Most Keys incumbents win in record election turnout

Florida Keys voters came out in record numbers for the general election, with the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections reporting a turnout of at least 84%.

Incumbents did well — except one Democratic Monroe County Commissioner, Heather Carruthers, who at press time was trailing Republican Eddie Martinez.

Eddie Martinez

“I’m still in shock,” Martinez said Tuesday night. “I can’t wait to serve the county. I attribute my win to the red wave that came through Monroe County.”

But Carruthers, who has been on the commission since 2008, noted that the slim margin of vote could trigger an automatic recount under Florida law and possibly a hand count.

At 9 p.m., Martinez was ahead by 162 votes with all 33 precincts in. But some absentee ballots were still coming in.

Monroe County Supervisor Joyce Griffin said the race was too close to call.

In Key West, District 6 City Commissioner Clayton Lopez, a 15-year incumbent, narrowly bypassed political newcomer Ryan Barnett by taking about 50% of the vote.

Lopez, 67, won the nonpartisan race by 18 votes.

“The main thing I want to concentrate on is making sure we get these COVID numbers down, to keep everyone safe,” Lopez said. “And there’s still the affordable housing issue.”

Key West City Commissioner Clayton Lopez

Key West voters citywide also approved ballot iniatives limiting the total number of cruise ship passengers to 1,500 daily and prohibit ships with a capacity of 1,300 or more. They also voted to give docking priority to cruise lines with strong environmental records.

Monroe’s voter turnout in the 2016 general election was 79%, while in 2008 it was 81%.

Monroe County Commission

Commissioner Craig Cates, a Key West Republican who was appointed to the District 1 post by the governor last year, beat Annalise Mannix, a Democrat.

Cates won about 58% of the vote.

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Monroe County Supervisor of Elections

In an upset, Commissioner Heather Carruthers, a Key West Democrat who currently serves as the county mayor, was trailing Republican Eddie Martinez at 9 p.m.

Martinez, a professional surveyor and mapper who lives in Key West, had a little over 50% of the vote. Carruthers attributed Martinez’ strength to party-line voting.

“It’s disappointing that people vote by party and not for qualifications or commitment,” Carruthers said Tuesday night.

Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers

Republican Mike Forster, a member of the Islamorada Village Council and a restaurant owner, won the District 5 post over Jose Peixoto, who ran without a party affiliation.

Forster won with about 66% of the vote.

The District 5 seat was open. Commissioner Sylvia Murphy of Key Largo, who has held the seat since 2006, did not run for reelection.

Mike Forster.jpg

Islamorada Village Council

All five seats on the Islamorada Village Council were up for re-election this year, but Seat 4 was determined in September when incumbent Ken Davis died suddenly at 64. This left his opponent, local business owner Henry Rosenthal, the winner.

For Seat 1, Peter Bacheler, a commercial photographer and permitting business owner, won against real estate agent Frank Lavin.

For Seat 2, real estate owner Mark Gregg won a close race against Cheryl Meads, a property redeveloper who previously served on the council before stepping down in January to accept an appointment by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the South Florida Water Management District board. At the time, she had 11 months left on her term.

Joseph “Buddy” Pinder won against Jennifer Bell-Thomson for Seat 3. Pinder is a sixth-generation Islamorada resident who has owned and managed several local businesses before retiring. Bell-Thomson is a former Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputy who retired after 26 years with the rank of captain.

In the race for Seat 5, David Webb defeated Larry Zettwoch. Both men are former U.S. Air Force pilots who went on to successful careers as airline pilots.

State Attorney

Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward, a Republican, defeated Donald Barrett, a Democrat, to remain the island chain’s top prosecutor.

Ward captured 58% of the vote.

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Courtesy of Dennis Ward

City of Key Colony Beach Commission

Ronald Alvin Sutton, Patricia Trefry and Thomas Lee Harding won the most votes respectively out of the four candidates running and will serve on the three at-large seats on the Key Colony Beach city commission. Key Colony beach is a small incorporated city off the Middle Keys city of Marathon.

Key Largo Fire/EMS District

Incumbent Daniel Powers successfully defended his Seat 5 on the Key Largo Fire Rescue and Emergency Medical Services District board, a special taxing district that funds Key Largo’s fire rescue and ambulance services. Powers is a retired Monroe County firefighter. His opponent was Ronald Spodnik, a retired police officer from New York.

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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