Collier County Primary Elections: Recap and Reflections

Updated 11/28/22 to include voter participation figures

“Conservative America First owns Collier County now! Praise the Lord!” That was Collier County Republican State Committeeman and local grocer Alfie Oakes, speaking from the stage of his Seed to Table retail store on Election Night (Patriot Talk Show at 1:01:50).

Oakes was addressing the Watch Party crowd with Congressman Byron Donalds and District 5 County Commissioner Bill McDaniel at his side, as he welcomed to the stage Republican primary winners Chris Hall and Dan Kowal.

Tim Moshier, Alfie Oakes, Dan Kowal, Patriot Talk host Brendon Leslie, Kelly Lichter, Patrick Dearborn, and Jerry Rutherford.
Bill McDaniel, Dan Kowal, Brendon Leslie, Chris Hall, Patrick Dearborn, and Alfie Oakes. Patriot Talk Show, 8/23/22

In this post, I’ll share my thoughts about voter turnout and voter participation, and recap the races that were on Collier voters’ ballots. Then I’ll look ahead to the November elections. See my last post for detailed election results.

Voter Turnout

Collier County voter turnout was just 29.8 percent, the lowest since 2014 when turnout was just 21 percent. With such a small percentage of voters participating, we can’t know if the outcomes reflect the will of the majority. But elections are decided by those who show up, and the “America First” Collier County Republicans did a better job of getting out the vote than their opponents.

Turnout is always lower in midterm elections than in general election years. However, it’s still disheartening to see such a low number when so many elections in Florida are, for all intents and purposes, decided in the primaries. See my post The Republican Primary: Collier County’s Most Important Election, where I make the case for that statement.

The most common reason for low turnout is voter apathy — simply not caring about “politics” or thinking one’s vote won’t make a difference.

Another reason for the low turnout this year could be that fewer races were on the ballot than usual. That’s because, as detailed below, 15 incumbents in legislative or judicial offices had no challengers and will be automatically reelected in November.

Voter Participation

While voter turnout measures the percentage of eligible voters who turned in a ballot, voter participation looks at each race individually and asks what percentage of voters eligible to vote in it did so.

Reasons for not voting in individual races include not caring about a particular office, not wanting to make an uneducated choice, and not liking any of the choices.

This chart shows how voter participation varied by party and by office:

Voter participation was particularly disappointing in the nonpartisan School Board and county judge races, in which all registered voters could vote. It was also disappointing in the closed Republican primaries for Congressional Districts 18 (where just 1 percent of Collier County voters live) and 26 (where incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart is the longest-serving member of Florida’s congressional delegation).

Local Election Results

District 2 County Commissioner, Republican Primary: Chris Hall

Alfie Oake’s Freedom Picks

Hall, who ran on a platform of not allowing the government “to tell [us] what’s right and what’s wrong,” won the four-way primary with 50.1 percent of the vote. Nancy Lewis, his closest opponent, received 28.1 percent. (Naples Daily News, 8/23/22)

District 4 County Commissioner, Republican Primary: Dan Kowal

In a closed primary in which a write-in candidate, Bill Oppenheimer, disenfranchised about 45 percent of the District’s voters, Kowal won 42 percent of the vote in a four-way race. His closest opponent, Michelle McLeod, got 29.4 percent and incumbent Penny Taylor got 23.3 percent.

Two days after the election, Oppenheimer, who openly supported Kowal on Facebook, withdrew. As a result, Kowal automatically wins after the November election. (Naples Daily News, 9/1/22)

County Judge, Group 3: Chris Brown

In a close nonpartisan race, Brown, a criminal law and personal injury lawyer who was one of “Alfie’s Freedom Picks,” won 52.7 percent of the vote, beating Collier County magistrate Pamela Barger. (Naples Daily News, 8/24/22)

“There’s only one thing that stands between you and tyranny — besides a gun,” said Brown at the Seed to Table event” (at 36:50). “And that’s a judge who isn’t a shill for the government. You’ve got one. You’ve got one.”

School Board

None of the candidates running in the three nonpartisan School Board races won a majority of the votes cast in their district. So, there will be runoff elections between the top two vote-getters in each race (i.e., the Collier GOP-endorsed “Freedom Picks” and the incumbents) in November. (Naples Daily News, 8/24/22)

The candidates will be:

  • District 1 School Board – Jerry Rutherford vs. incumbent Jory Westberry
  • District 3 School Board – Kelly Lichter vs. incumbent Jen Mitchell
  • District 5 School Board – Timothy Moshier vs. incumbent Roy Terry

City of Naples Charter Amendment

Nearly 70 percent of City voters supported changing the Charter’s residency requirement to allow the City Manager to live in unincorporated Collier County, rather than only within the City of Naples. (Charter amendment)

City of Marco Island Referendum

Nearly 57 percent of Marco Island voters, in a record-setting primary election turnout, approved a controversial referendum calling to implement a single-family home transient rental registration program. (Gulfshore Business, 8/25/22)

Hideaway Beach Tax and Bond Referendum

Nearly 94 percent of voters within the Hideaway Beach District of Marco Island approved the re-authorization of a special ad valorem tax through 2034. (Referendum Item)

Collier Mosquito Control District Referendum

Seventy-one percent of affected voters approved the expansion of the CMCD boundaries and to be charged a new ad valorem tax to administer the changes. (Informational Video)

State Government Election Results

Governor, Democratic Primary: Charlie Crist

Crist won nearly 60 percent of the statewide vote in a closed primary, beating Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, who got 35 percent of the votes, and two other challengers. As expected, last week Crist resigned from Congress early, presumably to focus on his run against Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Pinellas County-based Congressional seat will remain vacant until after the November election. (Miami Herald, 8/31/22)

Attorney General, Democratic Primary: Aramis Ayala

Ayala won her three-way race with 45 percent of the vote. The former state attorney who was punished by then-governor Rick Scott when she refused to seek the death penalty in murder cases faces Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody in November. (News Service of Florida via, 8/24/22)

Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic Primary: Naomi Esther Blemur

Blemur, a North Miami-Dade Democratic Party official and entrepreneur, won her three-way primary with 48.4 percent of the votes, despite losing key Democratic Party endorsements when it came out she had expressed anti-abortion views on social media. She faces Republican Wilton Simpson In November. (Orlando Sentinel, 8/23/22)

Commissioner of Agriculture, Republican Primary: Wilton Simpson

With millions of dollars and endorsements from former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis, outgoing Florida Senate President Simpson handily defeated political newcomer James Shaw, a worm farmer from Pennsylvania. (Orlando Sentinel, 8/23/22)

15 Unopposed Incumbents Will Be Reelected in November

Fifteen races that could have been on the ballot were not, because the incumbent officeholders running for reelection were unopposed and will be automatically elected in November. They are:

  • State Senator, District 28 – Kathleen Passidomo (R)
  • State Representative, District 81 – Bob Rommel (R)
  • State Representative, District 82 – Lauren Melo (R)
  • State Attorney, Circuit 20 – Amira Fox (R)
  • Public Defender, Circuit 20 – Kathy Smith (R)
  • Circuit 20 Judge, Group 4 – Shannon McFee (NON)
  • Circuit 20 Judge, Group 7 – James Shenko (NON)
  • Circuit 20 Judge, Group 10 – Nick Thompson (NON)
  • Circuit 20 Judge, Group 13 – Ramiro Mañalich (NON)
  • Circuit 20 Judge, Group 15 – Lane Laboda (NON)
  • Circuit 20 Judge, Group 19 – James Sloan (NON)
  • Circuit 20 Judge, Group 21 – Kyle Cohen (NON)
  • Circuit 20 Judge, Group 22 – Lauren Brodie (NON)
  • Circuit 20 Judge, Group 24 – Robert Branning (NON)
  • Circuit 20 Judge, Group 29 – Gilberto Perez (NON)

Federal Government Election Results

U.S. Senate, Democratic Primary: Val Demings

Control of the Senate is at stake in November, and Florida is one of a handful of states that may flip, according to FGCU Professor Dr. Sandra Pavelka. Congresswoman Demings is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. (, 8/22/22)

U.S. House, District 18, Republican Primary: Scott Franklin

Sitting Congressman Franklin decisively won a five-way race to represent a district that is home to just one percent of Collier voters. He will likely be elected in November when he faces NPA candidate Keith Hayden Jr. and a Write-In. (The Lakeland Ledger, 8/24/22)

U.S. House, District 19, Republican Primary: Byron Donalds

After winning nearly 84 percent of the primary vote, Donalds will face Fort Myers Democrat Cindy Banyai in November in a rematch of their 2020 election. (The News-Press, 8/24/22)

U.S. House, District 26, Republican Primary: Mario Diaz-Balart

The longest-serving member of Florida’s congressional delegation easily won his primary with 84 percent of the vote. He faces Democrat Christine Alexandria Olivo in November. (Naples Daily News, 8/24/22)

Looking Ahead to November

At the Aug. 23 Seed to Table Watch Party, Commissioner McDaniel and primary winners Hall and Kowal all said they will support a Bill of Rights Ordinance in Collier County. (Patriot Talk Show at 1:04:20). The proposal failed by a 3-2 vote in July 2021, with McDaniel and District 1 Commissioner Rick LoCastro in the minority.
(Naples Daily News, 7/14/21)

On November 8, all Collier voters will have the opportunity to vote for a U.S. Senator and Congressman, and a Florida Governor, Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture, and Chief Financial Officer. There will also be merit retention votes on five Florida Supreme Court justices and eight Second District Court of Appeal judges.

Three proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution will also be on the ballot:

At the county level, three School Board races and several Fire District and Mosquito Control District Board seats will be on the ballot. As noted above, County Commission District 4 Republican Dan Kowal will be automatically elected, but District 2 voters will have their Commissioner race on the ballot.

For Marco Island voters, three of the seven City of Marco Island Council seats are also up for election.

Between now and late October, I will research the races that will be on the ballot and the proposed amendments. And I will share what I learn on Sparker’s Soapbox, with the goal of helping you be a more informed voter.

So stay tuned — and help spread the word.

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