Collier commissioners Penny Taylor, Andy Solis win GOP primary races

Andy Solis and Penny Taylor

Two incumbent Collier County commissioners notched primary election wins Tuesday night.

With no opponent in the November general election, Andy Solis, who was elected to the District 2 seat representing North Naples in 2016, won a four-year term on the board after defeating challenger Brad Schiffer in the Republican primary.

Commissioner Penny Taylor, who was elected to represent Naples and parts of East Naples in District 4 in 2014, beat challenger Stephen Jaron. She will face Gary Petit-Dor, a financial adviser and sole Democrat in the race, in the Nov. 6 election.

More:Election results: Florida and Collier winners in the August 28 primary

More:Voters soundly reject North Collier, Immokalee fire service fees

Taylor got 5,053 votes, or 60.9 percent of the vote, while Jaron got 3,248 votes, or 39.1 percent, according to unofficial results.

Solis got 8,629 votes, or 56.3 percent, while Schiffer got 6,706 votes, or 43.7 percent, according to unofficial results.

Solis wants to focus on mental health issues

Solis — an attorney who was elected in 2016 to fill the remainder of former Commissioner Georgia Hiller's term after she left the seat to run for clerk of courts — ran on a platform of improving mental health treatment options in Collier and establishing a plan to deal with what he sees as an emerging crisis.

“I really do want to continue working on the mental health issues that we have in Collier County,” Solis told supporters at an election night party at New York Pizza & Pasta.

“This is something that’s near and dear to my heart, and I think it’s something that we could change locally, and we don’t have to wait for the federal government or the state to do it. We have the ability to make a change in Collier County and to do things a different way.”

Andy Solis

Results:Florida and Collier County Election: Primary (Aug. 28, 2018)

More:Informal exit polling in the Collier and Florida primary election

Solis, sporting the same seersucker suit he wore on election night in 2016, said focusing on the area’s recent environmental woes was also important going forward. His district stretches from the Gulf Coast in the west to Interstate 75 in the east and borders Bonita Springs to the north and Naples to the south.

“Obviously we’ve got some water quality issues,” he said. “And we need to see what we can do, if there’s anything that can be done about red tide. It’s a naturally occurring thing, but we need to make sure that we’re doing the most that we can as a county to protect our tourist industry.”

Despite losing, Schiffer, an architect and former Planning Commission member, said he was glad he could push his opponent and prevent an incumbent from running unopposed.

“Challenging somebody is important” for the process, he said.

Brad Schiffer

Still, Schiffer said he was sad about the loss, adding that he is still worried about future votes on land-use related issues. However, he said, bringing his concerns about growth to the forefront during the campaign was important.

“It does expose to him things that he should be thinking about,” Schiffer said.

More:Election day in Collier County: Sights, sounds and anecdotes from around the area

More:Social media: Sights and sounds from precincts on Election Day in Collier County

Taylor wants to be 'strong advocate' for workforce housing

When asked how she felt about winning the primary, Taylor let out a long sigh, then smiled.

“I’m very thankful, humble and grateful,” she said during her watch party at Shula’s Steakhouse, where about two dozen of her supporters — including her daughter and one of her grandchildren — gathered to await the election results.

Penny Taylor/
Collier County commissioner

Taylor, who was a Naples councilor for a decade before successfully running
for county commissioner in 2014, ran on her experience as an elected official and what she points to as her record of taking on difficult issues, like affordable housing.

"I have been and will continue to be a strong advocate for workforce housing,” she previously told the Daily News. “I take every opportunity to present accurate data to the public regarding workforce housing, and I review successful workforce housing initiatives in other communities.”

More:Roy Terry and Jen Mitchell elected to Collier County School Board

More:Crystal Kinzel defeats Don Berry to continue as Collier County court clerk

Taylor’s district encompasses the area west of Interstate 75 between Pine Ridge Road and Davis Boulevard and includes Naples and a slice of land known as the Bayshore/Gateway Triangle, long targeted by the county for revitalization just east of the city.

Stephen Jaron

Like Solis, Taylor said the environment will be one of her main priorities should she beat Petit-Dor in November and serve a second term on the commission.

“The environment is a huge concern right now,” she said. “We have recent and ongoing water issues that are impacting businesses and tourism.”

Jaron, who owns a local construction and home renovation business and is a former member of the Bayshore Beautification MSTU Advisory Committee, said he’s disappointed he lost, but he’s proud of how well he did given the circumstances. He also plans on running again in the future.

“I learned a lot for next time,” he said. “We got a very late start — I didn’t announce I was running until April — so to get almost 40 percent of the votes in just four months with a very limited budget is encouraging.”

Both incumbents raised almost five times as much campaign cash as their opponents; Taylor raised $80,312 while Jaron raised under $17,000, Solis raised $93,064 and Schiffer raised $20,448.

The incumbents also both spent nearly three times as much as their opponents.