Last Updated: 8:42 p.m.
It wasn’t close–not in Bunnell, not in Flagler, not in Florida.
In Bunnell, the only local race on the ballot, incumbents Bill Baxley and Elbert Tucker won re-election handily–a rarity in Bunnell, where elections are often decided by a few votes–with Jan Reeger coming in a distant third with 22 percent of the vote. Baxley got 41 percent, Tucker, to whom running again was an afterthought, won with 37 percent. A total of 863 votes were cast.
“I got more votes than normally everybody gets at election time in Bunnell,” Baxley said. “When they told me I had 321 I almost fell over. I couldn’t believe that many people voted in Bunnell.”
It wasn’t the smoothest election: in one precinct in west Flagler (precinct 3, St. Johns Park), voters were handed the ballot that included the Bunnell election, but County Judge Melissa Moore-Stens, who chairs the canvassing board, said this evening that the votes from that precinct would not be significant enough to alter the outcome of the Bunnell race.
In other races, Donald Trump, the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination for president, was grabbing Flagler County with 58 percent of the vote, with 16 of 23 precincts and early votes counted. Marco Rubio was a very distant second, with 20 percent of the vote, and Ted Cruz was coming in third with 13 percent.
Rubio told his supporters this evening that he was “suspending” his campaign–that is, dropping out.
Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton was winning the county by an even bigger margin–66 percent–to Bernie Sanders’s 31 percent. The numbers closely mirror those across the state in the Democratic race. In the Republican race, Trump is still trouncing Rubio, albeit by a somewhat smaller margin than in Flagler.
Baxley attributed his big win to keeping promises. He won., he said, “because I pledged to people that I would do certain things like not raise taxes, balance the budget, and vote no on any raises, and I did that in every vote.”
He said he pledged again in this campaign that he would not raise taxes and keep a balanced budget. This coming term, he said this evening, he will devote more attention to the city’s infrastructure. “We need streets paved bad in Bunnell and I’m going to push hard for that.”
Tucker barely made an appearance at voting sites this time: he was at work all day, at the insurance business that bears his name.
“I’m thinking happy right now,” Tucker said after winning his fourth straight election (one of them, two elections ago, he won unopposed). “I sure hope I don’t have these recurring dreams next time,” he said, referring to what seems to have convinced him to run again this time. But he says this three-year term will be his last. For good. “Three more years. That’s got to be enough,” he said. He was first elected in 2008.
As for the decisive win: “It’s got to say something about how people think Bunnell was headed, the direction we’re taking,” Tucker said. “We found out what the monetary problems were, we corrected that, got us a building we call home so we don’t have to spend tons and tons of money, the budget, we have a reserve now, so things are headed in the right direction in my opinion. So I’m thinking perhaps people had the same view at the moment.”
Moore-Stens addressed the ballot issue at St. Johns Park.
“There were obviously two Republican-style ballots, one for a county resident and one for a city resident,” Moore-Stens explained this evening. “So the county would just have the presidential preference, the city would have both the presidential and the Bunnell city race. Same thing with Democrats. So you’ve got five styles, three of which have the Bunnell city race in it. Individuals that live in the county that should not have had the option to vote for Bunnell city were given ballots with the Bunnell city race on it. It came to the supervisor’s attention when somebody called in and said ‘I received a ballot that had city option on it, but I didn’t vote it because I know I’m not supposed to vote in that race.’ So Supervisor [Kaiti Lenhart] went out there to address the issue and corrected it. It was poll worker error, essentially. So what we’ll be doing is looking at every single ballot coming from precinct three and everybody that checked in to try to determine how many potentially were in error. We think it’s going to be about 30. But base upon the results so far, it doesn’t look like it’s going to impact the actual results. But obviously we’re not going to leave here until we’ve looked at every one and verified that against who checked in, and go from there.”
A total of 131 votes were cast at St. Johns Park. Some of those votes were by Bunnell residents, some were not. It’s not known at the moment how they broke down, though the judge said roughly 30 voters may have been handed the wrong ballot. Baxley won 30 percent of the vote there, Tucker won 56 percent, and Reeger won 13 percent. Even if Baxley or Tucker were to lose 30 votes, Reeger would not be able to pull ahead: she could theoretically have beaten Baxley in that precinct, but not beaten him in the rest of the city. She could not have beaten Tucker in the precinct–his strongest, as St. Johns Park is in an area of the county that draws from western Bunnell, which has always been Tucker Country.