Coyle will keep his commission seat
He reacts to winning, talks about Jackson ...
Coyle won a third term representing the city of Naples and part of East Naples, garnering 5,077 votes, or 54 percent, to defeat registered nurse Lavigne Ann Kirkpatrick, with 4,366 votes or 46 percent.
In her race, Hiller got 4,766 votes, or 48 percent, to defeat former college economics instructor and small business owner Gina Downs, with 27 percent or 2,440 votes, and Naples attorney Joe Foster, with 25 percent or 2,440 votes.
Hiller will face write-in candidate Chuck Roth in November for the seat, representing northwestern Collier County, left open by Commissioner Frank Halas’ decision to retire.
The faltering economy and Collier County’s bid to lure Jackson Laboratory were front-and-center in both campaigns.
Coyle, who currently is the board chairman, said he had been confident he would be re-elected.
“I felt optimistic from the beginning,” Coyle, 71, said. “I felt I would win this race because of my record.”
Coyle said he knew residents in his District 4 support the Jackson project by a two-to-one margin. He has been spearheading the project with the Economic Development Council.
“I did not see that being an overwhelming issue,” he said, surrounded by about 50 supporters at the Naples Beach Club & Golf Hotel.
He said a lot of misinformation circulated during the campaign about Jackson, and some of which came from the other candidates.
“The issues were greatly distorted,” he said.
Kirkpatrick, 51, a first-time candidate, said what hurt her chances were the absentee voters and inability to get into some of the gated condominium complexes to speak with those voters before they left for the summer.
She campaigned on a promise of getting a referendum on the proposed $130 million local funding for Jackson Laboratory and getting a handle on the county’s spending. Kirkpatrick said she will run again in four years.
“You bet I am,” she said.
Kirkpatrick said Coyle’s win — by a margin of 711 votes — was not large and sends a message.
“What that tells you in that district is people are pretty much split,” she said, from her campaign party at Remy’s Bistro in North Naples.
Voters are more aware of the county’s budget deficit and concerns about the Jackson project because of her campaign, she said.
Coyle has been a political mainstay in Collier for a dozen years, having first been elected to the Naples City Council in 1998.
He was appointed to the county commission in 2001 by the governor and was elected in 2002. He ran unopposed in November 2006.
Hiller wins primary for commission
Her stance on Jackson Lab will stay ...
In her District 2 race, Hiller, 49, also ran on a pledge of taking the Jackson Lab deal to a referendum.
At a noisy victory party on the patio in front of AZN restaurant at the Mercato in North Naples, Hiller said she would make good on it.
“I intend to make all our dreams reality including a referendum on Jackson Lab,” she told the cheering crowd of 150 supporters.
Hiller said voters were sending a message with Tuesday’s outcome in the District 2 race that they are tired of “transactional politics” in Collier County government instead of decisions made in the best interests of the public.
“I’m a new breed of politician bringing a better breed of politics,” Hiller said. “It’s a new dawning.”
Down the street at the Mercato, a more subdued group of Foster’s supporters gathered at his law offices.
“I thought we ran pretty strong,” said Foster, 43, who ran unsuccessfully against Halas in 2006. “Obviously I was wrong. To me, it was a good ride.”
At Big Al’s Sports Grill in North Naples, Downs decried the voters’ decision to elect Hiller, the top money-raiser in either county race with almost $105,000.
“Apparently voters enjoy having politicians who are bought and paid for,” Downs said. “I’m shocked, I really am.”
Hiller’s victory caps a campaign that took some strange twists.
Vandals defaced her campaign signs by changing the first “l” in her last name to a “t” and giving her picture a moustache resembling Adolph Hitler’s.
Hiller also found herself defending her eight name changes and a Florida Bar complaint filed by political opponent Michael Lissack two weeks ago.
The complaint centers on whether Hiller stepped over ethical bounds in a pending 2005 divorce case in which Hiller represented her friend’s husband.
Hiller denies any wrongdoing and dismissed the complaint as an 11th-hour attempt to discredit her.