The residents of Anna Maria Island joined the rest of the country in feeling huge relief that the elections held on November 6 had finally come to pass. For weeks, as they were bombarded by coverage of the national elections, they also witnessed aggressive campaigns on the local level.
In Holmes Beach, the issue of large rental duplexes and their multiple impacts on neighboring residents spurred three challengers to run for the position of mayor and the two available seats on the city commission. City meetings leading up to the election sometimes erupted into angry confrontations involving members of the sitting commission, challengers, and various members of the public who were concerned about how to handle the proliferation of large duplexes without infringing on property rights.
The argument for supporting the challengers was that the incumbents had taken far too long to discourage the building of large rental duplexes, which many feel are ruining the character of the island. The argument in favor of the incumbents was that they were working skillfully within a lot of very demanding state-level requirements, and were in the process of achieving a lot, if only they could be allowed to continue. The implication was that the new people may have had good intentions, but their lack of experience and lack of connections would ultimately delay good solutions for these issues. There were additional concerns, by some, that the challengers might not respect the rights of developers and property owners as they try to limit further large rental properties from having such a great impact on others.
Voters appeared to have been impatient with the current commission’s pace in addressing the rental duplex challenge. They elected 5-year resident Carmel Monti over current mayor, Rich Bohnenburger. Challengers Judy Holmes Titsworth and Marvin Grossman won the commission seats over incumbents Sandy Haas-Martens and John Monetti.
Races for the commissioners of Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach were much less passionate. In Anna Maria, Commissioner Chuck Webb was unopposed and the second open seat was taken by Nancy Yetter, who was the only person to qualify.
Bradenton Beach Commissioners Ed Straight and Jan Vosburgh continued in office because there were no other candidates.
The state of Florida gave its voters plenty to study, as the ballot contained 11 long and complicated amendments. Almost all were defeated with the exception of three, which gave some property tax relief to veterans, spouses of deceased veterans and poor seniors.
As usual, Florida received a lot of attention before the election, not only as a swing state but in relation to arguments about early voting. November 3 was the last day for early voting, and the wait at the Supervisor of Elections Office in Bradenton was between 1 to 2 hours, according to friends who checked a couple of times that morning.
On election day, as the polls opened at 7 am, rumbles of thunder added to the drama and sober mood of the occasion. At the Precinct 92 polling place, at the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church on Marina Drive, the parking lot was full of signs and waving candidates as well as cars. In mid-morning the wait to get inside was 10 to 20 minutes, and reports from the afternoon were that it was even quicker.
The incumbent U. S. president was re-elected, but it’s a very different story in Holmes Beach. It will be interesting to see how the next few years go, at both levels.