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The banquet room at Bentley’s Resort in Osprey was quiet most of the night as County Commissioner Nora Patterson mingled with small groups of people scattered throughout the well-lit room.
But the calm atmosphere was interrupted several times for brief election updates from Patterson’s husband and co-campaign manager, John — the first of which came just 25 minutes after the polls closed.
“With 28% of the precincts in, Nora has 56% and the other candidate has 44%,” said John Patterson.
Applause followed — then it was back to mingling.
The other Republican primary candidate was Siesta Key architect Mark Smith, who never got closer than 12% to the incumbent. Voter turnout for the primary election was 24.25%, or 63,555 voters.
This was Patterson’s fourth County Commission election. She was unopposed in two of them.
“This is my second contested election at the county (level),” she said. “It never gets easier. The issues change. The economy changes. Public opinion changes.”
Opponents also change, and Patterson had a tough competitor in Smith.
The former president of the Siesta Key Village Association had a strong following on the Key. But Patterson is also a Key resident and usually dominates there.
Smith, however, claimed two of the major Key endorsements. The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and Siesta Key Village Association backed him, while the Siesta Key Association supported Patterson.
“I think Nora got the message,” said Smith. “She changed her position on a few things.”
When it came time to vote, though, Patterson won in four of the Key’s five precincts. Smith took precinct 12, which is in the Village, 51% to 49%.
Smith performed better on one of the county’s other barrier islands. He won two of Casey Key’s four precincts, but only lost the other two precincts by a total of six votes. Smith received 676 total votes on Casey Key, while Patterson got 633.
Of the 50 voting precincts from Sarasota to Osprey, Patterson won 44. Her widest margins of victory came in the following places:
• Precinct 10, the Fruitville Road and U.S. 301 area: 46%.
• Precinct 99, the Palmer Ranch area near Westfield Sarasota Square Mall: 75%.
• Precinct 18, the U.S. 41 and 47th Street area: 40%.
Smith’s widest margin of victory, 16%, came in precinct 77, which is the area of 17th Street and North Orange Avenue.
“It’s been a great experience, and I’ve met a lot of great people,” said Smith. “But it’s extremely difficult for a political unknown to take on a 20-year political machine.”
Patterson was clearly pleased with the results. With a permanent smile on her face Election Night, she said it would be too difficult to individually thank all those who supported her and voted for her. Instead, she said her gratitude will be shown in a different way.
“I will promise to work really, really hard for you the next four years,” she said.
Patterson still has work ahead. She will face relatively unknown Democrat Mark Hawkins in the general election in November.
Patterson told supporters: “He’s a new voice in an anti-incumbent climate, so I’m dependent on you.”
BOEHM WINS JUDGESHIP
Attorney Maryann Boehm easily defeated Tracy Lee in the Aug. 24 primary to take Sarasota County Judge Seat 3.
Boehm took 62% of the vote to Lee’s 38%.
Speaking to why she cruised to victory, Boehm said it was her work ethic.
“I started campaigning a year ago,” she said. “I worked hard to expand my base.”
Lee had been dogged by a domestic-violence arrest last year, in which his wife accused him of pushing her to the ground. She later dropped the charges.
Lee initially dropped out of the race, but re-entered last spring, hoping that voters would look past the incident.
Further revelations, though, revealed several other occasions when Lee’s wife called law enforcement to report an outburst by the judicial candidate.
Lee could not be reached for comment.
TAX EXEMPTION APPROVED
Voters were given two opportunities to vote for a tax exemption for certain businesses — one on the county level and one from the city.
Both measures won by the same convincing margin — 67% to 33%.
The property-tax exemption is designed to draw new businesses to Sarasota County and the city of Sarasota.
To qualify for the exemption, a new business would have to do the following:
• Manufacture, process, compound fabricate or produce products and create at least 10 full-time jobs;
• Sell at least 50% of its goods outside Sarasota and Manatee counties and create at least 25 full-time jobs;
• Lease or own office space on a site separate from any other commercial or industrial operation that it owns and create at least 50 full-time jobs.
Existing businesses would have to comply with both of the first two conditions listed above and increase employment or production by 10%.
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