“I won,” Commissioner Terry Gans typed in a text message to his sons.
“What, the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections is reporting you lost by 10 votes?” one son replied.
Gans, though, was right: At 7:25 p.m. Tuesday, he learned in a phone call from Town Clerk Trish Granger he had held onto his Longboat Key Town Commission seat by just 27 votes.
Gans, who refused to go into a party with his fellow commissioners until he learned the results, was sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort with his wife, Diane, when Granger’s phone call came.
The results his son read didn’t include the Manatee County portion of the Key, which chose Gans for the seat.
“For a moment, my heart stopped,” Gans said. “I texted him back and told him I’m glad he didn’t give me that news 10 minutes earlier.”
Gans received 50.54% of the vote, or 1,262 votes, compared to challenger Irwin Pastor’s 49.46%, or 1,235 votes.
Mayor Jim Brown and Commissioner Phill Younger also kept their commission seats, but they had the luxury of being informed they won by three-digit vote margins. Brown won a third term in the District 4 seat by 301 votes over challenger Larry Grossman. Younger won a second term in his at-large seat by 479 votes over challenger Gene Jaleski.
Brown was the first to receive the news from Granger. After the phone call, he ran back into a second-floor dining room at the Hilton that overlooks the Gulf shouting, “We won ’em all!”
“We couldn’t have done this without everyone’s support,” Brown said. “The voters have spoken.”
Younger was so ecstatic about the news that he grabbed his wife, Fanny, and picked her up to celebrate.
“I think this is a very, very good day for Longboat Key,” Younger said. “We all worked very hard for this.”
Gans, meanwhile, finally made his way into the party after he heard the results.
Just after 7:30 p.m., he walked into cheers from the more than 100 people in attendance who started chanting, “Terry! Terry! Terry!”
Gans immediately broke into a smile and was swarmed by friends and supporters.
“Every vote truly counts,” Gans said. “We had to overcome a very hardcore and effective group of challengers. In the end, though, our victories are an endorsement we are on the right path.”
Brown and Younger won two more years on the commission, while Gans acquired the one-year partial term left on his seat.
The incumbents urged voters during the election season to allow them to continue working as one cohesive unit with their fellow commissioners.
Now, the winners of Tuesday’s election get to help guide the town through an overhaul of its codes and Comprehensive Plan. It’s a process they have all stated is their
No. 1 priority moving forward. It’s also an effort that will include public input and the help of a code/planning consultant.
They will also get a chance to help Town Manager Dave Bullock work to freeze the Longboat Key Police Department pension plan and oversee a beach renourishment project scheduled to start this summer.
Individually on their to-do lists, Brown has his third and final term left to try and bring a community center project to the forefront; Younger gets to oversee a beach project he formulated that saved the town more than $30 million; and Gans can finish out a term to help oversee the Key’s revitalization efforts and plan a roadmap for future terms.
The most contested race this year, both in terms of voter margin and campaign contributions, belonged to the at-large race between Gans and Pastor.
Gans squeaked out victories in both, though, collecting $20,435 in total campaign contributions. Pastor collected $20,395.01 in campaign contributions.
Pastor described the race as a “good, competitive election.”
“I think we both took the high road, and I think that’s good,” he said. “That’s what elections are about.”
In the other at-large race, Younger overcame Jaleski who tried to regain the same seat he resigned from in 2010.
Younger received 59.66% of the vote, or 1,479 votes, compared to Jaleski’s 40.34%, or 1,000 votes.
Jaleski said he thought the election was a “spirited race,” but he wished there were more forums to discuss Key issues.
He said he enjoyed running and will stay active in town issues.
“I am an activist and will always be one, and I will continue to serve my community,” Jaleski said.
Brown received 56.05% of the vote, or 1,395 votes, compared to Grossman’s 43.95%, or 1,094 votes.
Grossman described himself as “neither elated nor deflated.”
He said he has only lived on the island for four years and didn’t have a base prior to the election.
“The first time you run, you see what kind of support you have,” he said. “Now, I know what kind of support I have. Before, I had nothing.”
Even though the Longboat Key Club and Resort Islandside renovation-and-expansion project is a moot point for the Key at this time, it still was the most contentious campaign issue for the fifth campaign year in a row.
Challengers and Islandside Property Owners Coalition President Bob White blamed the incumbents for voting for the project, which was never built and led to a court ruling that mandates the town’s forthcoming code changes.
The incumbents also won despite thousands of dollars that numerous Islandside residents and Islandside Property Owners Coalition supporters contributed to the campaigns of Pastor, Jaleski and Grossman.
“You can’t buy Longboat Key,” Brown said.
The turnout for Election Day was a bit higher than last year, even though a cold front brought rainy weather for most of the morning that kept polling stations quiet during early-morning hours that are usually bustling with early-bird voters.
This year, 2,509 total votes were cast Key-wide in the municipal election, with 40.06% of the town’s 6,263 registered voters casting a ballot. In last year’s March election, 2,334 total votes were cast Key-wide, with 37.06% of the town’s 6,298 voters casting a ballot.
The town had 917 votes cast on Election Day this year for three races, compared to 852 votes cast on Election Day in 2012 that included just one commission race. In that March 2012 race, Vice Mayor David Brenner won by 90 votes against challenger Ray Rajewski.
During the celebration Tuesday night, Brenner called his race outcome last year and the outcomes of his fellow commissioners this year “a big sign.”
“For us, it’s confirmation the voters not only like what we have been doing, but are motivated about what we have planned for the future of this Key,” he said.
Additional reporting by City Editor Robin Hartill.