In a night that saw Republicans sweep, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key barely had to break a sweat. The Republican congressman cruised to victory over Democratic challenger James Golden.
“I’m humbled to think that we won … by 40% — the biggest (margin of victory) in the district in 25 years,” Buchanan said. “I’m hopeful to get more done not only for Longboat Key, but for the county and the country.”
Buchanan, who is entering his third term in office, received 69% of the vote, while Golden received 31%.
The anti-Democrat sentiment that swept the country hit full force in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
In fact, the only Democrat to win in Sarasota County, Florida Rep. Darryl Rouson of District 55, was unopposed.
Incumbent status can usually help lead a candidate to victory. Unfortunately for state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, his Democratic status outweighed his incumbency.
In perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening, Fitzgerald lost his seat to Republican Ray Pilon, who received 51.4% of the vote to Fitzgerald’s 48.6%.
“The district is a very tough district,” Pilon said. “I’m happy with all the support we’ve received.”
In his concession speech, Fitzgerald said it was a tough night for all Democrats.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “But democracy is not about a single election. This is not the end of anything. It’s the beginning of the next fight, and we’re going to be out there doing it.”
Republican Jim Boyd was voters’ overwhelming choice to fill the Florida House District 68 seat against his challenger Dave Miner, no party affiliate, with 62% of the vote.
Incumbent Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta easily defeated his challenger, independent Cathy Antunes to retain his District 2 seat.
Barbetta collected 64% of the vote, while Antunes got 36%.
“It’s been fun to do this job,” Barbetta told supporters, after claiming victory. “I look forward to another four years.”
This race had the added drama of Antunes being involved in a lawsuit against the county, a lawsuit that was defeated in both the district and appeals courts.
The hospital sales representative had formed a citizens group that sued over the county’s spring-training negotiations, claiming that those talks were done outside of the public eye.
The two courts, however, ruled that any Sunshine Law violations that may have occurred were innocent mistakes and were not egregious enough to warrant any penalties.
Barbetta had far more financial support, enjoying a 6-to-1 fundraising advantage over Antunes, which he attributed to the fact that most people felt he was the better candidate.
“To my wife, Mary, thanks for putting up with me all these years,” Barbetta joked. “I won’t be around the house for four more years.”
In the other Sarasota County Commission race on the ballot, incumbent Commissioner Nora Patterson had little trouble defeating Democratic challenger Mark Hawkins, with a vote of 66.5% to 33.5%.
“It’s been a long race,” she told a crowd at Marina Jack.
Patterson’s husband, John, showed his support at her election night party by keeping a tally of the results on a large pad of paper propped on an easel.
“Our job the next four years, working together as a community, will be to right our economy,” Patterson said. “We are a high quality-of-life community, and we will come out of this recession even stronger.”
Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore retained her District 6 seat, receiving 69% of the vote to challenger Sundae Knight’s 31%.
In other races, Republican Steven Fields defeated Democrat Diana Harrington 61% to 39% to win the Charter Review Board District 2 race.
And for the Charter Review Board District 5 race, David del Purgatorio received 55% of the vote, beating Kevin Connelly, who got 45%.
Two hospital board seats were also decided. Republican Darryl Henry won over Democrat T.M. Hardt 68% to 32% in the Southern District Seat 1 race.
Incumbent Robert Strasser, a Republican, defeated Thelma Upshaw, a Democrat, 64% to 36% to claim Seat 2 in the northern district.
Voter turnout was 56% in Sarasota County and 53% in Manatee County, which is higher than normal for a non-presidential election. Voter turnout for Longboat Key on Election Day was 38.5%, with 2,428 votes cast.
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].
For a PDF of how Sarasota and Manatee counties voted, click here.
For a PDF of how Longboat Key voted, click here.
Scroll below to see videos of District 69 Rep. Ray Pilon and U.S. Rep Vern Buchanan speaking on Election Night at Sarasota Yacht Club.