Last Updated: 8:23 p.m.
Jill Woolbright and Cheryl Massaro, both with seemingly insurmountable leads, were poised to win seats on the Flagler County School Board, and Colleen Conklin, at 20 years the longest serving elected official in the county, was on the verge of winning another term without a runoff, as almost all votes were counted in today’s primary.
And after many, many attempts to win a seat by appointment, Alicia Washington, the Bunnell attorney, has won election to Circuit Court in the Seventh Judicioal Circuit with a big win over Judge Bryan Rendzio, who was appointed in 2019.
In a stunning upset, Massaro would be unseating first-term School Board member Maria Barbosa. Woolbright, a retired teacher who beat attorney Vincent, will take the place of Andy Dance, the long-time board member who is resigning, and running for a county commission seat. Dance was unopposed in his commission primary.
Conklin was facing two opponents, Carol (Mother Elizabeth) Bacha and the heavily self-financed Paul Mucciolo, a physician. Always one of the county’s leading vote-getters, Conklin was polling 53 percent with early votes and most mail-in ballots counted, with Mucciolo well behind, at 33 percent, and Bacha at 13 percent. By the time most votes were counted, Conklin still held a commanding 52 percent lead, making a runoff unnecessary and winning her the seat outright–again.
“I’m grateful and humbled to continue to serve the Flagler County community, and advocate for our students, teachers and staff,” Conklin said this evening. She had not been able to campaign: her mother has been ailing, her father-in-law, Flagler Beach’s poet laureate, died last week. “Literally with everything that’s going on, I haven’t really done anything,” she said of her campaign, including not raising money. But few local officials have commanded the sort of loyalty she has over the years even as the school board itself has been buffeted by change and, in the last two years, some controversy. “I’m so grateful for the residents that came out to support our campaign, and grateful for the opportunity to serve another four years,” Conklin said.
The closest race of the evening was between incumbent County Commissioner Dave Sullivan and Kim Carney, the former Flagler Beach city commissioner. They were trading leads, with Carney initially ahead of Sullivan by two points, 51-49 and just 300 votes out of 15,300 counted, but then Sullivan took a slight lead with 18,200 or 25,000 ballots counted–and extending his lead by almost 500 votes by the time most ballots were counted. That sealed it.
“It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy. I ran a hard race,” Sullivan said this evening. “I survived an incredible set of circumstances against me, to be honest,” he said, including–among those circumstances–the local Democratic Party’s odd endorsement of Carney, a hard-right Republican.
That race decides the winner for that seat: though both are Republicans, no Democrat is running, making this election the deciding one. Four years ago, Sullivan had defeated Barbara Revels, the last effective Democrat to serve on the commission.
Republican incumbent County Commissioner Donald O’Brien defeated Bob Jones handily in the District 5 Republican primary, taking 67 percent of the vote. Jones had not seriously campaigned.
The other high-profile races of the evening are for Palm Coast City Council.
Incumbent Mayor Milissa Holland was well short of the 50-percent threshold she cleared easily four years ago, but was leading her five-way race with 31 percent of the vote, ahead of Alan Lowe’s 27 percent, with John Brady in third, at 18 percent, and Donald Greene and Michael Schottey well behind. The evening’s final result means that over the next few weeks the runoff for mayor will be among the hardest-fought races locally, and may make Holland’s decision not to campaign untenable–if she intends to keep her seat. She had decided not to campaign in the primary, focusing on city issues and the covid epidemic, she said.
In District 1, the seat vacated by Bob Cuff, Ed Danko and Sims Jones are headed for a runoff, with Danko polling at 45 percent of the vote to Jones’s 39 percent–and in-person votes yet to be counted: in-person votes were overwhelmingly Republican. Once counted, those votes may give Danko a chance to clear the 50 percent threshold and win the seat outright. Lou Salvagio was a distant third in that race.
In District 3, Incumbent Nick Klufas was holding off Cornelia Manfre, the Realtor, with 40 percent of the vote to Manfre’s 33 percent, suggesting that race is headed for a runoff. Zack Shapiro, another contended who had not campaigned seriously, was pulling in 27 percent of the vote.
In sum, all three races for city council are still very much in flux, with a fourth race in the mix come November: With former Councilman Jack Howell’s resignation in July, the city is holding a special election for his seat, concurrent with the November general election. The end result means that the council will have at least two new members by November, and possibly four new ones, the only certainty being Eddie Branquinho, who was elected two years ago and has two years to go in his first term.
In judicial races, what may have looked like an upset in the Group 6 race between incumbent Circuit Judge Michael Orfinger and Anna Handy was only an illusion: Handy was initially winning the Flagler vote by a thin margin, but only because Orfinger–one of the circuit’s most accomplished and intellectual powerful judges–is not as well known in Flagler as he is in Volusia, where he built a crushing lead over Handy: the judicial race includes votes from Volusia, St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler. Orfinger had a commanding lead in St. Johns as well, making his victory all but assured. (Orfinger served briefly on Flagler’s bench.)
The race between Bunnell attorney Alicia Washington and Bryan Rendzio was at one point closer, with Washington winning Flagler easily, but she was behind by 10 points in St. Johns and ahead by more than 10 points in Volusia, and the two were almost even in Putnam. But by evening’s end, Washington had built a nearly 10,000-vote lead in the four counties over Rendzio.
A jubilant Massaro was taking in her win at a Republican watch party this evening. “I wasn’t sure, but I planned it pretty well and I got a great team,” Massaro said. “Her husband told me I was going to lose by 10,000 votes,” she said of Barbosa’s husband. “The people listened to what I had to say and I really do think I was the best qualified candidate,” she said. “I’m ecstatic. I’m really happy, but now the work really begins.”
Turnout in this primary, was at 30.4 percent: though powered by a historic mail-in vote volume, it was falling short of the 2016 primary turnout of 31.28 percent, though some votes were yet to be counted. The in-person vote on Election Day was a historic low, proportionately, at barely 5,000, exceeded by early voting’s 5,546 ballots cast (also conducted in person at three locations).
[This is a developing story.]
Primary Election 2020 Results: Flagler County's Local Races and State Races
|Flagler School Board, District 1|
|Jill Rena Woolbright||14405||59.34|
|Flagler School Board, District 3|
|Carol "Mother Elizabeth" Bacha||3287||13.16|
|Colleen Walsh-Conklin (incumbent)||13001||52.06|
|Flagler School Board, District 5|
|Maria Pinto Barbosa (incumbent)||10641||43.95|
|City of Palm Coast Mayor|
|Donald Alan Greene||1923||9.47|
|Milissa Holland (incumbent)||6452||31.78|
|Palm Coast City Council, District 1|
|Sims E. Jones||7476||38.60|
|Palm Coast City Council, District 3|
|Cornelia Downing Manfre||6496||33.27|
|Nicholas Klufas (incumbent)||7920||40.56|
|Flagler County Commission, District 3, Republican Primary|
|David Sullivan (incumbent)||12182||51.01|
|Flagler County Commission, District 5, Republican Primary|
|Donald O'Brien (incumbent)||8011||68.02|
|Circuit Judge, Group 6|
|Anna Handy||72834 (11939)||45.46 (49.88)|
|Michael Orfinger||87397 (11997)||54.54 (50.12)|
|Circuit Judge, Group 14|
|Joan Anthony||54976 (9019)||34.44 (37.46)|
|Dan Hilbert||58154 (8257)||36.43 (34.30)|
|MaryEllen Osterndorf||46486 (6799)||29.12 (28.24)|
|Circuit Judge, Group 27|
|Bryan Robert Rendzio||74642 (10373)||47.32 (43.78)|
|Alicia Washington||83103 (13323)||52.68 (56.22)|
|Representative in Congress, District 6|
|Public Defender, 7th Judicial Circuit|
|George Burden||44781 (6764)||28.63 (29.16)|
|Anne Marie Gennusa||54123 (8042)||34.61 (34.66)|
|Matt Metz||57489 (8394)||36.76 (36.18)|