Supervisor of Elections Linda Griffin sensed a different feeling when she began her day on Tuesday.
“There was a sense of calm and everything just fell into place after the polls closed, it was almost like somebody was watching over me on my last election,” Griffin said.
That last election – Griffin is retiring – seemed calm only to her, especially once results were announced just one hour after the polls closed.
On a day that completed heated local races, Joanna Bryan became the first woman to hold a seat on the Gulf County Board of County Commissioners; Commissioner Carmen McLemore squeaked past challenger Kenny Peak for his District 1 seat; and three new constitutional officers were elected.
Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton, seeking his first elected four-year term after serving just more than a year after his appointment by the governor, also won.
All results are unofficial until the canvassing board met on Wednesday, after press time.
The turnout was a healthy 79 percent, or 7,153 registered voters.
In a three-way race, Bryan drew 53 percent, or 835 votes, to 32 percent, or 505 votes for Democrat Jimmy Rogers and 15 percent, 233 votes, for John Grantland, who ran with no party affiliation.
“I am ecstatic,” Bryan said. “I am so excited. I think the District 3 voters have spoken and they are ready for open and transparent government and a level playing field for everybody.
“I am excited to represent all of Gulf County.”
McLemore who trailed early in the night after early voting results were announced by Griffin slipped by Peak in one of the closest races, keeping his BOCC seat by 827-757 in votes, or 52-48 percent.
The three new constitutional officers will be Mike Harrison as Gulf County Sheriff, John Hanlon replacing Griffin as Supervisor of Elections and Mitch Burke winning a three-way race to replace Property Appraiser Kesley Colbert, who like Griffin his retiring.
Harrison, running for the third time, beat incumbent Joe Nugent in a rematch from four years ago, taking 57 percent of the vote (3,994) to Nugent’s 43 percent (3,017).
“This is something I set out to do nine years ago,” Harrison said. “The people kept driving me through this, saying they wanted change. I’ve been overwhelmed with the people calling me and wishing me well.
“It’s humbling, but at this point it is not about us, it is not about them. It is about us as Gulf County and this department moving forward.”
Hanlon, who is the current Deputy Supervisor of Elections, beat Wyvonne Griffin Pickett by a margin of 4,497-2,478 in votes, 64-36 percent.
“Truly I am humbled and honored by the trust the voters have placed in me,” Hanlon said. “I want to thank every one of them. And I also thank Ms. Wyvonne for running a good, clean campaign. We both worked hard.”
Burke, who garnered 45 percent of the vote, beat Dan Christie, running with no party affiliation and as Deputy Property Appraiser, and James Rish. Christie took 39 percent, or 2,710 votes, while Rish ran third with 16 percent, or 1,124 votes.
“It’s been a long time coming and a lot of hard work,” Burke said. “I’m excited about getting in there and getting to work for the people of Gulf County.”
As with McLemore, Norton surged late and slipped past Jay Bidwell, enjoying a margin of 52-48 percent, 3,612 votes to 3,366 for Bidwell in the single closest local race of the evening.
“I’m excited and appreciative of the people of Gulf County recognizing we probably need to keep going the direction we are going,” Norton said. “Our work is cut our for us, with a shrinking tax base and declining student enrollment, the way the state funds schools that puts us in a tough spot.
“We made great progress and we just need to keep moving forward to prepare our students for the 21st Century.”
State and federal races tilted largely Republican.
Halsey Beshears easily beat Robert Hill in the county in the State Representative District 7 race, taking 68 percent of the vote. Bill Montford was the exception, beating John Shaw for the State Senate District 3 seat, 51-49.
Mitt Romney also easily out-polled President Barack Obama in Gulf County, taking 70 percent of the vote.
In the presidential vote in Gulf County, the fourth-place finisher was comedienne Roseanne Barr.
Congressman Steve Southerland easily took Gulf County over Al Lawson, 71-29 percent and Connie Mack beat Sen. Bill Nelson in the county vote, 52-44 percent.
Among Constitutional amendments on the ballot, county voters supported Nos. 1, 2, 6, 9 and 11.
None of the Supreme Court justices up for retention were favored in the county, though county votes did vote to retain three of four appellate judges up for retention, voting ‘no’ for Judge Simone Marstiller.