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Collier County Commission seats: Republican newcomer, incumbent cruise to victories

Patrick Riley
Naples Daily News

A retired Air Force colonel will be the newest face of the Collier County Commission, replacing longtime Commissioner Donna Fiala, who did not seek reelection.

In a District 1 race that drew a crowded field early on, Rick LoCastro, a Republican, emerged victorious Tuesday night, defeating Democrat John Jenkins by a comfortable margin. LoCastro beat out two other Republican newcomers in the Aug. 18 primary.

The district covers East Naples, Marco Island, and communities from the Isles of Capri to Copeland. Fiala, 82, has been the face of the far-reaching district for 20 years, but decided to not run again, opening the door for a slew of candidates before coming down to two.

LoCastro got 31,111 votes, or 68.8% of the vote, while Jenkins got 14,132 votes, or 31.2%, according to unofficial results.

"Now the real work begins," LoCastro said in a phone interview Tuesday night.

Along with LoCastro, Commissioner Bill McDaniel cruised to a general election victory Tuesday, keeping the county commission firmly in Republican hands. He beat a primary challenger in August to become the Republican nominee this fall.

In the race for District 5, McDaniel, who won the seat in 2016, beat out Democrat David Turrubiartez Jr. and Raymond Christopher, who switched from running as a Republican to no party affiliation.

The district, the largest by area, covers swaths of land from Everglades City to Golden Gate Estates, Immokalee and Ave Maria.

McDaniel got 20,071 votes, or 58.6% of the vote, while Turrubiartez got 12,134 votes, or 35.4%, according to unofficial results.

Christopher placed third with 2,065 votes, or 6%.

Collier commissioners' salary last fiscal year was $85,340.

More:Air Force vet, small businessman square off in Collier commission race

More:Collier Commission District 5: Three-way race for rural district in Nov. 3 general election

LoCastro: 'People did their homework'

LoCastro, 54, celebrating his win at The Players Club & Spa at Lely Resort with volunteers and supporters, said that he is excited but emphasized that campaigning was only the beginning. 

He said he plans to meet with senior county staff and "key folks" to hear their issues. His calendar is already filling up, LoCastro said. 

Collier County District 1 candidate, Rick LoCastro host a watch party,Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, at The Players Club & Spa at Lely Resort.

As the only new county commissioner elected, LoCastro said, his fellow commissioners probably don't want him to have to play catch-up.

He had a team behind him that believed in him, LoCastro said. 

"We won in a big way," he said. "And obviously people did their homework."

Jenkins, 55, in a phone interview Tuesday congratulated LoCastro, calling him "a good man" and "a worthy competitor."

"Rick LoCastro has been an absolute gentleman," he said.

For his part, Jenkins said he gave his all and did his best. 

"I played my best game," he said. "I left it all out on the field."

John Jenkins

Jenkins said he was "fighting a war on two fronts." He said the race for commissioner should have never been a partisan race since it "really is all about the people" and he said the local Democratic Party "threw me under the bus."

"It was me against the world," Jenkins said.

Local Democratic Party leaders called on Jenkins to withdraw from the race following his August arrest in connection with a drug-related charge. 

As the Daily News previously reported, Jenkins faced a felony charge of possession of cocaine following an incident outside an East Naples bar. A judge has since granted his request to enter into a diversion program. 

Jenkins said he will continue to be involved in the community and said he looks forward to working with LoCastro for the betterment of the community.

"My desire to serve has not been diminished by this loss," he said.

McDaniel 'honored' and 'truly humbled'

McDaniel, 59, spending election night at Alda's Diner at Vanderbilt Beach Road and Collier Boulevard where he watched his primary win in August, said in a phone interview Tuesday that he was "honored" and "truly humbled" to be reelected. 

"I'm very, very pleased," he said.

Having the amount of support he received and winning by the margin he did showed him that "the electorate is watching" and is pleased with the job he has done, McDaniel said.

Collier County Commission District 5 candidate Bill McDaniel poses for a portrait while campaigning Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, outside St. Agnes Catholic Church in North Naples.

He said about a dozen people told him Tuesday night: "Promise you're not gonna change."

Among his priorities, McDaniel said, is trying to extend the commission's meeting schedule throughout the summer instead of going on a break, an effort he has tried to lead unsuccessfully for some time.

And he may now have at least one other supporter of his proposal on the dais. LoCastro told the Daily News before his primary victory in August that he liked McDaniel's idea.

"One of the things I’m definitely supportive of that Commissioner McDaniel is supportive of is no more summer vacations for the county commissioners," LoCastro said in July. "They take a summer break. Collier County is not a high school. It’s not a college. So I actually believe we could accomplish more in the summer when there’s less people here, less traffic, less congestion."

McDaniel said Tuesday "time will tell" if there is enough support for his proposal on the board.

He said he also wants the county to be run "more like a business" and the government to function for the community. 

McDaniel said he wants to have discussions about prioritizing what the county spends its money on. "Just the overall expenditures," he said. "And prioritizing what's important" to the county.

David A. Turrubiartez Jr.

Turrubiartez, 29, and supporters watched the results in a park in Immokalee where they had some food and a projector set up.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Turrubiartez said he was "feeling good" despite the loss and said the experience for the first-time candidate was "amazing."

"I wouldn't change it for the world," he said.

The pandemic made it harder to campaign and reach voters, he said. 

"We did our best trying to do everything remotely," Turrubiartez said.

Raymond Christopher

Christopher, 33, said he is "very grateful" for all the people that stood behind him.

"Looks like I got whupped," he said. "It fell starkly behind party lines."

Still, Christopher said he is "happy" and said there were a lot of people that supported him.

"I still think I got the word out," he said

Connect with the reporter at patrick.riley@naplesnews.com or on Twitter @PatJRiley.