Ramsay, Peteck head to general election

By Steve Estes

The race for the future Sheriff of Monroe County has come down to the current administration’s hand-picked successor in Republican Rick Ramsay and a retired 24-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office in Democrat Tom Peteck.

Ramsay ran away with the Republican nomination against current MCSO Deputy Jake Brady and State Attorney Investigator Bill Grove.

When votes were counted, Ramsay had garnered just over 4,700 votes or 72 percent of the Republican ballots. Brady was the closest competitor with just over 1,100 votes for 17 percent while Grove trailed in the three-man race with just over 700 votes at 11 percent.

Both Brady and Grove had taken Ramsay to task during election forums for the latter’s acceptance of campaign donations from employees of businesses that have or are seeking contracts with the sheriff’s office, and several times local voters called hotlines alleging that uniformed deputies were placing or repairing Ramsay signs while on the clock.

But the 27-year veteran, who rose through the ranks from patrol officer to undersheriff, earned the exclusive endorsement of outgoing Sheriff Bob Peryam and shunted aside criticisms to take the highest vote total in the race.

“It was a long, hard race,” said Ramsay. “I had a great campaign team and I appreciate the voters putting their confidence in me.”

“My team working hard for this (victory),” said Ramsay. “I think the voters focused on a proven leader with the experience and qualifications to do the job.”

Ramsay garnered poor support in the Bahama Village precincts in Key West, and didn’t fare as well as his final numbers in the Big Pine Key area, but overall dominated every precinct on his way to a convincing win in the Republican nominating race.

“Congratulations to Rick on a good win,” said Peryam. “He does a great job for the people of this county and he’s worked hard for this.”

Ramsay takes his win on the road over the next three months focusing on just one opponent, Democrat Tom Peteck.

Peteck is a well-known Sheriff’s Office fixture in the Lower Keys, having served in several capacities with the agency before retiring early in the campaign to “focus on the campaign.”

He is also a former member of the local Rotary Club and founder of the annual Old Wooden Bridge Fishing Tournament for area youth.

Peteck rode that Lower Keys recognition to a convincing win in the Democratic primary against current MCSO Deputy Matt Koval, who has spent most of his career in the Upper Keys.

Peteck handily carried the Key West and Lower Keys areas, while giving smaller margins to Koval in the Upper Keys.

“There’s a lot of work left to do, and it’s just starting,” said Peteck. “I want to thank all of my supporters for making this possible.”

Peteck said he felt as though he’s actually been running against Ramsay the entire race as the latter, with the endorsement of Peryam, was considered a front-runner for the job.

“The voters will be presented with two different mind sets over the next few months,” said Peteck. “There will be Rick’s mind set that everything is fine with the Sheriff’s Office, and there will be mine that says new thought processes are needed to advance us beyond where we are today.”

Ramsay far outstripped the rest of the field, regardless of party affiliation in raising campaign funds, with a war chest that exceeded $100,000 at one point. Peteck raised about a third of that, and “had to save some to carry forward past the primary should I win.”

Without the big campaign account, Peteck said he’ll have to rely on more personal approaches to win voters over to his side.

“I’ll have to get out and talk to voters. When I talk to them, I seem to get their support for my ideas,” he said. “We’re going to have to do this by word of mouth, one vote at a time.”

Both candidates will have to find a way to appeal to the nearly one-third of registered voters in the county that are not affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic party and will be allowed to join in the fray come November.

“If people stay focused on the candidate with the most experience and most qualifications, I can win in November,” said Ramsay.

Heavilin tops Madok in Clerk’s race

County voters also came up with a little bit of a surprise in the contested Republican nomination for Clerk of the Courts.

Kevin Madok, an eight-year veteran of the office, had received the endorsement of retiring Danny Kolhage, who has held the job for more than two decades.

But that didn’t sway voters to Madok’s side as heavily as he might have wished as he was upset in the primary by political newcomer Amy Heavilin.

Heavilin garnered 51 percent of the vote in the four-person race to Madok’s 30 percent. The other two candidates, Matt Gardi and Stuart Kessler, were a distant third and fourth respectively with 10 percent and nine percent of the vote.

“I am amazed at 51 percent of the vote,” said Heavilin. “There are a lot of people to thank, and a team to get ready for the next leg of the race.”

Heavilin will face off against Democrat “Trinidad” Joe Allen in November. Allen has run unsuccessfully for a number of offices in the Keys, in the state, and once for President, and local pundits believe that Heavilin as the winner of the primary will coast to a November victory.

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