David Brenner wasn’t smiling or frowning when he stepped to the podium at his campaign supporters’ party Tuesday night, at the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort. The vice mayor had just received the results of the town’s March 20 general municipal election, but you couldn’t read the outcome on his face. Supporters were still chatting when he stepped to the microphone and delivered the outcome in two words: “We won.”
Five miles away, challenger Ray Rajewski had gathered with his supporters at his home in the Bayou section of Bay Isles. But, before he got the results, he gathered his supporters to thank them, tell them that his campaign was a team effort and say that regardless of what happened in the next 15 minutes, the experience gave him the opportunity to meet good people.
Brenner won the election, securing a second two-year term in the District 3 Longboat Key Town Commission seat, but the election was close: He won by just 90 votes. Brenner received 1,211 votes, or 51.9% of the 2,332 votes cast, compared to the 1,121 votes that Rajewski received. In Manatee County, Brenner received 381 votes, compared to Rajewski’s 308, for 55.3% of the total. In Sarasota County, Brenner received 830 of 1,643 votes, compared to Rajewski’s 813 votes, for 50.5% of the total. In total, 2,332, or 37.02% of Longboat Key’s 6,300 registered voters, cast ballots in the election. The District 3 seat was the only contested race in the town’s general election. Commissioners Lynn Larson, Hal Lenobel and Pat Zunz ran unopposed for re-election.
Speaking to his supporters Tuesday night, Brenner said that the vote was closer than he would have preferred. But still, he said that the majority of voters recognized that change is upon the Key and cited Publix’s upcoming redevelopment as an example.
“The last time I ran, I said that the future starts now for Longboat Key,” he said. “I still believe that, and I believe that’s now.”
Brenner had described his campaign as one that sought balance for the Key. Throughout his campaign, he described the island as a primarily residential community that needed a mix of commercial and tourist development. Rajewski, a newcomer to town politics, campaigned as the “residents’ representative” with a vision of maintaining the Key as an “upscale second home, vacation and residential community,” according to campaign materials.
Rajewski, a Boston native, 68, is a U.S. Army veteran and former executive vice president and chief operating officer of Paramount and CBS television stations based in Los Angeles. He got his first taste of Longboat Key during a guys’ long weekend in 1983. In 2004, he bought his home in the Bayou and moved there full time. He told the Longboat Observer last month that he waited until just before the deadline to turn in candidate papers to the Supervisor of Elections Office because he wanted to see if someone else would step up and run for a seat. His campaign drew support from Islandside Property Owners Coalition members who oppose the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s proposed $400 million redevelopment-and-expansion project that Brenner supported. When asked after receiving the results Tuesday night if he would consider running again, Rajewski said that he would have to think about it.
Brenner, who celebrated his 76th birthday March 21, is a Philadelphia native and certified public accountant who retired in 1983 at age 47 but left retirement behind three years later when the mayor of Philadelphia asked him to become his director of commerce. Brenner served on the staff for three years but later returned in 1991 when he was asked to return as the city’s finance director. He and his wife, Maggie, bought their unit at the Islander Club in 1999 and became full-time residents in 2001. Brenner served a three-year term on the Longboat Key Planning & Zoning Board beginning in 2006 before winning the District 3 seat in a race against incumbent Commissioner Peter O’Connor in 2010.
“If you look at the numbers, you see that what IPOC turned out was the money,” Brenner told the Longboat Observer. “I think that for the people of Longboat Key, this was great.”
Senior Editor Dora Walters contributed to this report.
✔ Denotes winner
✔ Brenner: 1,211 votes; 51.9%
Rajewski: 1,121 votes; 48.1%
✔ Brenner 830 votes; 50.5%
Rajewski 813 votes; 49.5%
✔ Brenner 381 votes; 55.3%
Rajewski 308 votes; 44.7%
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