For Flagler County and Palm Coast, it is an election of new faces: four races, four newcomers to elected office: Leann Pennington won a seat on the County Commission, Theresa Pontieri and Cathy Heighter won seats to the Palm Coast City Council, and Will Furry won a Flagler County School Board seat.
On the Nov. 8 ballot, 11 of the 26 boxes where voters will be asked to fill an oval are retention votes in judicial elections for five Supreme Court and six appeals court judges. They’re not races. Voters are merely asked: should so-and-so “be retained in office” or not. It’s the merit-retention system. In the overwhelming majority of cases, voters have no idea who those names, and the judges are invariably retained.
Circuit Judge Terence Perkins has been the senior judge in Flagler County since 2018, taking over a courthouse in slight turmoil and returning it to a no-drama zone of docket workhorses. He will retire at the end of 2023, along with Judge Raul Zambrano, who had been a felony judge in Flagler previously, and James Clayton, currently the circuit’s chief judge.
Formerly appointed Flagler County Court Judge Andrea Totten was elected without opposition to a six-year term, as were Circuit Judges Dennis Craig, Matt Foxman, Kenny Janesk, Howard O. McGillin Jr., A. Kathleen McNeilly, Dawn D. Nichols and Stasia Warren.
A Flagler County Republican Club forum Wednesday evening at the Palm Coast Hilton was a chance for the three incumbents–Flagler County Judge Andrea Totten, Circuit Judges Kenny Janesk, who sits in Volusia and Putnam, and Stacia Warren, who sits in Volusia–to speak about themselves without the strictures of their robes and in unusually personal terms, but within the bounds of Canon 7, the unique ethical rules that frame judicial races.
Appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to a newly created County Court seat in Flagler in 2019, Judge Andrea Totten announced she will run for the seat’s full six-year term in next August’s election. In her two-year tenure she has established herself as a sharp, serious, unassuming and compassionate judge.
With all early voting results counted, Sheriff Rick Staly had an insurmountable lead to win re-election to his second term, as did County Commissioner Donald O’Brien. Andy Dance, the school board member, also had an insurmountable lead to win the County Commission seat Charlie Ericksen opted not to contest.
Jill Woolbright and Cheryl Massaro won seats on the Flagler County School Board, and Colleen Conklin, at 20 years the longest serving elected official in the county, won her sixth term. Dave Sullivan won reelection to the County Commission. But the Palm Coast City Council is still very much in flux.
Though powered by the largest vote-by-mail volume in the county’s history, Flagler County’s 2020 primary election turnout would need a relatively strong in-person voting tally today to exceed 2018’s turnout of 30 percent. The 2016 primary turnout of 27 percent is a closer target.
Three dozen candidates will contest local Flagler County and Palm Coast elections, while Clerk of Court Tom Bexley, Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston, Property Appraiser Jay Gardner, and Elections Supervisor Kaiti Lenhart were re-elected without opposition.