Republican races for sheriff, county commission highlight Tuesday’s Lee elections

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If you’re not a Republican in Lee County, you can’t vote Tuesday for sheriff, property appraiser, public defender or county commissioner.

That means there are 295,742 voters eligible to vote for Lee County School Board candidates, but only 138,744 who can vote for the other offices.

That doesn’t mean that many votes will be cast. Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington is guessing 28 percent to 30 percent will vote.

And 26,336 people have already voted. Most of those — 17,845 — voted by absentee ballot. The rest voted early.

If 28 percent of voters show up, there would be 82,807 votes in the School Board race. The Republican races would see 38,848 votes.

“I don’t think we’re going to be overly rushed,” Harrington said.

That might be best. Harrington said 65 pollworkers have called in over the past few days to say they can’t work Tuesday’s election. But she’ll still have about 1,500 pollworkers covering 171 polling places.

Harrington said she got a scare this weekend when she heard news reports that St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Bonita Springs was serving as a shelter for flooding evacuees.

“That’s a polling center,” she said.

However, residents of Manna Christian mobile home park were moved from the church to the Estero Community Center, so St. Leo’s will be ready for voters Tuesday.

Republicans will select candidates for three county commission seats, for sheriff, for property appraiser and for public defender. The nominees will all face opposition in the general election in November.

All voters will elect two School Board members. Tuesday’s winners are elected outright.

In School Board District 2, incumbent Jeanne Dozier faces James Middlebrooks Jr. In District 3, incumbent Jane Kuckel faces Ray Rodrigues.

In county commission District 1, incumbent Bob Janes faces challenges from Eric Feichthaler and Gerard David Jr. In District 3, incumbent Ray Judah faces challenger Anita Cereceda. In District 5, incumbent Frank Mann faces challenger Shawn Seliger.

In the sheriff’s race, Sheriff Mike Scott faces the man he unseated four years ago, former Sheriff Rod Shoap. Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson faces Kyle Lee.

Every Republican voter in the 20th Judicial Circuit, which includes Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Charlotte counties, will select from three public defender candidates. They are incumbent Kathy Smith, Brian M. Boyle and Rex Darrow.

Harrington said many of the early voters commented that they want the old touchscreen voting system back.

“About a third of them want the old ones back,” she said.

After the “hanging chad” experience of 2000, the state Legislature ordered a change. Harrington spent $6.2 million changing from optical scan ballots to touchscreen. Then in 2007, the Legislature changed again. This time, Harrington spent about $3 million changing back to the optical scan ballots. Harrington said she’ll likely spend $3 million more in 2012, when the second part of the 2007 legislation kicks in and she must provide an alternative for disabled voters.

“I do want to let people know it wasn’t me that decided to change,” she said.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

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