An analysis of Flagler County’s precinct-by-precinct vote last November reveals a few surprises, among them how Grand Haven powered incumbent Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland to her win in a seemingly close election. The analysis also reveals how Flagler was not so much “Trump Country” as “Staly Country” as the incumbent sheriff won his second term with 70 percent of the vote, with no discernible weaknesses across precincts. It was the highest winning majority of any sheriff in at least a quarter century.
Precinct-by-precinct breakdowns can point to trends or sharp, partisan divides, if they exist–as they do when electoral numbers are analyzed on a more county-by-county basis, and of course on a state-by-state basis. In the last decade or so, as a New York Times analysis published today suggests, partisanship has reached the neighborhood level, with more people of like minds clustering together. “Democrats and Republicans live apart from each other, down to the neighborhood, to a degree that raises provocative questions about how closely lifestyle preferences have become aligned with politics and how even neighbors may influence one another,” the Times analysis found, with Democrats and Republicans segregated from each other.
Some 180 million voters were included in the analysis, Palm Coast’s and Flagler’s voters not among them. But if a look at Flagler’s precinct-by-precinct numbers reveals clear partisan lines by election results, those seem less pronounced at the precinct level than in larger urban areas, which suggests that partisanship has not yet frayed neighborhood cohesion in Palm Coast, the Hammock and Flagler Beach, where community concerns and debates before elected boards typically transcend politically divisive issues. The pandemic’s debates over masks, civil liberties, vaccines and the like have put a dent in that cohesion, with a few egregious examples, but precincts are not at war with each other. Partisanship is far more pronounced in West Flagler.
While the county is solidly Republican as a whole, voters are less conservative in Palm Coast proper and even less so in the core of the city, but only relative to the county as a whole: Even in Palm Coast’s core it remains almost impossible for a Democrat to win a precinct. No Democratic candidate for any Palm Coast or county races won a single precinct in the 2020 election, anywhere. It’s accurate to say that none even came close. Rather, the races gauged to what extent candidates could draw larger majorities than the standard registration breakdown, which had Republicans at a 44-31 percent advantage over Democrats last October in the county, with independents at 26 percent.
By that measure, Sheriff Rick Staly was the clear winner.
Staly’s lowest result was from the 13th and 15th precincts, covering parts of Palm Coast’s P- and R-Sections and areas west of U.S. 1, though even there he received 63 percent of the vote in his second race against former deputy Sgt. Larry Jones. Staly’s results across Palm Coast ranged from the low 60s to low 70s except in Grand Haven, where he lives, and where he got 76 percent. He was at 75 percent in Flagler Beach, between 77 and 79 percent in Bunnell, and 80 percent in West Flagler, where he plans to retire, though he intends to run again in four years.
Incumbent Commissioner Donald O’Brien and former School Board member Andy Dance, elected to the County Commission after a dozen years on the school board, got the most closely comparable numbers, winning their races with better totals than Trump’s (64 percent in O’Brien’s race against Denise Calderwood and Paul Anderson, 63 percent in Dance’;s race against Corinne Hermle). Dance, like Staly, did best outside of Palm Coast, his numbers rising the further away they got from the city limits, including an 81 percent showing in St. Johns Park in West Flagler, and close to 80 percent in Bunnell (Dance”s children attended Bunnell Elementary). His weakest showings never fell below 55 percent. Those came from central Palm Coast, including the R, P and parts of the W and B Sections. O’Brien’s numbers tracked closely with Dance’s, but a few notches ahead in most precincts. His weakest was the Rymfire Elementary area of the R Section, at 56.5 percent.
Trump’s strength was never in doubt: as in 2016, he didn’t lose a single precinct, though in 2016 the R and P Sections came close to going for Clinton. There were some thin margins again this time in the W, P, R and parts of the B Sections in Palm Coast, where Trump’s winning percentage ranged from 53 to 55 percent. But beyond that core, his numbers rose, with north Palm Coast, areas of the Community Center giving him 60 percent or better.
Trump’s result in Grand Haven fell from 2016, when he got 64 percent of the vote there to Clinton’s 33. This time Trump got 62 percent to Biden’s 37, not a significant difference, and more than offset by improvements even in Palm Coast’s core areas, where several precincts (Wadsworth Elementary, Buddy Taylor, the Lutheran Church) had given him barely 50 percent four years ago. The former president’s best showing in November was in west Flagler, at 80 percent, and in Bunnell, where it broke above 70 percent. He was in the mid-60s in Flagler Beach and the Hammock.
The Palm Coast City Council races between Ed Danko and Sims Jones for one seat and incumbent Nick Klufas and Cornelia Manfre for another were not close, nor was the four-way special election for the two-year term left on the seat left open by the resignation of Jack Howell. That seat went to Victor Barbosa, who’s already announced a run for the County Commission, meaning that he’ll serve on the council only two years (he’s required to resign, win or lose in the commission race).
The race for mayor between incumbent Milissa Holland and Alan Lowe was relatively close, though not as close as it appeared on election night. In the end, Holland lost only two of the 16 precincts where the Palm Coast race was contested, winning 53 to 47 percent, with her weakest showing in northwest Palm Coast–the L Section, parts of the B Section and the Matanzas Woods area, perhaps a reflection of the controversy over a residential development in place of the old golf course there. Holland got barely 47 percent of the vote there, and fell 14 votes short of clearing the 50-percent threshold in the eighth precinct, covering Seminole Woods, a neighborhood that’s at times felt left behind by the city.
Holland was also relatively weak in areas of the F-Section, gaining strength elsewhere. But it was in Grand Haven that she vaulted to a more solid victory. She won overall by some 3,000 votes. Half those votes were in Grand Haven, where she beat Lowe by a 65-35 margin, without which her victory would have been much shakier.
Flagler County's Precinct-Level Winning Percentages, 2020 Election
|Bunnell City Hall (1)||73.1||61.4||38.1||64.4||64.4||63.0|
|St. Johns Park, Bunnell||68.4||79.8||19.8||80.9||80.1||77.3|
|St. Mary's Church, Bunnell (5)||88.3||73.7||25.4||79.1||75.0||76.5|
|St. Mary's Church, Bunnel (7)||88.8||70.0||29.4||77.3||71.2||74.7|
|Flagler Airport, Palm Coast (8)||76.2||60.8||38.2||70.5||63.3||63.6||49.8||50.2|
|FCAR, SR100, Bunnell (9)||72.8||60.0||39.2||67.7||62.0||62.6|
|Flagler Schools Bldg., SR100 (10)||80.5||57.9||41.1||68.9||60.1||62.6|
|Rymfire Elementary, Palm Coast (11)||73.1||53.9||44.8||63.4||55.3||56.5||53.5||46.5|
|AACS, Palm Coast (13)||75.9||54.7||44.3||62.8||57.5||58.2||53.0||47.0|
|Palm Coast Bible Church, Whiteview Parkway, Palm Coast (14)||77.3||56.8||42.1||66.8||59.5||61.1||51.7||48.3|
|Buddy Taylor Middle, Palm Coast (15)||71.3||53.4||45.7||62.9||55.4||57.1||52.6||47.4|
|Wadsworth Elementary, Palm Coast (16)||72.6||55.7||43.2||66.6||58.1||61.1||53.0||47.0|
|Belle Terre Swim and Racquet, Palm Coast (17)||71.7||56.3||42.9||66.1||58.5||59.8||52.4||47.6|
|Lutheran Church, Palm Coast (18)||79.4||53.1||45.8||65.1||56.1||59.5||55.0||45.0|
|Public Library, Palm Coast Parkway (19)||75.1||54.0||45.0||63.1||57.1||59.4||51.6||48.4|
|Parkview Baptist Church, Palm Coast (20)||76.6||56.1||43.0||65.5||58.6||60.9||52.6||47.5|
|Belle Terre Elementary, Palm Coast (21)||77.4||57.8||41.1||68.0||60.3||60.6||46.6||53.5|
|VFW Post, Palm Coast (23)||78.2||60.8||38.4||71.5||64.0||64.2||50.3||49.7|
|Matanzas High, Palm Coast (24)||80.0||61.4||37.7||72.8||64.6||66.1||51.0||49.0|
|Palm Coast Community Center (27)||80.0||61.1||37.9||72.2||64.1||65.5||53.5||46.5|
|Adult Education, the Hammock (29)||88.8||64.9||34.2||75.0||68.9||70.7|
|Grand Haven, Palm Coast (31)||87.8||62.1||37.1||76.1||66.4||69.0||65.0||35.1|
|Flagler Beach City Hall (33)||84.2||65.1||34.3||75.0||67.7||68.1|
|Flagler Beach Methodist Church (35)||86.4||58.5||40.4||68.9||61.3||63.2|
|Old Kings Elementary, Flagler Beach (37)||85.1||64.7||34.4||75.1||68.5||68.0||53.7||46.3|