Throughout the holiday week, YourObserver.com will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2010 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers. Check back each day for a reprinting — and any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED March 18, 2010
Longboat Key voters replaced District 1 Mayor Lee Rothenberg with Lynn Larson and District 3 Commissioner Peter O’Connor with David Brenner at the polls Tuesday.
At-large Commissioner Hal Lenobel was the only incumbent who held onto his seat Tuesday, defeating challenger Phillip Younger by a slim 94-vote margin.
Since last March, the town’s voters have elected to replace three incumbents with new commissioners. Last year, Gene Jaleski unseated incumbent Commissioner Randall Clair for the other at-large seat.
The most contested race this year, at least in terms of campaign contributions and expenses for both candidates, belonged to the District 3 candidates.
Brenner collected more than $16,000 in campaign contributions, while O’Connor collected more than $10,000.
Brenner, celebrating his 374-vote margin at the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort, won a seat on the commission that denied him another term on the Planning and Zoning Board just last year.
Brenner has said the commission has not done enough to encourage the development of Avenue of the Flowers and revitalization Key-wide.
“I think people recognize we can do better than what we’ve been doing,” said Brenner in a speech to his supporters. “Now the burden is on me to meet these expectations.”
In Manatee County, Brenner received 56.2% of the vote, or 492 votes, compared to O’Connor’s 43.8%, or 383 votes.
In Sarasota County, Brenner received 56.5% of the vote, or 1,152 votes, compared to O’Connor’s 43.5%, or 887 votes.
O’Connor declined to comment on the election results Tuesday night.
In the race of the Country Club Shores residents, Larson unseated Rothenberg in the island’s southernmost district, where the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside project is being proposed.
Larson won by 474 votes for the most decisive victory of the night.
“I would like to thank the mayor for all of his years of service,” Larson said. “I felt like I couldn’t lose because of all of the wonderful people who supported me through this process.”
In Manatee County, Larson received 63.3% of the vote, or 563 votes, compared to Rothenberg’s 36.7%, or 326 votes.
In Sarasota County, Larson received 55.7% of the vote, or 1,159 votes, compared to Rothenberg’s 44.3%, or 922 votes.
Rothenberg, meanwhile, said he was disappointed in the results, but proud of his many years of service to the town.
“That’s democracy at work,” Rothenberg said. “I was happy to contribute to the town for the last five years as a commissioner, and I wish Lynn well.”
In the at-large race, Lenobel defeated Younger by 94 votes without debating the issues or collecting a dime from supporters.
Lenobel secured his second consecutive term and sixth term in office overall.
“I’m a little surprised,” Lenobel said. “I expected to lose.”
When his sixth term is complete in 2012, Lenobel will have tied former Mayor Ray Metz’s record of 12 years of total service to the town as a commissioner.
Joked Lenobel, the town’s most senior commissioner at age 85: “I’m looking forward to tying the record of 12 years of service — if I can live through it.”
In Manatee County, Lenobel received 44.4% of the vote, or 390 votes, compared to Younger’s 55.6%, or 489 votes.
In Sarasota County, Lenobel received 54.7% of the vote, or 1,118 votes, compared to Younger’s 45.3%, or 925 votes.
Younger, meanwhile, was proud of the way he ran his campaign against who he called “one of the most popular commissioners of all time.”
“I ran against a Longboat Key icon and I have no regrets,” Younger said. “I feel like I ran a clean campaign and the voters made their decision.”
For the second year in a row, no campaign issue stood out more than the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s renovation-and-expansion project.
Islandside Property Owners Coalition President Bob White urged some Key residents in an e-mail to vote for the incumbents in this election, who he believed were better suited to uphold the town’s current codes and reject the club’s current application as proposed.
Despite the fact that Rothenberg and O’Connor could not take a stance on the Islandside application that’s before the town, White believed they were better choices than their opponents, who were dubbed by some as running on a pro-development ticket.
Both Larson and Brenner were able to unseat the incumbents, despite thousands of dollars that Islandside residents contributed to both Rothenberg’s and O’Connor’s campaigns.
“I don’t think some Islandside residents are ready for change and those contributions to my opponent reflected that,” Brenner said. “But, in the end, it didn’t matter because the majority of the people around this island are fed up with a commission that doesn’t do much of anything.”
The turnout for Election Day on Longboat Key was average, however, despite the fact that the commission elected not to hold early voting on the island this year.
The town of Longboat Key reported that only 135 registered voters took advantage of early voting on the mainland this year, compared to 1,201 registered voters who voted early on the island in one week alone last year.
This year, 2,970 total votes were cast Key-wide, or 47% of the town’s 6,330 registered voters. Last year, 2,294 total votes were cast Key-wide, or 35% of the town’s 6,502 registered voters.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]