In this post, I recap Collier County primary election results of the races and referenda on voters’ August 2020 ballots.
Voter Turnout and the Election Experience
Florida and Collier County saw strong voter turnout despite the challenges of conducting elections during a pandemic and fears about mail voting.
Ballots were cast by 28% of eligible voters statewide, up from 27% in 2018, according to Florida Division of Elections unofficial election night results. (Turnout is always lower for primary elections. In the 2018 general elections, turnout in Florida was 63%.)
In Collier County, ballots were cast by 36% of eligible voters, up from 34% in 2018, according to the Collier Supervisor of Elections preliminary returns. (Turnout in Collier’s 2018 general elections jumped to 74%.)
Elections offices told The News-Press they had no issues with long lines, breaches of social distancing rules or overburdened poll workers. Visits by reporters to polling stations throughout Lee and Collier counties confirmed those reports.
- Record number of mail-in ballots dwarfs early and Election Day voting in Lee and Collier. The News-Press, 8/19/20
However, a Facebook post alleging voter intimidation at a North Naples voting site prompted the Collier County Democratic Party to call upon Supervisor of Elections Jennifer Edwards “to institute better training and more vigilant supervision.”
- Collier Democrats call out Supervisor of Elections after incident at voting site. Naples Daily News, 8/18/20
Congressional District 19
Current State House District 80 Representative Byron Donalds was the winner in the crowded Republican Congressional District 19 primary, despite “last-minute fake news dirty trickery” in “one of the nastiest primaries in Florida this year.”
In the end, Donalds beat fellow state representative Dane Eagle, his closest opponent, by 774 votes. Donalds received 22.6% of the vote, Eagle had 21.85%, Casey Asker received 19.99% and William Figlesthaler got 18.35%. The other five candidates combined received the remaining 17.21% of the votes.
Because this was the most hotly-contested, expensive and nasty race in Southwest Florida, it received more press coverage than any other. For example:
- Byron Donalds pulls out win in pricey CD 19 Republican primary. Florida Politics, 8/19/20
- Fake video and text messages in race for Rooney seat come out on Election Day; Byron Donalds cries foul. The News-Press, 8/18/20
- Byron Donalds issues cease-and-desist letter to Casey Askar campaign. Florida Politics, 8/10/20
- Candidate Byron Donalds and his accuser each calls the other a liar; ethics commission won’t weigh in until at least next month. The News-Press, 8/10/20
Unlike Askar and Figlesthaler, who came in third and fourth, respectively, neither Donalds nor Eagle funded their own races. Donalds benefitted from the spending of the Club for Growth Action PAC, which invested heavily in the District 19 race.
- State campaign funds raised for Byron Donalds go to Super PAC to oppose Askar, Fig and Eagle. The News-Press, 8/17/20
- Club For Growth spends big boosting Byron Donalds, bashing Casey Askar. Florida Politics, 7/28/20
In the Democratic primary, FGCU adjunct professor and consultant Cindy Banyai received 57.55% of the votes, beating David Holden, who received 42.45% of the votes.
- Banyai wins Dem nomination in congressional race. The Paradise Progressive, 8/18/20
Donalds and Banyai will face off in November.
State House District 80
Naples Area Board of Realtors chair Lauren Melo was the winner in the three-way Republican primary race for the State House District 80 seat with 58.23% of the votes. Drew-Montez Clark and Victor Dotres received 30.43% and 11.33% respectively.
Melo had been endorsed by state representatives Byron Donalds, who currently holds the seat, and Bob Rommel, as well as state senator Kathleen Passidomo.
- Lauren Melo takes HD 80 Republican primary. Florida Politics, 8/18/20
Melo will face Democrat Laura Novosad in November.
State House District 105
Immigration attorney Maureen Porras won the Democratic primary with 64.04% of the vote to Javier Estevez’s 35.06%.
- House District 105: Democrat Maureen Porras faces Republican David Borrero in Nov. 3 election. Naples Daily News, 8/19/20
City of Sweetwater Commissioner David Borrero won the three-way Republican primary in State House District 105, receiving 41.37% of the votes. Bibiana Potestad and Pedro Barrios got 37.54% and 21.09% respectively.
County Commission District 1
Retired Air Force colonel Rick LoCastro won the three-way Republican primary for the Collier County District 1 seat with 43.8% of the vote, narrowly edging out William Douglass by 202 votes. Mark Batchelor came in a distant third with 14.1% of the vote.
- In close race for Collier’s District 1, Republican newcomer Rick LoCastro edges opponent, faces Democrat in November. Naples Daily News, 8/19/20
LoCastro will face Democrat John Jenkins in November.
County Commission District 5
Incumbent District 5 Commissioner Bill McDaniel soundly defeated challenger Mike Petscher, receiving 69% of the vote in the Republican primary.
- Collier Commissioner Bill McDaniel nabs primary win, faces two opponents in November. Naples Daily News, 8/19/20
Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller
Incumbent Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller Crystal Kinzel easily won reelection, receiving 58.6% of the vote in a contentious race with her former legal counsel and fellow Republican James Molenaar. No other candidates filed or qualified to run for the position.
“It was very encouraging to have the support of so many people and it was somewhat of a rejection of negative ads and campaigns,” Kinzel said. “I hope this can bring people together.”
- Crystal Kinzel re-elected as Collier County clerk of courts. Naples Daily News, 8/19/20
- Former Collier clerk’s office employee fired days after filing to challenge incumbent in race. Naples Daily News, 5/15/20
For the second time in a row, incumbent Property Appraiser Abe Skinner easily defeated challenger Rick Lussy, winning a whopping 78.7% of the vote. Both are Republicans. No other candidates filed or qualified to run for the position.
Asked if he’d be running again in the future, the 89-year-old laughed as he told a reporter, “I just love what I do. I’m a very lucky person to have found my niche in life early.”
- In the night’s widest local margin, Abe Skinner wins Collier Appraiser in Rick Lussy rematch. Naples Daily News, 8/19/20
Collier Schools Referendum
“Voters overwhelmingly said ‘yes’ to helping ensure our students are college, career, and life ready,” said Superintendent Kamela Patton in an email statement. “This flexibility will help maintain the programs and staff which make CCPS a high-performing school district.”
- Collier’s school tax referendum passes with 79% support, allowing ‘flexibility’ in funding. Naples Daily News, 8/19/20
This is the third time this tax-neutral referendum has come before Collier voters, and each time it has passed with strong support. It received 77% of the vote in 2008 and 80% of the vote in 2012. Since the second referendum ended in 2016, the School District has supplemented the state’s operating funding and maintained staffing and programs with reserves it built up during the post-recession recovery.
City of Naples Referendum
Capping a citizen-led initiative that cost several City Council members reelection in March, Naples voters voted to establish an independent ethics commission and ethics office and to set minimum requirements for the city’s ethics code.
- Ethics referendum passes with 62% support from voters in city of Naples. Naples Daily News, 8/18/20
City of Marco Island Referendum
With the support of 68.9% of voters, Marco Island overwhelmingly voted to ban recreational marijuana when and if it becomes legal in the state.
- Marco Islanders vote ‘yes’ to prohibit recreational marijuana within city limits. Naples Daily News, 8/18/20
Next week, the General Election ballot will be finalized and Vote-by-Mail ballots will go out starting September 24. The last day to register to vote in the November elections is October 5, and early voting begins October 19.
It’s going to be a busy couple of months.