Last Updated: Wednesday, 6:55 a.m.
With all votes counted, Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland has won re-election to a second term, beating back a relentless assault from Alan Lowe, and Holland ally Nick Klufas more easily won re-election, defeating Cornelia Manfre.
Insurgents Ed Danko and Victor Barbosa won council seats, suddenly turning Eddie Branquinho, the only council member not to face an election, into the most powerful member of the council, now that he is clearly its swing voter.
But the election also suggests that the center, represented also by Branquinho, Holland and Klufas, held, with Holland’s powerful mayorship vindicated, if at a steep price.
With nearly 50,000 Palm Coast votes counted Holland had defeated Lowe, 53 to 47 percent, a decisive enough win to erase doubt about the results. Klufas beat Manfre by an even more convincing 57-43 margin, putting him more strongly in line for the mayorship four years hence. Ed Danko defeated Sims Jones 60-40, and Barbosa defeated three other contenders–Bob Coffman, David Alfin and Dennis McDonald, the Energizer Bunny of perennial candidates, with 38 percent of the vote. Coffman was second with 25 percent. Since this is a special election to fill Jack Howells’s seat–Howell resigned in August for health reasons–only a plurality of the votes was necessary for a win.
Danko’s and Barbosa’s wins may appear to be a shock to the council’s system, but it is less than it appears: it merely recreates the dynamic in play four and two years ago, when Steven Nobile and Heidi Shipley were to the council majority what opposition parties are in parliamentary democracies: they had a voice, but they struggled to influence policy unless they moved from opposition to consensus-building, a jump they struggled to make.
“Honestly, it was one of the hardest fought campaigns I’ve ever been through but I was extra-ordinaily grateful to all the residents of Palm Coast who came out and voted for me and I’m looking forward to hearing from the residents who chose not to,” Holland said this evening.
Holland was at the Portuguese-American Club this evening for her victory party, with Klufas–an irony, since the club is ostensibly Barbosa’s home turf. Some 70 people turned up. She was there with one of her principal champions, Gail Wadsworth, the former, long-time Flagler County Clerk of Court, who was Holland’s front-line campaign right hand. Wadsworth described Holland’s reaction when she realized she’d won: “Oh, my goodness, relief, happiness, and cried. Cried. She’s so happy to have done this so she can finish the things that are so important to her. I remember the feeling very well.” Wadsworth had faced a difficult campaign of her own not long ago.
“Milissa has faced the devil and she’s won,” Wadsworth said, a bit overtaken by the evening’s superlatives. “It’s really a good vibe here that she won, and we’re all happy and relieved, 90 percent of Flagler County has been successful right now. To me, Palm Coast is 90 percent of Flagler County, and we have great leadership.” Wadsworth included Klufas in that sentiment.
Early Wednesday morning, Lowe issued a gracious congratulatory statement to Holland: “Congratulations Milissa Holland on retaining your seat as Mayor of Palm Coast. Although I fought hard, the people have spoken and I respect their choice. I want to also congratulate Councilman Ed Danko and Councilman Victor Barbosa on winning their campaigns, they worked very hard for it. Congratulations are also in order for Nick Klufas for winning his race.
Everyone in every other race deserves our respect for standing up and wanting to make a positive impact in our community.“
Sheriff Rick Staly won his second term with 70 percent of the vote. County Commissioner Donald O’Brien defeated two independent challengers, Denise Calderwood and Paul Anderson, with 64 percent of the vote. Calderwood got 25 percent, and Anderson, who generally relegates his campaigning to Facebook trolling, got 11 percent.
Andy Dance, the school board member, won the County Commission seat Charlie Ericksen opted not to contest with 63 percent of the vote as he defeated Corinne Hermle in the most civil and high-minded race of the 2016 cycle locally.
In other high-interest races, Julius “Jules” Kwiatkowski won his third term on the East Mosquito Control board, defeating former Bunnell solid waste and water utility director Perry Mitrano, 60-40. But fellow-incumbent Barbara Sgroi fell to Mike Martin by an almost equally vast deficit, 59-41. In the third seat, Ralph Lightfoot, the former head of the local Democratic Party, beat Martin Brabham, 54 to 46. That makes the East Mosquito Control Board the only elected board in Flagler controlled by Democrats.
In the presidential race, Donald Trump beat Joe Biden in Flagler County, 60 to 39, a better showing by two points than his 58 percent win in 2016. Republicans have vastly increased their proportion of registrations since 2016, to 43.6 percent, Democrats are down to 30.6 percent, and independents and others at 25.8 percent. So Trump’s wider margin locally is not quite as wide as the registration numbers suggested it could have been. Still, Trump was overperforming in Miami Dade, suggesting that Biden’s road to a victory in Florida was steeper than Trump’s in mid-evening.
In other races, Sen. Travis Hutson was clearly winning re-election, defeating Democrat Heather Hunter, so was Rep. Paul Renner, who was again defeating Democrat Adam Morley, and so was U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, who was defeating Clint Curtis–an expected Republican sweep of state and congressional seats.
State Attorney R.J. Larizza defeated challenger Don Dempsey, an independent.
As for constitutional amendments, Amendment 2 to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 was falling short by a few votes of the needed 60 percent majority, at least in Flagler–but by less than 1 percent, suggesting that if as red a county as Flagler has it this close, it was likely to win passage with other counties’ votes. But Amendment 3, which would create open primaries, was failing, with just 52 percent of the vote locally, as was Amendment 4, which would have required that any constitutional amendment be approved by voters in two successive elections. That amendment, the most anti-democratic in the history of amendments–at least since voters approved a 60 percent threshold for amendments a decade ago–was failing abjectly, with barely 44 percent of the vote in Falgler, and was on its way to ignominious defeat across the state.
There was little question during the campaign that Danko was among the workhorses of candidates.
“We’ll be here until the last person votes, so the polls close at 7, but if we get a rush of people after work, I guess they’ll line up, they’ll probably let them vote I would assume, most places do, so I’ll be here until the voting stops,” Danko said, three hours before polls closed.
“We talk to people. People go by, we don’t harass them, we don’t yell at them,” Danko said. “If you want the job, you have to work for the job. Those candidates that haven’t come out, haven’t campaigned, are not working for the voters’ votes. So how are they going to work for you once they’re in office? We’re out here working, because we want folks to know that we care, and that we will be there working for them after we’re elected. And that’s the truth. That’s the truth. You know I’ve been doing this for almost a year and a half now. I’ve knocked on almost 7,000 doors. You don’t do that unless–you don’t do it for $9,000 a year.” He added: “I’m doing this because I care.”
Staly spoke about the election in general this afternoon, applauding Flagler County and Palm Coast for maintaining calm and going about campaigning and voting without any of the feared disruptions that augured Election Day. And he spoke about his own successes.
“This is a great community, they obviously want to voice their opinion but they’ve done it for the most part respectful and peaceful of each other’s opinions, even if they disagree,” Staly said. “A few exceptions obviously, and as you know we’ve had some signs vandalized, stolen, I’ve had some of my signs stolen, although I’m hoping they didn’t just steal from someone’s yard, they wanted it for their yard. You never know. But I think the community’s done well. I think we as an agency have handled the election very professional. Last three and three quarter years, we’ve done an amazing job for the community. Crime is way down. So yeah, I’m feeling pretty good, but I’ve got a great crew of volunteers that are very dedicated, out at the voting sites for the last two weeks, obviously today. I get to lead an amazing team that’s delivered for this community.”
Staly said fund-raising was a lot easier than what he described as the “spirited” election of 2016, when he was one of six candidates vying for the Republican primary, winning it by five points but less than 40 percent, and drafting what now amounts to an email list of 100 volunteers was easier this time around. At his victory party he was expecting community members, volunteers, elected officials.
The sheriff was holding his celebration party at Beachfront Grille in Flagler Beach, the same place where he held his 2016 victory party. “I wouldn;t say I’m superstitious, but I don;t want to change success, and it’s just a nice location,” Staly said, enabling inside and outside socializing. Live music was already scheduled.
“We’re encouraging social distancing, encouraging wearing a mask, but we’re not mandating it, it’s optional in there,” the sheriff said. “I think there’ll be a lot of employees tonight, which you didn’t see in the past, you know, employees that supported me, their union endorsed me. So I think there’s a lot of excitement from my campaign from within and in the community.” He said he could depend on a cross-section of supports from both parties. Six to seven weeks ago, an internal poll showed him up 42 points over Jones, he said.
Staly spoke with his wife Debbie at his side. “I support him totally, he does a really good job. He’s always out in the community,” she said. “I don’t see him very much, but that’s OK. That’s what we signed up for.”
“She’s already told me I can go for 2024 if I want,” Staly said.
“I live in this community too, I want a safe community also,” Debbie Staly said.
General Election 2020 Results: Flagler County's Local Races, State Races and the Presidency
|Flagler County Sheriff|
|Rick Staly (incumbent)||48,593||69.66%|
|Cit of Palm Coast Mayor|
|Palm Coast City Council, District 1|
|Sims E. Jones||18,592||39.77%|
|Palm Coast City Council, District 2|
|David I. Alfin||9,492||20.61%|
|Victor M. Barbosa||17,547||38.10%|
|Palm Coast City Council, District 3|
|Nick Klufas (incumbent)||26,351||56.71%|
|Cornelia Downing Manfre||20,116||43.29%|
|Flagler County Commission, District 1|
|Corinne M. Hermle||25,415||37.32%|
|Flagler County Commission, District 5|
|Donald O'Brien (Incumbent)||41,198||64.02%|
|Paul T. Anderson||6,936||10.78%|
|Denise L. Calderwood||16,216||25.20%|
|Congressional Representative, District 6>|
|State Senate, District 7|
|Travis J. Hutson||(41,728)||(61.01%)|
|State Representative, District 24|
|East Flagler Mosquito Control 1|
|Julius Jules Kwiatkowski||31,132||60.22%|
|East Flagler Mosquito Control 2|
|Michael Mike Martin||29,087||58.73%|
|East Flagler Mosquito Control 3|
|Ralph E. Lightfoot||27,757||54.08%|
|District Court of Appeal, Meredith Sasso|
|District Court of Appeal, F. Rand Wallis|
|Circuit Judge, 7th Judicial Circuit, Group 14|
|State Attorney, 7th Judicial Circuit|