As Ed Brodsky walked away from the podium after his victory speech Tuesday night, he hugged Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight, who became a key supporter of Brodsky during a 21-month campaign for State Attorney 12th Circuit.
A few minutes earlier, as results forecast an imminent win, Brodsky told Knight that it was looking like the sheriff was “stuck with” Brodksy.
Knight, who has attributed a 15% drop in crime in part to the work being done by Brodsky, a longtime prosecutor in the State Attorney’s Office, was just fine with that outcome.
Amid the applause, juggling entertainers and live music at the GOP election party at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, Christine Robinson celebrated her County Commission District 3 win quietly — before she had to step to the podium and give a speech. Robinson celebrated with her mother, Sandy Strenkoski, who flew down from Buffalo, N.Y., to surprise her daughter.
Brodsky, who beat Democrat John Torraco with 54.9% votes, and Robinson, who captured 55.4% of the vote over opponent Jennifer Cohen, were two of the successful Republican candidates who savored their victory, thanked supporters and embraced family members at the party at the Hyatt.
But, even as they touted their wins, the politicians were thinking of the challenges and issues ahead. The Sarasota Observer asked the candidates which of those issues they would tackle.
Robinson said one ongoing mission was to solve what she calls “workforce issues.” She will focus on two problems: local manufacturers hiring employees outside the county because they can’t find qualified, trained employees in Sarasota County, and residents having to look outside the area for work.
Earlier in the evening, as she received early updates from the Sarasota Supervisor of Elections office, Robinson said she was nervous — and she had some cause to be. The incumbent had outspent her opponent $100,000 to $15,000 in a county that has consistently named Republicans to the County Commission for the past five decades, yet she found herself ahead by only a surprisingly slim margin.
“I feel excitement and a real sense of honor,” Robinson said after hearing that she had secured the District 3 seat. Robinson, who was appointed to the board by the governor to replace former Commissioner Shannon Staub in 2010, was already thinking of some of the projects she wanted to finish — with the focus on jobs being the most important.
Job training is a key component, Robinson said.
After 21 months on the campaign trail, Brodsky joked he was going to Disney World.
“I just want to soak it all in,” he said.
After that, Brodsky wants to collaborate with law enforcement to go after gangs and violent offenders who are being tried in the court system.
That means gunning for high conviction percentages and stiff sentences for “the 6% who commit 60% of the crimes.”
Brodsky was engaged in a bitter campaign that kept him on the defensive most of the time.
Torraco, a real-estate investor and professor at the State College of Florida, lost to Brodsky by about 13,000 votes. Torraco’s campaign painted Brodsky as an insider at an office that pushed for convictions at the cost of case dismissals or taxpayer money. Peter Lombardo, who lost to Brodsky in a bitter primary battle, endorsed Torraco.
“I knew it was going to be close,” Torraco said.
“I wish the best to my opponent, and, hopefully, we can get some positive change out of the debates that went on in Sarasota and Manatee counties,” Torraco said.
Up next, Torraco said he is going to continue to work and practice law, teach and stay involved with real-estate investment.
Ray Pilon, another GOP candidate who won Tuesday, was also looking ahead — to Wednesday and beyond.
Pilon, who won the State House District 72 seat with 53.9% of the vote, said his election crew would spend Wednesday removing more than 650 campaign yard signs, and then he would be getting ready for committee meetings in Tallahassee.
As for the big issues, there are jobs and the economy. But, Pilon also wants to get some momentum, and, perhaps, set up a policy think group to address issues in public education from kindergarten to grade 12, to the university level.
Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, won his fourth term with 186,627 votes, or 53.6%, compared to Keith Fitzgerald’s 161,257, or 46.4% of votes.
Buchanan reiterated many of the messages on which he campaigned: He promised to focus on jobs and controlling spending.
The cheers grew louder when he talked about taking action against illegal immigration and loudest when he vowed to work toward repealing Obamacare.
Fitzgerald is a New College political science professor who served two terms in the Florida State House from 2006 to 2010.
Speaking of his next step, Fitzgerald said: “I’ve been at this for seven years, and I think it’s time I take a timeout to spend more time with my family.”
A city charter amendment that would have split the City Clerk and Auditor Office was voted down with 55.3% of voters against the measure.
As a result, City Auditor and Clerk Pam Nadalini will retain oversight of the clerk and auditor functions at City Hall.
The proposal, if approved, would have moved the city clerk — now an independent charter branch of the city’s government — to the city manager’s office and created a separate auditor’s office.