Money can’t buy love, and based on the recent election results, it can’t always buy a victory at the ballot box either.
Based on financial reports filed by local candidates though Nov. 3, only two better financed candidates - Republican A.J. Smith for sheriff and Democrat Marcia Johnson as clerk of courts - were able to pull off victories.
Other than that, having more money to spend didn’t mean you got more votes.
Smith, with a nearly $60,000 war chest, outspent Democratic challenger Brad Segree by nearly 5-to-1. Johnson, with about $7,500, spent about twice as much as non party affiliated challenger Penny Sutton in the much lesser funded race for clerk of courts.
But the situation was reversed in three other high-profile races.
In the superintendent race, Republican Frank Stephens outspent Democrat Traci Moses by about 2-to-1, but couldn’t secure the win. Stephens financed his entire $14,000 war chest, with the exception of a $2,500 donation given him by the county Republican Executive Committee.
Moses drew heavily on donations from her family, plus smaller amounts from local supporters, raising a total of about $7,000 en route to winning nearly half the vote, and a 12-percentage point victory over Stephens in a three-way race.
In the race for supervisor of elections, incumbent Republican Pinki Jackel got support from backers throughout the county to raise more than $16,000, including a $2,500 donation from the Republican Executive Committee. This war chest more than doubled the size of non party affiliated challenger Heather Riley, who raised less than $7,000 in donations from supporters around the county, and finished with a 24-percentage point win over Jackel.
The politics of the supervisor of elections race that began in summer 2015, after Gov. Rick Scott passed Riley over when he appointed Jackel to fill the remaining term of the late Ida Cooper Elliott, was very similar to that found in the race for District 1 county commissioner.
In that contest, voters handed a 14-percentage point win to non party affiliated Ricky Jones, who as a Republican was passed over last year by Scott in favor of Tallahassee lobbyist and St. George Island resident Rick Watson to fill Jackel’s seat.
Watson raised a a whopping $41,000-plus, much of it high-dollar donations from Tallahassee corporate players as well as smaller contributions from around the county, plus $500 from the county’s Republican Executive Committee. Still, it wasn’t enough to defeat Jones, from Eastpoint, in each man’s first bid for public office.
In the race for county commissioner District 3, both incumbent Democrat Noah Lockley and non party affiliated challenger Jimmy Lashley each spent about $1,500, with Lockley attracting nearly 77 percent of the vote.
As Jackel prepares to hand over the supervisor of elections’ reins, she can attest to the fact the county’s turnout of nearly 84.6 percent in the 2016 general election was second best in the state, surpassed only by Collier County’s 86 percent.
In terms of where candidates were most popular, Republican Donald J. Trump, victorious in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, carried seven of the county’s eight precincts, losing to Clinton only in the Apalachicola precinct that encompasses the city’s Hill neighborhood.
Trump received more than 80 percent of the vote in Eastpoint and in the precinct west of Apalachicola, and was at 75 percent or better in Carrabelle, in the mid to high 60s in Lanark Village and Alligator Point, and in the low 60s on St. George island. In historic district of Apalachicola, he attracted just over half the vote.
In the sheriff’s race. Smith carried Apalachicola, Alligator Point, Lanark Village and St. George Island by comfortable margins, while Segree was victorious in Eastpoint and Carrabelle.
In the superintendent’s race, Moses amassed large margins in Apalachicola, and was comfortably ahead in Carrabelle and Eastpoint, while Stephens won Lanark Village, Alligator Point and St. George Island.
In the supervisor of elections race, Riley racked up large margins in the voter strongholds of Apalachicola, Carrabelle and Eastpoint, while Jackel won Alligator Point handily, as well as Lanark Village and St. George Island.
In county commission District 1, Watson carried St. George Island with 64 percent, while Jones won in Eastpoint by an even bigger margin, of nearly 75 percent.
In the clerk of courts’ race, Johnson carried all eight precincts.