Round two of the City Commission campaign commenced Tuesday night.
Susan Chapman, Suzanne Atwell and Richard Dorfman advanced to a May 14 runoff for two at-large City Commission seats. Fellow candidates Kelvin Lumpkin, Linda Holland and Pete Theisen were eliminated from the race.
All three runoff candidates said there was a lot more work to be done. They plan to sharpen their political messages and canvas neighborhoods during runoff campaigns. But their messages differ.
The candidates’ political platforms taking shape after the election Tuesday echoed their recent efforts on the campaign trail.
Chapman said her campaign message won’t change.
“I won’t change who I am,” Chapman said during an interview Wednesday with the Sarasota Observer. “Sarasota is a great city, and we need to make sure all changes serve it.”
Chapman’s campaign team will look over the voting data to determine how each precinct voted to see which neighborhoods she needs to visit to get more support for the runoff vote. Chapman had the most absentee votes, garnering 1,064 votes; Atwell received 885; and Dorfman received 752.
Chapman wants limited, compatible development, and believes the city is mostly built out, a stance that pits her against the two other candidates in the runoff.
After receiving the final vote tally Tuesday night, Atwell described herself as the centralist candidate among the three.
She had a slight advantage among early voters — with 374 early votes, compared to 366 for Dorfman and 359 for Chapman.
On Election Day, Atwell also garnered the most votes with 1,346 votes. Chapman received 1,282 votes and Dorfman received 1,193 votes on Election Day.
Early on the campaign trail, Atwell, the only incumbent, said she strived for a “well-balanced” approach to governance. Her top issues include finding solutions to the homeless population and related crime downtown, and working on changes to density caps.
On Tuesday night, Atwell said her recent vote in support of a proposed Ringling Walmart shows she is trying to make the right decision as a commissioner.
Atwell supporter Diana Hamilton said the runoff campaign will be a referendum on Sarasota’s growth.
“This is a battle for Sarasota’s future,” Hamilton said. “We are either going to grow, or go under.”
Atwell said she wants to spend more time going door-to-door during the runoff campaign.
Dorfman has based much of his campaign on getting the attention of young professionals. He’ll continue to focus on how he would draw new jobs, bring in development and work on issues, such as the noise ordinance downtown.
“I think Sarasota just spoke, and I think the (young people) who came out and want a vibrant Sarasota just spoke,” Dorfman said at his election party at Patrick’s.
Dorfman said his first item of post-election business is to retrieve campaign signs from the polling locations. Then, Dorfman, who had collected the most in campaign contributions at $40,056, will do some voter analysis with his campaign team.
Dorfman also said he will try to get more specific about some of the campaign issues, such as the sound ordinance and increasing density.
Dorfman does not consider himself on the extreme end of the political spectrum.
“The opposition painted me as someone who wants to pave over Sarasota,” he said. I want to see growth and development where we need it, and we need it desperately on the North Trail. But I don’t want to pave over paradise.”
Because candidates garnered 50% of the votes, three advanced to a runoff: Susan Chapman, Suzanne Atwell and Richard Dorfman. Chapman was the top vote-getter with 2,705 votes, or 24.53% of the total. Atwell, the only incumbent in the race, was 99 votes behind, receiving 2,606 votes, or 23.63% of the total. Dorfman received 2,311 votes, or 20.96% of the total.
Voter turnout for the election was 17.32%. The top two vote-getters in May will be sworn in May 17.