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VIDEO: Ziegler triumphs

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  • | 5:00 a.m. November 4, 2014
  • Siesta Key
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As it became apparent that Bridget Ziegler would emerge victorious in a Sarasota County School Board race, one question still remained Tuesday night: when she would be able to celebrate her win with friends and family.

Ziegler, the incumbent, narrowly edged out Longboat Key resident Ken Marsh to capture the Sarasota County School Board District 1 seat Tuesday. The election was a runoff race for a tight August primary, in which Ziegler had nearly 2,000 fewer votes than Marsh.

When the polls closed, Ziegler wasn’t at the Sarasota County Republican Party watch party at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota as planned.

Instead, Ziegler — whom Gov. Rick Scott appointed to fill a vacancy on the school board in June — was at a board meeting in North Port. Ziegler’s appointment had surprised some, as the school board pushed for the seat to remain unfilled to avoid giving any candidate an advantage in the August primary.

Ziegler didn’t get out of the meeting until 8:40 p.m., at which point 96 of 99 precincts were reporting. As she departed for what became a victory party, she led with just 50.8% of the vote to Marsh’s 49.2%. By the time the race had been called, she was still en route to the Hyatt.

Once she finally arrived, a crowd of hundreds following the local and statewide races greeted her. Although she was late to the party, she said she had already gotten messages of congratulations as the school board meeting ended.

She attributed her success in part to her youth — which, along with her recent motherhood and outsider perspective, was a cornerstone of her campaign.

“I think that being younger energizes people, and I stood strong on what I believe in,” Ziegler said. “I have already started to move forward with some of that.”

Despite some tensions between Ziegler and the rest of the school board, which emerged late last month during a discussion about televising board workshops, she said she believed she could work well with her colleagues over the next four years.

“I think, even during the campaign, my focus always was: What’s going to be in the best interests of our children?” Ziegler said. “I think there’s a great benefit to having someone who might not stand exactly where the current school board was.”

Marsh, who served as the Sarasota County School District’s director of long-range planning and worked for 35 years in public education, said it was too early to know his next move following the defeat. Still, he was happy with how he ran the race.

“I’m really grateful to the tens of thousands of voters who voted for me, Democrat and others alike,” Marsh said. “I’m proud of the campaign I ran that was transparent and above board — and it was close. It was just very close, and I congratulate Mrs. Ziegler.”

In the race for the Manatee County School Board’s District 5 seat, Mary Cantrell, the longtime leader of Manatee Technical Institute, received 46.3% of the vote compared with Julie Aranibar’s 40.3%. Aranibar has served on the Manatee County School Board since 2010.

“I’m so excited,” Cantrell said of her win. “I’m so grateful. I think we’re going to have a wonderful board that works together for the betterment of our schools. There are hard decisions that need to be made.”

The races for two open Sarasota County Commission seats were less suspenseful, with Republicans Paul Caragiulo and Alan Maio claiming the District 2 and District 4 seats, respectively. They will fill the positions vacated by Joe Barbetta and Nora Patterson, both of whom depart the board due to term limits.

Caragiulo received 66.16% of the vote, with no-party-affiliate candidate Alexandra Coe earning 33.34%.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Caragiulo said. “I’m pleased with citizens’ confidence.”

Maio fought a stronger challenge from Democrat Ray Porter, but won 53.43% of the vote to Porter’s 41.26%.

Maio maintained a calm confidence even when, at first, the votes were close between him and his opponent on election night.

Maio thanked his wife, Nancy, for coming with him to every campaign event for the last two years.
“We had a good time,” she said. “It was hard work, but worth it.”

Also Tuesday, Manatee Country District 6 Commissioner Carol Whitmore held on to her District 6 seat with 65,202 votes, or 56.5% of the vote, compared with Terri Wonder’s 43,950 votes, for 38.1% of the vote.

— Staff Writer Jessica Salmond contributed to this story.




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