Vogel ousts incumbent Ward
By Steve Estes
Raschein earns November slot; Saunders loses outside Monroe
Former Assistant State Attorney Catherine Vogel pulled off the biggest upset of the night Tuesday as she ousted incumbent Dennis Ward in the Democratic primary and earned the right to go against her old boss, Republican Mark Kohl in the November general election.
It was Ward who ousted Kohl from the job four years ago and Vogel left the office shortly after that election upset.
Throughout the primary campaign season, Vogel hammered Ward on what she called a large backlog of unclosed cases, resulting from Ward’s refusal to plea bargain some cases, which also slowed down the system.
Ward had said that he would rather try the cases than give criminals a break, and that it was defense attorneys who filed multiple motions trying to win a plea deal that slowed down the system.
In the end, said Vogel, “I believe that the message of experience counts resonated with voters.”
Ward earned his strongest support in the Upper Keys, while Vogel earned her strongest support in the more densely populated areas of Key West, with the two battling to a virtual tie in the Middle Keys.
In the end, Vogel outpolled Ward by more than five percentage points with a total of 3,280 votes to Ward’s 2,934.
Only voters registered as democrats could vote for the two in the primary.
Vogel said she will continue to run on a campaign that touts her experience. “I believe I am the more qualified candidate.”
The general election in November allows voters of any party affiliation to vote for anyone on the ballot.
That means candidates will have to appeal to an entirely new voting audience as Independent voters couldn’t take part in the partisan races Tuesday.
Monroe County is about evenly split between those registered Republican, Democrat and Independent, one of the few counties in the state where that holds true.
Retiring County Supervisor of Elections Harry Sawyer expects a voter turnout in the 70 percent range in November. The elections office reported a turnout of less than 40 percent of eligible voters Tuesday.
The Keys also picked Republican Holly Raschein Tuesday as that party’s nominee for the State House of Representatives in District 120, a seat vacated this year by Democrat Ron Saunders who went on to run for the newly drawn State Senate seat in District 39.
Raschein, an aide to Saunders during his tenure in the house, was a big winner over former Key West Mayor Morgan McPherson.
Raschein, who will face Democrat Ian Whitney in November, beat back McPherson by nearly two to one. McPherson ran against Saunders for the seat last time out and lost big. This time he didn’t make it out of the primary.
Raschein garnered 67 percent of the vote in that race.
“I am grateful to everyone who supported me,” said Raschein. “This vote goes a long way in November because Monroe County is about 60 percent of the district. I feel good about the edge I have in Dade County.”
Raschein says she is prepared to work across what can be tumultuous party lines in Tallahassee, an experience she gained while working for Saunders, the house minority leader.
Saunders finished the Monroe County portion of the Senate vote with what seemed like an insurmountable lead for the Democratic nomination in what is a traditionally Democratic district, virtually assuring his November election.
But Dwight Bullard, the son of long-time Senator Larcenia Bullard, who as a side note has visited the Keys portion of her district twice in the last eight years, came on sstrong in the precincts that make up the rest of District 39 and beat Saunders by just under 1,000 votes.
Saunders said he felt that he would do well enough in Dade, Collier and Hendry counties to offset Bullard’s name recognition if he got a big lead in the Keys, and he did the latter with 89 percent of the total vote cast.
Bullard now moves on to face Republican Scott Hopes. Neither candidate has Keys ties.