- March 25, 2022
Longboat Key voters leaned left in a nonpartisan Sarasota County School Board election last week voting against the countywide grain in each of the three races that drew broad attention in heated political climate.
Conservative residents of the Key said they were surprised by results that differed from the overall popular vote. Longboat Key Democratic Club representatives were not shocked by the data.
In the nonpartisan race, party ties were quickly identified and used for or against each candidate in what turned out to be a contentious race that focused on such issues as state mandates, parental access to curriculum, requirements on how educators teach civics and history and more.
Residents of the county reelected Bridget Ziegler into the District 1 seat. Robyn Marinelli was voted into the District 4 seat, and Timothy Enos was selected for the District 5 seat.
However, Longboat residents voted in favor of each winning candidate’s opponent. Overall, between 28-37 of the county's 99 precincts favored the challengers.
Just over 50% of Longboat voters preferred Dawnyelle Singleton in the seat over Ziegler. Singleton received 887 votes over Ziegler’s 879.
About 58% of voters cast their ballot for Lauren Kurnov instead of winner Marinelli. Kurnov received 1,007 votes over 731 cast for Marinelli.
About 45% of voters were in favor of Enos. The majority voted for Nora Cietek. Enos received 772 votes, whereas Cietek received 953.
"The community has spoken and it is crystal clear; they are demanding a reset of the School Board, and that’s exactly what they are going to get," Ziegler wrote in a statement. "Taxpayers will be appreciated. Parents will be respected and involved. Teachers will be respected and supported. Kids will be protected and served. And our school district will get the focus back to our mission: educating our children."
Ziegler, Marinelli and Enos were guests of the Republican Club of Longboat Key in April, an event at which Manatee County Commission candidate Jason Bearden also appeared. Bearden pulled off an upset, defeating Carol Whitmore for her seat. In that race, north-end residents of Longboat Key supported the U.S. Marine Corps veteran over the incumbent, but with a smaller margin that the countywide vote.
In his new Congressional district that no longer includes the Sarasota County portion of Longboat, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan defeated Sarasota businessman Martin Hyde in Manatee County voting by more than 4-1, a ratio nearly matched among Longboat Key's Manatee County residents.
Democrats on Longboat Key favored Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody in a County Commission primary over winner Fredd Atkins.
Town Commissioner BJ Bishop said that while she was expecting different results in the Sarasota County school board race, she was not entirely shocked by the outcome, either.
She attributed the outcome to concern of citizens on the Key regarding teacher retention and support. Bishop cited a number of former educators living on the Key that may have identified left-leaning candidates aligning with what they hoped to see in the district.
"One of the really good things about Longboat voters is they are well educated," she said. "They are usually pretty prepared when they go to the polls."
In Longboat Key’s Sarasota County voting precinct, 1,848 of 4,686 registered voters cast ballots, a turnout of 39.44% against a countywide turnout figure of 36.76%. In Manatee County’s Longboat Key voting precinct, 538 of 2,255 registered voters cast ballots, a turnout of 35.7% against a countywide overall turnout of 31.28%.
Residents of Longboat Key are typically retired with only about 75 students on the island attending Manatee County or Sarasota County Schools.
President of the Longboat Key Democratic Club Ed Sabol said he was not surprised by Key residents’ selections as most of the individuals he spoke with were pleased with the way the school board was being run in the past while being governed by mostly Democratic-leaning members.
“It’s not shocking to me because most people I speak with feel that the Sarasota County school system is doing a very good job and it has a very good reputation,” he said.
The club endorsed Kurnov, Singleton and Cietek in the race as statements emailed to Sabol, who decided which candidates to endorse, aligned most closely with the views of club members.
However, Sabol believes the viewpoints of the liberal candidates in the nonpartisan race aligned with what residents viewed as important to them and the students of the county.
It is likely that those who voted for the winning candidates have students in the school system and a desire to see change in the board and district, he said.
“I think the other candidates were really putting forward that they wanted major changes,” he said.
Unlike the Democratic club, conservative residents of the Key said they were shocked by the revelation that residents opted to vote in favor of left-leaning candidates as opposed to the candidates who won the overall race.
Former Commissioner Lynn Larson, who serves on the island's Miracle on the Key group — a gathering of Republicans and Democrats — was surprised by Longboat voting outcomes as individuals she had spoken with prior to the election were hoping for change on the board.
“I think there needed to be change and the way some of the parents were being silenced when they showed up at meetings,” she said. "Even if you don't agree with people, they have the right to speak."
Larson is under the impression that if less negative campaigning was done by a third party group, Longboat voters may have been more inclined to vote for conservative candidates.
Both Larson and Sabol were in agreement that the contentious nature of the school board election led to the end result of who Longboat residents selected to represent the interests of county residents on the board.
In the majority of races in Sarasota County, Longboat Key residents cast their vote for another individual other than who ultimately won the popular vote.
In Manatee County, the same difference did not exist. The individuals who won the popular vote was the same as the individuals the majority of residents on the Key selected.
Not all of the election results are final. Some individuals will reappear on the Nov. 8 ballot.