,611 votes, or 23.64%. Dorfman had 2,313 votes, or 20.94%.
Turnout is historically low in Sarasota. In 2011, 17.72% of residents voted in the City Commission race, and in 2009, 20.93% voted.
Atwell and Chapman will be sworn in at noon Friday, May 17, during the statutory commission meeting at City Hall.
To see a photo gallery of the candidates on Election Day, click here.